Jun 3, 2010

40 YEAR FLASHBACK CONTINUED - RELIGION AND POLITICS COLLIDE

I want to thank Got a Grip for the rescue of my little effort
aurabass shares the experience of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and how that shaped his future path through a 40 YEAR FLASHBACK - NIXON & GRAHAM at TENNESSEE. (Got a Grip)
as I try to re-rescue my effort in hopes that 64 more might take the time to read something more. When at first you don't succeed then try a little persistence.
It's my observation that diaries that register some complaint about KOSSACK behavior seem to get quite a bit of attention and I'm desperate enough to try every trick.
OK that's enough whining about my inability to inspire recommendations. I guess I'm stuck with my own plodding versions of 'substance over style' and the history that a 64 year old considers experience. Now about that Rand Paul and Palin slippery with gulf oil story...... sorry but not yet.
All of this is a long winded way of saying thank you for the recs and comments on part one of this personal history diary and poking fun at myself for being preoccupied with recs and views. I hope you enjoy part two as well since I'm grateful for a place to share it.


40 YEAR FLASHBACK CONTINUED - RELIGION AND POLITICS COLLIDE ON THE 50 YARD LINE AT NEYLAND STADIUM WITH NIXON AND GRAHAM DESTROYING THE OPPOSITION.


In 1969 there was quite a surprise in the election for SGA (Student Government Association) President at the University of Tennessee.
Jimmie Baxter became the first black president of the student body in the heart of Republican East Tennessee, It seemed that the progressives and radicals indeed had a chance to prosper. If it can happen here it can happen anywhere.
Jimmie Baxter's election poster seen in the picture above was silk screened on an aluminum foil background in bright dayglow colors and over the Spring it seems that they adorned most of the dormitory room windows and every phone pole on campus. They became quite the collector's item.

Jimmie Baxter won that 69 election after the first vote was thrown out and there was a second vote when the students knew that Baxter's candidacy had an excellent chance of success.

John R. Long was a fraternity brother and I one of his campaign managers but the following Spring in 1970 I found myself nominated as the Student Power Coalition Candidate to suceed Jimmie Baxter.
Baxter had done a phenomenal job in the wake of the KENT STATE MURDERS helping to organize the student strike while keeping things peaceful and orderly. Jimmie sent me these images from his archives of the time in lieu of writing an addition to these diaries. The NIXON GRAHAM event was after his term expired. Jimmie was in a position to know the degree to which local cops and DA's were willing to go to crush students and make them "examples". These are Jimmie's pictures:












The Republican leadership in Knox County exemplified by Attorney General Ron Webster was itching to use anxious UT and KPD police to bust heads and to make UT protesters into some dangerous communist inspired radical group in the wake of the KENT STATE MURDERS. Baxter helped keep the student strike and protests peaceful and orderly and saved many from clubs and jail cells. Jimmie Baxter is now retired as a US Attorney living in Knoxville. So that's what radical commies end up doing with their lives?
Baxter followed Christopher Whittle as SGA President and you may know that Chris once owned ESQUIRE MAGAZINE and Whittle Communications and was the founder of Channel One News and the EDISON SCHOOLS

You have to read the first 40 YEAR FLASHBACK diary to get the background on the KNOXVILLE 22 and my part in that particular Republican insanity. Three of the KNOXVILLE 22 were nominated to run for president as the SPC candidate and we had the first primary ever held at UT for a nomination. Progressives are so Democratic



We had the only "all indicted for felony" primary field and eventual ticket in SGA election history. Gus Hadorn, Peter Kami, Steve Levine and I were all facing absurd charges for Felony Inciting to Riot for the Knoxville 22 protest of the selection process for the new UT President Ed Boling that were eventually dropped to 'blocking the entrance to a doorway' and a $25 fine except for Peter who had to flea the country. He became the scapegoat 'outside communist agitator'.

There were 7 original candidates that year for SGA president to succeed Jimmie Baxter and that field was eventually reduced to five




Dave Dunaway was the YAF right-wing candidate, Gary Crawford was the Liberal, Bob Migliara was the centrist independent, I was the "RADICAL" and John Smith was my Phi Sig Fraternity brother and eventual winner of the race as the typical mainstream conservative UT fraternity guy. When Gary Crawford and I split the liberal/left vote Smith took the well organized fraternity/sorority vote swelled by mandatory voting from the membership.As a result Smith got to meet with NIXON following the crusade appearance with Billy Graham and he announced that Nixon was "concerned about students and their problems".
Here is what GARRY WILLS had to say about John Smith in his brilliant piece about the NIXON GRAHAM debacle in ESQUIRE Magazine. - JESUS WEPT - BY GARRY WILLS How Nixon Used the Media, Billy Graham, and the Good Lord to Rap with Students at Tennessee U
And to cap it all, along came Smith, the Student President. He rode to Air Force One in the same car with Bebe Rebozo (who muttered, darkly, of the demonstrators. "There's only one way to handle them") and H. R. Haldeman's wife. Mrs. Haldeman asked Smith how the university's three-day strike after Kent State had been kept peaceful—he did not answer, what was the truth, that his black predecessor, Jimmie Baxter, kept the lid on, growling at students that they were outgunned by the cops.
On the plane, Nixon asked Smith what troubles the youth of today. Two things, he was answered—they think the war unconstitutional, and they need a higher goal than the merely material things. Smith had just heard both Nixon and Graham say, on the platform, that youth needs a higher goal than the merely material things. This is how the President discovers what is troubling youth. Smith, off the plane photographed, interviewed, sighed with relief that the President does understand and care for the youth. I talked, the day after, with Smith. Short, with a vacant fraternity face, his eyes bleared, he was suffering a political hangover after his bender of publicity. Did he think yesterday's Crusade a religious service or a political meeting? "Political." Was the aim to convince the nation that students would still welcome Nixon? "Yes." Is that a misconception? “Yes” Didn’t you help create that misconception with your telegram of welcome and your praise for Nixon? "Well, I do believe he understands our problems." What about the telegram? I think most of the students here would welcome a chance to see the President." Even under these phony auspices? "Probably." Do you consider that an informed or an informed preference? "Uninformed I suppose." Yet you cater to it? "Well, I just wanted to size up the President for myself. I don't opinions about people I have not met." You satisfied your curiosity: "Look, didn't I get a chance speak out against the war?" About it’s unconstitutionality? "Yes." Don’t you think kids would still oppose the war as immoral even if it was legal? "Sure, but I could denounce the war the same way radicals do and never get a chance to see President. It is a question of sounding off before 23,000 students or giving my views on the war to millions of television viewers." bleared eyes had lit up, last night fuming once more into his brain, an intoxicant. I left with a strong impression I could not, at first, define -- but eventually it came to me, I had been talking to a twenty-year old Nixon.
Remember that this is Tricky Dick Nixon trying to fool the world into thinking he's welcome on any college campus in the wake of the KENT STATE MURDERS and the strikes that hit every campus in America. I guess that Liberty U., Oral Roberts and Bob Jones Universities were too obvious so a Graham Crusade in Neyland Stadium in Republican East Tennessee was the best option for this sham appearance.

During final exams we still got a nice sized crowd of 700 to put themselves on the line in front of 90,000 "christians", the Secret Service, and Knoxville cops who were more than happy to bust a few dirty hippie heads. Most of these students were raised in local church going families like mine where my lifelong pastor Dr Charles Trentham had played golf with Graham prior to Nixon's visit that evening.
Carroll Bible's beautiful recollection of his personal struggle bears repeating here since it got lost in the previous lengthy episode. If you read this carefully you can feel his internal conflict.
The Billy Graham Crusade, May 28, 1970, Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN
Was it a political or religious event?
For me it was religious.
The robe had been brought to the student government office where people were preparing for the demonstration. It was offered for me to wear, with the suggestion that I needed a robe since I 'looked like Jesus'.
Jesus? I balked inside myself, but decided to wear it anyway. That my zen of intersections should come in the form of a Biblical robe is not surprising. I had spent the past decade on a spiritual quest. In 1961 I had answered a call in Montreat, NC, by missionaries from Brazil to live and travel in Brazil to learn about the church's mission work. After high school graduation I and seven others spent a school year on this quest. My plans after Brazil included a church-centered college and a resolve to return to Brazil to serve as a missionary. I had been prepared for this journey with the mind set of duck-and-cover vigilance against the (Communist) enemy. I had been Cadet Colonel in Jr. ROTC. My father worked for the federal government. I understood Law and Order from the inside out.
The assumptions behind my life plans may have been naive. Some of us were rabbits on the tracks and locomotives were rumbling nearby. Trouble for me began in college when I evaluated my experience in Brazil. I could see that our high standard of living was built on the backs of others' suffering, enforced for corporate gain. I understood the same thing was happening as well in Viet Nam. During this transition the intensity of my private spiritual life remained central, even as religion fell from my conversation and I abandoned the mission plans in exchange for a study of History at UT's graduate school. By the time of the crusade my spiritual life, along with the rest of existence, had become totally focused by the war, its evil nature and lies. Accepting the emerging truth about the nature of Power was destroying the childhood framework that held my world together, creating a vacuum of authority.
Today, distrust of government is taken for granted, not something to shatter one's foundations. But my world then was cracking as I tried to reconcile my Christian faith to my country's role in history. It was a deeper concern for me than the rumble gathering on the tracks, and I sacrificed much for it.
A Biblical robe needed its own sign. The preprinted signs read "Thou shall not kill". I wanted a sign that read, "Let our people go", a reference to the Knoxville 22 (arrests) from an earlier protest on campus, and for all the other political prisoners around the country. I changed Moses's quote to 'our' because they were not 'my' people.
Using a quote by Moses was a step away from comparison to Jesus. But Moses didn't fit me any better. He led his people. Communication and interpersonal skills are required of a leader; I was blessed with an abundance of neither. I was better suited to see large patterns in history than to connect effectively with individuals. I know as people grow old they may not remember everything about the past, but I'd be surprised if anyone remembers me as a leader in those protests of 1970. I was the street-theater element -- independent, stamped by my personal quest, not necessarily relevant to the group's plans.
At some point the phone in the office rang. It was a national radio show wanting an interview. Apparently, nobody wanted to talk to them, so I did. I explained the need to oppose Nixon's appearance on campus under the circumstances. The reporter then asked if I didn't fear arrest. I said I didn't see any reason for arrests to be made. I was sincere in that.
I dressed and folded the sign under the robe to secret it past the sentries at the gate.
Once inside the stadium, I fell under a spell of reverence for the enormity of the event. I remember holding the sign up, and wanting to stare a hole through this evil President. It was a contempt spawned by the betrayal of an innocent faith in my country, made worse because the lies were cloaked in patriotism.
The protesters that day exercised free speech during the political parts of the rally, but practiced no violence. The call for violence that I recall came from one of the singers of a spiritual hymn when she expressed a desire to come down and give us a smack. Exactly what effect that was meant to have on an angry crowd of 90,000 hungry Christians who gladly would have fed us to the lions on the spot, only she can say. I was to feel some of its impact soon enough.
A lot of influences led me into Neyland Stadium dressed in a robe. But there was a common prime mover for everyone protesting that day, on both sides. The war was the bullying of all young people by cynical liars. I understood the lies as a student of History. But those who had no choice but to go to war were the greatest victims, regardless of their attitude about their roles. If their parents were sitting in the stadium that day and saw the protesters as a lightening rod to channel their own anger, then I can't hate them for that. They were in the same position as I -- twisted into circumstances they could not control -- we were all small people in the presence of Power.
Everyone present was transfixed by the moment. Everyone was equally human, living from moment to moment in the space they occupied, just as they were called to do. That included Billy Graham. We were on opposite sides of truth that day, but I have nothing but respect for Dr. Graham today.
When Nixon quit talking and the protesters followed suit, I walked from the stands onto the field to listen to Graham. I had come from an intensely religious background and wanted to communicate my faith by clearly, obviously, paying attention to Graham's words. I sat on the ground at midfield and listened intently to the sermon. Likely, no one caught my drift.
When Graham finished speaking I stood up to leave the stadium. As I left the field. I was met by a uniformed officer and arrested. The spell was broken. I began yelling to the nearby spectators, "They're taking political prisoners!" That earned me a club across the knee -- a smack of sorts, set to a hymn no doubt, intended to cause permanent damage I bet. My knee cap, however, hidden by the robe, survived by an inch.
Once in my cell, I asked that Billy Graham pay me a visit. I wanted to hear his rationale for sponsoring Nixon. That doomed request marked my final break with organized religion. As it sank in that he would never come to my cell, the vacuum of authority split apart at the seams. The phantoms of both 'law and order', and the moral authority of the church stood before me in that vacuum, both hollow of soul. After that, I resolved to take my quest for God on the road, to find whatever truth that comes into my life in the future without appeal to church or state.
Less naive after the crusade, I watched as Power's war on its people limped on for more unnecessary, life-crushing years. More souls were torn apart; lives were lost. The unimaginable horror suffered by the Asia people we don't even want to know. Today I am not surprised that in the new century Power has established a permanent war on its people and their civil liberties, with the blessings of the majority.
Looking into my jail cell that night in 1970, any student of the Bible should recognize the Biblical character I really resembled. I hadn't planned it, but I was in the role of an Old Testament prophet -- an outcast, despised for a message that was too harsh to accept, truth that would challenge a certain moral comfort. All of those people in the stands that day hating the protesters were playing their role too, just as it is in the Bible.


Following the NIXON visit upon learning about the arrest warrants I phoned Dr. Trentham to ask his intervention and help in stopping the arrests. He replied that he didn't think there was anything he could do. Later in life he went to DC to become Jimmie Carter's pastor before resigning from the Southern Baptist Convention and starting what he called a Potter's Church in a tiny chapel we called The Church in the Wildwood. The Nixon Graham event had a profound effect on his life he said. I became a Deacon in his small rural church until he died in an auto accident in Colorado.
That trajectory from First Baptist Knoxville to First Baptist DC to the tiny non-southern Baptist church exemplified what I considered to be the true Christian nature of men like him and jimmy Carter who's religious foundation was rooted in something deeper than the cynical use of belief and faith for political advantage so prevalent in Republican politics.

The head of the UT Theology Department Dr Charles Reynolds was among those arrested for Disrupting A Religious Service for holding up a sigh that read THOU SHALT NOT KILL at the NIXON appearance in the Graham Crusade. The paradox is so dramatic and overwhelming. A 'Christian' Crusade where students opposing the killing in an illegal war are jailed for holding up a Commandment while the 'christian' crowd calls for their heads and cheers their arrests saying that the KENT STATE murder victims deserved their fate.

I spent a long time sitting on the 50 yard line at Neyland Stadium after Graham made 'the call'. He glared over the podium and admonished us for blasphemy because we dared to come down to the field with our hands raised in the Peace Sign. I tried to talk with one of his staff about a Christian duty to oppose that war to no avail. Like Carroll Bible I still carry around that confusion about America and Christianity as I understood it and the antithesis represented by Nixon's war and Graham's complicity. The Republican's were only interested in who to blame and what to fear. They were about punishment and retribution. Jimmy Carter was about forgiveness and helping those less fortunate. It seemed so simple to me then and I've never found any reason in the past 40 years to change that point of view.

With only 64 readers for the first installment in this series perhaps I should retire and accept the verdict that this little slice of history has limited appeal. But then I think that the continuing development of the Republican Theocracy has so permeated the current US political world that these earlier obvious uses of religious events by evil men need remembering. Just as the fundamental decency of men like Jimmy Carter and Dr Charles Trentham need to be held up in comparison.

Tom Robbins in my favorite philosophical work SKINNY LEGS AND ALL expounds on the evil generated when politics mixes with religion. So much of what he offers there is pertinent to this example. For instance
"The Divine was expansive, but religion was reductive. Religion attempted to reduce the Divine to a knowable quantity with which mortals might efficiently deal, to pigeonhole it once and for all so that we never had to reevaluate it. With hammers of cant and spikes of dogma, we crucified and crucified again, trying to nail to our stationary altars the migratory light of the world. Thus, since religion bore false witness to the Divine, religion was blasphemy. And once it entered into its unholy alliance with politics, it became the most dangerous and repressive force that the world has ever known." or "Conservatives understand Halloween, liberals only understand Christmas. If you want to control a population, don't give it social services, give it a scary adversary."
"Religion isn't the opium of the masses - it's the cyanide."
and "To emphasize the afterlife is to deny life. To concentrate on Heaven is to create hell. In their desperate longing to transcend the disorderliness, friction, and unpredictability that pesters life; in their desire for a fresh start in a tidy habitat, germ-free and secured by angels, religious multitudes are gambling the only life they may ever have on a dark horse in a race that has no finish line."

Liberal Progressives are too honest and sympathetic to use religion for a cynical political purpose. Republican's don't see the evil in their ways.
Once the Left Behind believers seeking Armageddon were considered marginal whack jobs but now they constitute the solid center of the Republican Party. This NIXON GRAHAM event was simply a preview of a far more dangerous future of W saying that GOD told him to smite Saddam or the Rapture and Creationism fans who prefer to lay waste to the environment in the name of a Genesis inspired "dominion theory" reinforced by their desire to hasten the Apocalypse and bring on the end of days.
In the face of that threat isn't it better to muse over a Tom Robbins quote than to face the outrage of Sarah and Rand in a bay of oil?

There will be additions to this series as soon as Bruce McCoy, shown here being arrested during the KNOXVILLE 22 protest after serving as a negotiator between the administration and the student protesters.

Chris Caron, a leader of the student protest people and the person most responsible for the campaign posters that helped elect Jimmie Baxter SGA president.

and a couple of other participants get it together to add their reflections and recall to this accurate history of a moment in time some forty years ago. We examine our past to understand our present and hopefully avoid a painful future.

I ended up in Canada with Chris and Bruce in November of 1972 despite a high lottery number and no fear of the draft. Chris was Canadian and Bruce was draft exempt but staying in the US under Nixon didn't seem to be the right thing to do. When Nixon was run out of Washington I felt vindicated.

If nothing else the first installment of this history put me back in touch with a few people who were there and that was with only 64 who viewed the diary. My hope is that this second chapter will yield more participants who can reach me via the comments and our 1970 Protest and Activism at UT Facebook Group
I suppose that this type of situation at Tennessee was repeated across the country at institutions of higher learning from Maine to California and it's the common elements of our collective experience in that incredible time that we share. 40 years have passed and the participants are ending their careers that were just beginning in 1970. This was a part of our beginning and it shaped our lives in many deep and fundamental ways.

Thank you for reading, rec-ing, and your comments as I beg your pardon for my opening remarks concerning rec lists and Kossack behavior. I'm grateful for a place to share my story and point of view.
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