[sixties-l] Re: Fwd: Lawyers Seek SLA Shootout File

From: Michael Rossman (mrossman@igc.org)
Date: 10/09/00

  • Next message: radman: "[sixties-l] Fwd: After Three Decades, Agent Orange Still Harms Children"

    >  Jeffrey Blankfort  wrote:
     >  Michael, my recollection from that time is that Foster wanted to implement
    a system of student ID's, which now are fairly commonplace in most schools. I
    don't recall his proposing armed guards.  Many if not most schools were and
    are surrounded by fences, except for their entranceways. Also, while the use
    or abuse of Ritalin was a subject of public debate, I don't recall that Foster
    was linked to it. Is the material you presented in some book or article about
    the SLA?
    Thanks, Jeff, for the reminder, and the care of your query. Others agree with
    you (as I do below) that student IDs were identified as an issue. I'm
    surprised that no one recalls any other issue, for though crazy the SLA was
    hardly daft enough to base a death sentence rhetorically only on the issuance
    of cards. I am quite certain that your remark about fences mis-remembers the
    historical situation, for in the mid-70s in the East Bay (and doubtless many
    other regions) there was a distinct and well-publicized escalation of
    protective fortification of some inner-city schools. In at least one case,
    this was accompanied by the innovation of armed security guards. I am frankly
    uncertain as to whether such issues (and state-sponsored drugging) were
    identified explicitly by the SLA.  It is quite possible that I myself have
    conflated them with the SLA drama -- though if I did, this scarcely affects my
    point about the assassination inhibiting discussion of such issues.
    Alas, I have no documents handy to clarify the question of the SLA's
    assertions and rationale, beyond the related and inconclusive one appended
    here -- a poem begun after the dramatic firestorm that destroyed the SLA's 
    core.  It testifies at least to the currency of these issues at that time; and
    shows that if I have inaccurately conflated them with the SLA, I had done so
    already by then (rather than  recently, from faulty memory.) Though I could
    not bear then to continue tthe poem through the following acts of the SLA's
    complex drama, this fragment may serve also to remind the thoughtful about how
     inappropriate simplistic rhetoric is to this case, as to so many others.
    	Michael Rossman <mrossman@igc.org>
    (note: in the text below, italics are indicated by  **.......**.  The first
    widely publicized mass use of Ritalin in public schools occurred in Omaha.) 
                             Sympathy for the Devil?
    					**And who on earth will claim
    					the prize, one human being alive
    					in contradiction?**
    			[Act One]
    Act One, the murder. A crime, 
    a shame, we all agreed, our left hand 
    bloody, analyzing it down:
    	why pick a black 
    	to avenge blacks wronged? 
    	why a school superintendent 
    	not a wizard of pentagon death? 
    	why Marcus Foster, who used 
    	his post humanely? above all 
    	why the tactic, without 
    	base or support, the vainglorious announcement 
    	**no quarter** against the side 
    	with all the guns, the killing 
    	the killing in a nation sick with killing 
    	in the name of life?
    Citizen of theater, accustomed 
    to simple messages -- Kennedy,
     King, Malcolm X; Goodman 
    Chaney & Schwerner, Rector 
    at People's Park, four 
    at Kent State, does it bore 
    you to hear them again? 
    to discuss how you decided 
    what was right for the time 
    and safe? to reread the Movement's 
    obituary while madness reigns 
    and you struggle confused with the decade's surge 
    to grasp our condition, still green? 
    -- citizen of theater, used 
    to blunt messages, how did you 
    read this one?
    **They said he was presiding 
    over the military pacification 
    of the ghetto schools.** Armed guards, 
    ID checks: no one offered him an award 
    for preparing students for the probable 
    conditions of society, or toasted 
    themselves to draw attention 
    back to what in the schools 
    and the order they served led students
    to shit in the halls. The banner 
    of institutional change lay abandoned 
    in the mire of recession; within walls 
    unscathed by the hasty charge 
    the managers of populations addressed 
    the easier task, to shape the flesh 
    and spirit to fit. In subtle consortium 
    the A.M.A., Office of Education funders, 
    Upjohn and Squibb and the school board 
    defined deviance as maladjustment, 
    maladjustment as craziness, craziness 
    as minimal brain dysfunction, nobody's 
    fault; prescribed drug curriculum 
    to make the children safe 
    for the schools they were forced to attend. 
    Were there riots in a hundred cities 
    over Omaha? You tsk-tsked, 
    knowing it would happen here, and went 
    on reading science-fiction. Who could 
    you shoot for it, anyway, and what 
    good would that do?
    **When captured
    and in "communiques" they said
    they were soldiers, that the war
    had been declared.** A posture, the suffering
    servants of the people, transmuting
    the cheap wine of metaphor
    to blood. Was it minimal brain dysfunction
    to court sure crucifixion? Who
    were they trying to impress, what leave
    had they to speak for you,
    already long enlisted and confused
    by the recognition of your features
    in the enemy's, in the dark bowl
    of rage offered as communion? Every
    morning you read your lessons,
    counting the bodies: gutted
    whales, fried Cambodians, protein-starved
    embryos, their skins already black,
    even the sky's sweet protection
    eroding for profit while you financed
    the whole affair and called
    for your patience pills to manage
    that hyperkinetic feeling.
    Good student 
    in history's school, enrolled 
    in the long march, it was clear 
    they had got the lesson wrong: why 
    cloud it even more by confessing 
    your doubts whether what you were doing 
    made sense as more than a way 
    to pass the time? Why court despair 
    by quantifying how far the wheel 
    and brake grow removed from even
    the first-class seats, how fast
    the train runs away as you
    run after, how long till the crash, the odds
    on survival? **They said
    the time is now.** The time
    is always now. Doesn't everyone
    you know want to find a way
    without violence? How many
    really believe that we will,
    even with or without it?
    An intermission, 
    these years, those months, 
    in safe houses, not feeling 
    safe at all. The players remained 
    anonymous, their stark acronym 
    no help to the critics who searched 
    right and left for clues as to where 
    they were coming from. Only 
    the style of the play was familiar, 
    from foreign reviews, and what seemed 
    your traditional role, alienated 
    in audience, as you held your breath 
    for the next act in pretended 
    indifference. In the crowd, unseen, 
    they invited a few to more 
    active parts, were refused, withdrew 
    to their dark conjuration.
    Against the backdrops 
    magic reared, the clenched fist 
    of a decade spreading seven 
    vengeful heads, their silhouettes stark 
    as the program they shadowed. Unmoved 
    by metamorphosis, too mature 
    to respond to the childish rite, 
    or so you assured yourself, you perused 
    the program, the company's claim 
    to a broad tradition. The niggers, 
    the jailbirds, the natives of this place 
    and that, the bitches, the shiftless 
    poor, commies and queers, cripples 
    and freaks, every hungry demand 
    for justice brooding unfulfilled, here 
    reduced to shrill summary, a cheat-sheet 
    for midterms in the school 
    you are forced to attend: one note 
    on Shakespeare, another on Aeschylus 
    to remind you of epic tragedies, their rich 
    impossible legions. A dozen 
    corollaries to some monstrous 
    proposition, too complex to be solved 
    by a cyanide bullet. You were lucky no teacher 
    came round to ask how you were doing
    as you filed back to your seat.

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : 10/09/00 EDT