Friday, March 21, 2003

An even older sister remembers the Yippies.

By the end of the 60s, I was married with two little kids and living in the rural town where my husband was teaching. I protested in what meager ways I could, but my heart was with the Yippies. Who were the Yippies? They're somewhat documented here, and what follows is excerpted from that piece.

The Yippies, who came up with the name first and the acronym "Youth International Party" later, pulled their first famous act at the New York Stock Exchange. They floated down dollar bills and then laughed hysterically as millionaire stockbrokers scrambled madly after the money. They wanted to celebrate the "death of money" and expose the greediness of American society. From then on, the Yippies would put soot bombs at Con Edison Headquarters to warn about pollution, plaster SEE CANADA NOW signs on Army Recruiting Booths and mail 3,000 marijuana joints to random strangers from the phone book. Abbie's antics made him a media celebrity along with the Yippies' other leader, Jerry Rubin, best known for dressing in a Revolutionary War outfit and blowing bubbles at a House Un-American Committee hearing. Many groups in the sixties were so earnest and self-righteous that the Yippies provided some of the only examples of radicals with a sense of humor.

Contrary to Abbie often being portrayed as a comic buffoon, ... he was a very serious, committed activist who gave away more money than he made. She had met him in New York, when Abbie had opened a "Free Store" for low-income people and set up a place for the homeless to come. He sold goods from cooperatives in the South who were trying to escape poverty.

As the Yippies gained more attention, however, the focus shifted towards pulling off even more outrageous activities rather than setting up "counter institutions" like the Free Store. Media dependency and addiction were setting in. Some began accusing the Yippies of provoking violent confrontations with the police, though others believed the police unleashed the violence. In October of 1967, in what would become one of the most important protests of the 60s, the March on the Pentagon mobilized 100,000 various anti-war activists.

At the protest, the Yippies had declared their intention to "levitate" the Pentagon, and to exorcise it of all the evil spirits that were killing Americans and Vietnamese women and children thousands of miles away. Roz put on the footage of the levitation and I could hear through the phone the chanting of "Ommmmmm." US marshals surrounding the Pentagon moved in and started arresting demonstrators. One famous photo shows a protester putting a daisy into the gun of a policeman. The March was only the prologue to what would become increasingly more violent confrontations with the police.


I think perhaps that, as much as we enjoyed the efforts of the early Yippies to draw attention to important issues through humor and satire, it became pretty apparent that those tactics were not going to result in real change happening. Frustration led to more confrontational behavior, as is also happening today.

As I sit here watching Baghdad being violently destroyed , live, before of the eyes of the whole world of television, I can't help see that the confrontation in which the anti-war protestors are engaging to make their points heard is nothing compared to the violence that we are inflicting upon the innocents of Iraq. As an American, I am ashamed of what my country's leaders are doing in my name.

(double posted here. And go here to read George Dubya Bush's War Prayer (a little satire in the Yippie spirit).

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