Jun 3, 2010

EXILE IN CANADA - Can't Stay in a country that would re-elect Nixon

The specter of Richard Nixon on stage with Billy Graham within the hallowed confines of Neyland Stadium in the wake of the Kent State Murders and the vast student strikes all over America still haunts me today. The awesome power of religious fervor giving Nixon the aura of righteousness when we know from the Watergate tapes his base and vulgar nature is a chilling reminder of how easily people can be fooled.
This is Part 3 of 40 YEAR FLASHBACK - NIXON & GRAHAM at UT Part I and NIXON & GRAHAM Part II

After Martin Luther King Jr was murdered in Memphis TN in April of 68 and RFK was gunned down in LA in June of 69 we saw LBJ undermine HHH and watched the 68 election go to Richard Milhouse Nixon

With 22 arrested and convicted in the wake of the KNOXVILLE 22 incident in Jan, the massacre of 4 students at Kent State on May 4th, the student strikes of May across the country, and Nixon's 'successful' appearance in Neyland Stadium billed as his welcome on a major college campus followed by the arrests of some 66 students and faculty for daring to bring THOU SHALT NOT KILL signs to a Graham Crusade (the crime of disrupting a religious service); the war had come home to Tennessee in a personal and dramatic way.
We students were on Nixon's enemies list and the casualties among Nixon enemies were growing.

Bobby had become the light of our hope for a better future for everyone

Martin was our common dream and conscience

Both lay dead in the ashes of our hopes and dreams while dangerous men like

and George W Bush prevailed and the corporate oil and weapons interests prospered

Somehow the obvious isn't enough to encourage decent hard working American's to simply vote in their own best interest. The supposed "Christian" nation seems to prefer the self-serving greed of the super rich represented by Nixon and Bush to the hopes and dreams for a better future for average Americans represented by The REVEREND Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Francis Kennedy.

Al Gore's interest in preserving the environment for our children and grand-children is ridiculed by many who seem to perfer the vested interests of the self-serving profiteers who claim record profits while dealing in the oil and weapons that cost them the lives of their children in Iraq and Afghanistan and threaten the future of their offspring. How much Halliburton, ENRON, BP, Worldcom, Carlisle Group, Goldman Sachs, Citibank and AIG will American's suffer before turning against the excesses of corporate greed and the elected officials who kowtow to their interest?

The good men who made a difference for the average Americans lay dead or robbed of rightful office by fate.
According to a USA Today analysis that came out earlier this month, Americans paid their lowest share in taxes in nearly sixty years in 2009. At the same time, as this year’s annual Economic Report of the President pointed out, “in recent years nearly half of all income — including both wages and salaries and nonlabor income — has gone to 10 percent of families.” “The top 1 percent of families now receive nearly 25 percent of income, up from less than 10 percent in the 1970s,” the report said.
American's in general and particularly Republican East Tennesseans buy the ridiculous idea that liberals want to redistribute the wealth while viewing the proof that the wealth redistribution since the election of Ronald Reagan has been the greatest transfer of wealth from the middle class to the ultra-wealthy in the history of the world.

How can they sell the absurd idea that Republicanism is in the best interest of average Americans? How does an aged Aussie media magnate like Rupert Murdock, an overweight cigar chomping Oxycotin addict like Rush Limbaugh, a loud mouthed snake oil salesman like Glenn Beck, silent majority religious fanatics like Falwell, Dobson, Haggard, Hagee, Bakker, Copeland, Swaggert, & Robertson and a vapid ditsy Alaskan Hockey mom like Sarah Palin, join a cheerleading C student AWOL business failure and capture political power in the United States of America?
They have nothing to offer the average American except fear and blame. There is nothing in the Republican political ideology or their legislative program that offers anything but a bleak future of war and poverty for the vast majority and fabulous personal wealth for a tiny minority.
Health Insurance Companies record 5.7 Billion in profits
US Oil companies record their highest profits in histoy
Super banks and their obscene investment practices cost us trillions
Halliburton - theft on a grand scale and they've been at it for years
It seems the ENRON scandal didn't teach Americans anything

Our generation went to Woodstock and took to the streets to stop the war. We drove LBJ from office and forced tricky dick into showing his true nature by instilling a fear that resulted in the plumbers and Watergate. We joined the Peace Corps and burned our draft cards while popularizing a sentiment for anti-establishment political action rejecting the imperialism that propped up vicious killer dictators in third world outbacks where American financial interests exploited the resources for their own gain. All to no avail it seems since corporate greed is impervious to reason and relentless.

The Nixon appearance with Billy Graham was a glimpse into a grim future. It wasn't the first time religion and politics mixed in America to the detriment of all. I am currently reading AMERICAN THEOCRACY by Kevin Phillips - a former Republican strategist for Nixon.

Too Many Preachers
In this section, Phillips refers to the large presence in the conservative coalition of religious Evangelicals and Pentecostals. He cites a statistic that 40% of the republican coalition is made up of such voters. He cites quotes by U.S. President George W. Bush suggesting that he is speaking for God (Phillips points to past leaders, such as Roman Dictator Julius Caesar who made similar statements.). He points to hostility by the social conservatives towards science in general, and Darwinian evolution in particular. But he particularly focuses on the end-times prophecies of what he refers to as Christian Reconstructionists.
Phillips starts this section by tracing the history of American religion. He argues that the pilgrims who emigrated to the New World before the American Revolution were religious outsiders, who were non-conformist and more radical than the establishment would allow (which was why they left Europe in the first place). He points to a history of highly emotional religious practices in the 17th and 18th centuries. He then argues that after "fundamentalist religion" (particularly Evangelical and the newly-formed Pentecostal branches) were set back after the Scopes Monkey Trial, they appeared to have been dealt a permanent blow. Phillips cites statistical studies that suggest that after this point, fundamentalist religion grew at a rapid rate, while mainstream denominations actually declined )
The Scopes Monkey Trial - yet another event in Tennessee - was a very public defeat for the fundamentalist Creationism world view, but here in 2010 we have a stronger than ever anti-evolutionist bent in this country exemplified in Texas by new standards "stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light." If Texas wants to teach fundamental stupidity in place of science would it not be beneficial to the country as a whole to encourage their secession along with Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Oklahoma? The rest of America would be substantially more pleasant without their participation in our politics.

On election eve in November of 72 I loaded up my Chevy Blazer and headed north to the border to permanently join friends who preceded me to Canada. Refusal to live in a country that would elect Nixon twice seemed to be the only option. I had spent the previous Summer working for George McGovern only to watch his miserable defeat.

(from right standing Jeff 'Stick' Davis and David 'Butch' McDade - Amazing Rhythm Aces, Nelda McDade, Steve Deady, Linda and Gordie Langsner, Susan Bozeman; In front from right - Jesse Winchester with son, Chris Caron with Linda Petrick.)
Our group of ex-patriots included Tennessee native singer-songwriter jesse Winchester and future members of the Amazing Rhythm Aces then playing with Jesse as Jesse and the Rhythm Aces.

from left Jesse Winchester, Butch McDade, and Jeff Stick Davis

Jesse Winchester was the music world's most prominent Vietnam War draft evader, though his renown came from a body of wry, closely observed songs. After growing up in Memphis, Winchester received his draft notice in 1967 and moved to Montreal, Canada, rather than serve in the military. In 1969, he met Robbie Robertson of the Band, who helped launch his recording career. In the same way that James Taylor's history of mental instability and drug abuse served as a subtext for his early music, Winchester's exile lent real-life poignancy to songs like "Yankee Lady," which appeared on his debut album, Jesse Winchester (1970). He became a Canadian citizen in 1973.

Despite critical acclaim, his inability to tour in the U.S. prevented him from taking his place among the major singer/songwriters of the early '70s, but he made a series of impressive albums -- Third Down, 110 to Go (August 1972), Learn to Love It (August 1974), Let the Rough Side Drag (June 1976), and Nothing But a Breeze (March 1977) -- before President Jimmy Carter instituted an amnesty that finally allowed him to play in his homeland
Our group of some 40 ex-patriots moved from the Frazier House to the Chatelet Hotel in Morin Heights Quebec. We opened the Belladonna Ballroom and offered country music and Harvey Wallbangers to our new Canadian friends

Smokescreen Sound was formed to book bands and musicians into the clubs in Montreal and to do production of cross Canadian tours. Bands from Knoxville like Rich Mountain Tower came to Montreal to perform and record.

In the Spring of 1970 following the Kent State Murders my brother Charlie joined with Russell Smith, Danny Kennedy, Sparky Rucker, and Toby Lees to form THE STRIKE BAND which played at events supporting the student strikes.
When Charlie left for medical school the STRIKE BAND became Smith and Kennedy with Jeff Stick Davis and Butch McDade. They continued to play at the political rallies and events in support of the strike. Davis and McDade eventually joined Jesse Winchester in Montreal.

THE GREAT AMERICAN STRIKE BAND - formed in the wake of the Kent State Murders and the general strike by students across America.
from left - Danny Kennedy, Jeff 'Stick' Davis, Russell Smith, and Butch McDade

The Original Strike Band members
Danny Kennedy, Russell Smith, Toby Lees, and Charlie Bozeman

By 1974 Jesse Winchester recorded Learn to Love It in Montreal including Russell Smith's Third Rate Romance and The End is Not in Sight. The album featured Jeff Stick Davis and Butch McDade on bass and drums. Russell Smith and I helped with background vocals. Jesse supported album sales with a cross Canada tour from Halifax to Vancouver and I managed the tour support and did the sound with Mike Caron.
Jesse then produced Knoxville's Rich Mountain Tower - Playin to the Radio album at Studio Six. The flow of people and music from Knoxville to Montreal was constant.

Stuart Wright who had been playing with Jesse became part of RMT and wrote songs for the Amazing Rhythm Aces.

Sandy Garrett, Stuart Wright, Doug Moisson, David Carr, Bobby Tuccillo, Shady Grove.

By 1976 Mountain Sound Inc formed in Knoxville with Rich Mountain Tower members and we picked up Charlie Daniels and The Marshall Tucker Bands for tour sound and lighting production clients. MTB and the CDB became prominent fundraisers for Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign and Mountain Sound was a part of that effort offering our services without compensation to get Carter elected.
When Carter won the election in November he announced that he would pardon all draft resistors who did not desert or become a citizen of another country. That decision would not have helped Jesse Winchester who had become a Canadian by 1973. After conferring with Albert Grossman I went to Washington and met with Jody Powell and Hamilton Jordan's people making the case that becoming a Canadian citizen was the honorable thing to do and that Jesse should be treated like any other Canadian citizen. That January I waited in the receiving line at the National Guard Armory where we were doing the sound and light production for Marshall Tucker and Charlie Daniels at the Inaugural Ball with one of Jesse's albums under my arm. Carter saw the album and told me not to worry. The next day he pardoned all draft resistors except those who had deserted.

Toy Caldwell, Jimmy Carter, George McCorkle

All of this ties together from the Kent State Murders to the the strikes, the strike band, Nixon at the Graham Crusade, the Vietnam war, the draft resistors, Jesse Winchester and the Rhythm Aces, The Amazing Rhythm Aces, Mountain Sound and the CDB and MTB to Carter's election and the pardons.
The MTB were all ex-marines from South Carolina and unlikely Democrats. Charlie Daniels is now an outspoken right wing fanatic. Mountain Sound went on to do all of the sound production at the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville for Jake Butcher who ran for Governor of Tennessee and then imploded with the United American Bank failure and his arrest and conviction for banking fraud. He moved from his mansion on Melton Hill with a dozen bathrooms to the Atlanta Federal Pen to make mailbags. If he had not tried a run for Governor as a Democrat he might have gotten through the difficulty in time.

In 1961 I had the opportunity to serve as a Senate Page for Albert Gore Sr. I was 14 years old and living on my on in the nation's capitol in a rooming house owned by Mrs. Alexandra Columbus just behind the Supreme Court. As a short term summer page I was assigned to the Republican side of the aisle where I watched Barry Goldwater mark the bills for John Tower and listened to Everett Dirksen, Norris Cotton, Margaret Chase Smith and Jacob Javits. LBJ would enter on my side of the podium and I would hold the door. He actually took the time to remember my name. Strom Thurmond was there along with Richard Russell, Carl Hayden, George Aiken, Hubert Humphrey, Ted Kennedy, and Estes Kefauver. I helped set up the desks in the morning and ran notes and packages from the floor to offices and fetched water from the cloakroom and got paid 182 dollars in $2 bills each week. It was an interesting experience at 14. I was a yellow dog Democrat. In 64 Gore gave me my desired appointment to the Air Force Academy and I was first alternate so he appointed me to West Point. I did not want West Point and I'm probably alive today because I made that decision.
Here I was 10 years later in Canada because of Nixon. When Watergate hit I was sure we had turned the corner and Democrats would prevail for decades to come. Instead we went from Carter to Reagan and the long dark days with a brief respite for Clinton followed by the disaster in Florida that gave us the agony of Bush.
Things only seem to be getting worse with the media, the military, oil, banks, and religion all arrayed against the best interests of working people and the working people don't seem to have the intelligence to recognize their own best interests.
Nixon at the Graham Crusade was a graphic display of the problem. Good 'christian' people were being told by their ideal good Christian man Billy Graham that Nixon was on the side of all that was good and true. Their children with the long hair and the THOU SHALT NOT KILL signs were misguided. They were being brainwashed by outside communist elements. The devil's music was leading them astray along with the evil in Hollywood. God was on the side of Nixon and the war in Vietnam was all that was between us and commie tanks in California.
After spending the first 22 years of life as a church going Eagle scout, Senate Page, Air Force Academy appointee, class president, and campus leader I was an ex-patriot outlaw hanging out with long haired rock n rollers in Canada.
The Republican's own Tennessee despite their obvious failures. They had a grip on it prior to the Nixon appearance with Graham but that day it was 90,000 christian Graham Nixon supporters and maybe 700 protesters in opposition. Then we had Al Gore Sr. and Howard Baker but by November it was Baker and Brock. Now it's Alexander and Corker and it couldn't get much worse. Al Gore Jr. the well informed native son and advocate for the environment couldn't win in Tennessee. These Nixon loving crusaders preferred the failed oilman who butchered English to the man who helped Bill Clinton lower deficits and studied the effect of emissions on the environment.

As NIXON stood on the 50 yard line surrounded by thousands of admirers with the entire Republican party hierarchy of the state it was clear that I was I stranger in my own land. I was born not a mile from that stadium and had spent the first two years of life in Aconda Court - now known as Alumni Hall at the main intersection on campus.
With my father in the Aconda Courtyard.
The future seemed so bright and hopeful then.

Now I was the square peg in the round hole. The outcast prodigal non-believer. What we believe chooses us. I fear for the future for my grandchild and his country. The aftermath of Nixon at the Graham Crusade haunts me still.

Thanks for reading and your comments and recommendations to this diary. What a long strange trip it has been.
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