Tuesday, October 30, 2007

# 21

Subject L. and I met at her rural home, surrounded by plants and the steady rasp of cicadas in the nearby woods.

Folk music and a good friend who liked to play folk music were my first awareness of Sixties culture. I went to an all girls’ Catholic high school -- in retrospect, I think I had a pretty wide range of experiences there. I went all the way through Catholic college, and it was not a conservative or repressive environment, at least at the time I was there. My most respected professor -- of philosophy -- ended up leaving the priesthood and getting married. There was a lot of choice. The basic thing was, what you got out of it depended on your experiences. That background, for me, was that it was alright to ask all kinds of questions, and nothing was taboo -- There was a lot of conversation and questioning, different backgrounds and lifestyles.

In high school, I was interested in social causes, like civil rights and integration. When I was a junior or senior I did work through some classes, went down into the inner city in the mid to late 60s to work in the housing projects. As a sideline I did some work with the school for the deaf -- we learned sign language. But once I got to college (in 1968), I became more aware of the Vietnam War and that whole thing. My focus shifted from civil rights into the whole Vietnam era. My taste in music changed too, from folk to rock and roll. Another element that ran all the way through my life, and was especially strong in the late 60s and early 70s, was this back to the land hippie peace flower child thing. I grew up in suburbia but had grandparents who lived in the country, which caused my mother untold grief because I wanted to be a country girl. As a child, I’d go to my grandmother’s and cry when I had to leave. I also loved small towns. I didn’t see anything good in suburbia, although now I do see the convenience.

I was a sociology major in college, and I was going to save the world. I had one very good professor -- the department was split between two people: the head of the department was a sociologist, and he was very interested in people getting a good background in all the readings and the theories, and then the other fellow was very practical, social work oriented. I don’t think I appreciated the sociologist enough, but I was really impressed with the social work guy, so in college I ended up with a sociology/psychology degree. We had classes where we were working and it brought to the forefront the actual reality of working in that field and how bureaucratic it was, how difficult it was to actually get things done. I enjoyed the hands-on social work more than the theory.

When I did graduate in ‘72, there was a hiring freeze and there was no way to get a job. By the time I got a job offer, it was two weeks before I had my daughter, so I didn’t take it. When my little girl was young, up until 8 or 10 yrs ago, I worked as a volunteer in some sort of area related to social work things, women’s centers, adult day care centers.

During college, I became a vegetarian, and I was sympathetic to a variety of issues, but there weren’t any major protests in the small town where the college was. I had an early and very strong interest in environmental issues, which didn’t go away, and I was interested in Buckey Fuller’s work. I managed to get them to bring him to the school as a visiting scholar, then I was excluded from the formal dinner -- school politics. He was pushing the geodesic dome, and it was related to environmental issues in that there was a lot of passive solar and low use of natural resources -- very efficient. He also had an automobile that he had made that was extremely efficient -- the dymaxion car. I tried to find out if there were schools that worked on that -- you could get into a specific program, but there weren’t many schools offering just plain environmental programs at that time. I started getting involved in World Watch -- back in ‘71. Their state of the world report was really dire, but some things have been done that they said needed to be done. But from the perspective at that point in time, we figured that we’d be long gone by now and the earth would be a crisp cinder. I also had a lot of awareness of the nuclear arms race. I was more involved with social and environmental issues, but I wasn’t involved in protesting the draft or the Vietnam War, even tho I had friends who went off into the war and friend who went to Canada.

Getting back to the land was extremely appealing to me, going back to when I was a child, maybe more so than a lot of people. I had fancied living in a commune but never did. I lived with groups of people, but not on an official commune. When I left college, I got pregnant. That changed my life. I was a single mom, and pretty much deserted by everybody for awhile there. My family was there but not there. I’m the oldest of five children, and there was the recommendation from a particular parish priest that my family shouldn’t allow my younger brothers and sisters too much exposure to my evil influence. My family was actually more supportive than most of my friends, because my friends felt that there was no excuse for me not to get an abortion. My plan had been to travel the world, the whole thing, go back to the land, somehow do all these things, which now as an older person I realize weren’t going to work well together. Maybe I could do them consecutively, but I couldn’t do them all at once. I was sidetracked -- which disappointed everybody but me. I was pretty happy about it (being pregnant). It was an accident, but once I found myself pregnant I had no doubt about what I was going to do.

I was on welfare, AFDC until F. was two. I had good friends, and lived in a community in the country, and that’s where I met C. He and I moved in together. He was graduate student and had no income. After we met, I began moving into what I do now, which is archaeology and anthropology. I had been interested, but my college did not have an anthropology department. I guess from the point where I was interested in sociology as a social science, I was almost more interested in anthropology, in its cultural aspects, where you’re going out learning about cultures you can interact with. When I met C. I became more interested, even tho I was in the middle of working at the women’s shelter. I just took F with me. I spent probably fifty percent of my time doing volunteer work when she was little, basically working with poor people. In women’s issues, it was primarily the women’s shelter. I did that in Illinois, then again in Tennessee when C got a job, and I worked as a field cook. That was pretty interesting, I cooked for 16 people. Then we moved to Alabama and I found places to work. I did start working part time in archaeology, but also continued doing volunteer social work.

C came to Arkansas in conjunction with his profession, and by that time F was in first grade, and I started doing archaeology, and volunteered at the battered women’s shelter. After three years, the government contracts changed, and our jobs abruptly ended, and that was right after our second child was born, so we decided to start our own business. We bid on government jobs. C is the archaeologist, and I do the business aspect. I enjoy the field work and have done some of it, but I do the money and personnel management, editing and quality control, and we’ve been in business for 15 years. The last two years have been difficult for the whole profession. All the cutbacks, all kinds of upheaval, again trying to change the procuring process, and the death knell for the small company in this field.

We grow a big garden. For years, we’ve done organic gardening, pretty successfully. I enjoy gardening a lot. I did a lot of canning, but now I do more freezing. I do more specialties, like pickled okra. In Alabama, I was very organic, only not the point where I was making my own flour or anything. Eating good, home grown organic food was very important to me. I had neighbors who thought I was an abusive parent because I did things they didn’t consider good parenting. I did not give my children sugar, which was their term for love, their way of demonstrating love, and I also didn’t believe in hitting children. I worked temporarily as a substitute teacher, and I did a good job, but they didn’t want me back because I wouldn’t hit the kids. The teachers all carried a paddle, kind of like a ping pong paddle, right on their belt, and I didn’t believe in that.

I’ve run into downright bigotry here in Northwest Arkansas. People can be bigots in all different directions, and I’ve run into my share. I think that’s where the anthropology part comes in handy, gives an uninvolved perspective. Observing people who fancy themselves big liberals and yet they’re not truly liberal, because if you don’t go with exactly what they think is good, then your ‘aura’ is wrong, you’re not cosmically cool enough. Maybe I’m not as liberal, maybe I’m not as cool as they are, I’ve never really gone with that. I consider myself conservative in some areas, especially in terms of the environment.

I used lots of drugs. I used nicotine and alcohol in high school. I started smoking cigarettes when I was 13, and quit when I was 22, when I got pregnant. I drank heavily in college, for the first year or so, but then I considered myself superior to the riffraff who used alcohol because I had better drugs. I enjoyed pot much more, but I didn’t get to pooh-poohing alcohol until I got to the hallucinogenic drugs, which I did do the last two years of my college career. That was combined with the back to the land thing, and I did it for the spiritual part of it too. I do think that hallucinogenic drugs do expand your consciousness. I do believe that. Yet, I would be petrified to see my high school age child get anywhere near it -- I lost a couple of friends to drugs. I formed strong opinions about drugs then. I’m very against speed. My experience was that speed turned people into monsters. My basic opinion now is that I wish they’d (the government) stop wasting all their (our) damn money fighting marijuana and I think we’d have a lot of support from a lot of people. My personal feeling is that it (drugs) should all be legal. That would be the best way to go at it, the most effective way. Then maybe we could deal with the people who have the real problems. I had friends who were heroin addicts, I thought they were crazy but I still liked them. I had friends who fell into speed and they were no longer my friends. And those are the people who we lost, people who went out of second story windows. I never knew anybody using heroin who was that crazy.

I no longer imbibe, because I found in my late 20s that what marijuana did for me was put me to sleep, and I didn’t need to go to sleep. I had a thyroid problem, and I think that was one of the reasons I was so reactive. I finally did have to have one gland taken out. Both C and I have communicated our attitudes on drugs to our children, because I think we need something honest, and I think this baloney that they’re teaching in the school systems is harmful, because these kids are too smart, and they all of a sudden realize that marijuana is not this evil substance -- like T-- already will spout off that it’s only a gateway drug if you have to keep going to people pushing other garbage. To me, tobacco is the worst drug we’ve got out there right now, not counting speed and so forth -- it’s so readily available, so addictive. C’s been trying to stop smoking since I’ve met him, he’s been smoking since he went to Vietnam. T says she went to some sort of music thing, and she said 80% of the kids in there were smoking cigarettes -- kids under 18, 20. My brother has been a strong member of NORML for years, and I’ve sent him money, but we don’t give directly because of work restrictions. At least as archaeologists we don’t have to be very straight to keep a job. I think that’s why I’ve developed some of my attitudes.

These two sides of the spectrum, liberals (progressives) and conservatives (traditionalists), the terms are used to stereotype people. I think one of the main earmarks of a truly liberal person is tolerance. I keep trying to teach my children that. The main place we give money is to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has a teaching tolerance program, which is fantastic. I think it’s a thread that’s gone all the way through my life, trying to fight intolerance. You can find intolerance everywhere, in right wing ultraconservatives and in the yuppie liberal political agenda -- I may agree with more of the liberal political stances, but I don’t agree with the social attitudes that close out others. We can learn something from everyone. I attribute my desire for tolerance partly to some of the drugs I took in college, because the experiences showed the kinship of people, that we’re more alike than different.

I’m optimistic about the future. I think you’re born that way (optimistic). To me, if the glass is half full/ half empty, why not think of it as half full? What’s the point in the thinking it’s half empty? I think that human beings can do it. Looked at historically, things are getting better -- maybe not as fast as I’d like. I think we have ourselves up against the wall environmentally, but I think the human being per se is trudging along slowly in a positive direction. Look how long we’ve been around -- we’ve made immense leaps and bounds, just in the last century or two, the centuries we’ve got recorded information. But then, based on my experience in anthropology and archaeology, in some ways it appears we haven’t changed at all. In other ways, both physical and the whole spiritual/moral aspect, I’ve seen just in my short lifetime some change for the better.

I like my kids, and I think they offer promise for the next generation. I think there’s a dual reason for our children’s adherence to our values. In my experience, in some ways it was more difficult to discuss and explain, rather than to just whack a kid for some misbehavior. But these kids grew up asking questions, thinking about things. Also, I think the information age has had a great impact. I’m reading a book called On Photography by Susan Sontag, really interesting, and it makes you realize that a lot of these changes (relating to the information age) started with photography because all of a sudden images were available everywhere. We all talk about the influence of television, video, how the world has gotten so much smaller. But I think some things have gotten better, and even tho on a personal level maybe people are not that much more improved than they were a hundred years ago, there’s a perception that we are. Look at the emphasis on all this human rights stuff -- . And when people are actually interviewed about these things (such as human rights, the environment) they say these issues are important to them. I think the culture is changing. You don’t have to go too far out to see differences, and I think it’s spreading -- the integrity of the human being is becoming important -- our definition of who deserves respect and integrity has become a lot wider.

One of my pet peeves right now is this whole thing that’s going on with homosexuals -- how can people be such bigots, it drives me crazy. I have two siblings who are homosexuals, and this is not a life that they choose -- it’s who they are. Assuming we accept people are born as homosexuals, for people to say that they are just born evil or choose to be evil, that’s beyond my comprehension. This sexuality is a divergence, different because most animals are born to reproduce, and obviously homosexuals do not have that drive to reproduce. It’s an issue that really gets my goat. Take Trent Lot’s stance on the guy they’re trying to make an ambassador to the Netherlands—a gay man, extremely capable—Lot is holding back the vote because Lot says he’s (the prospective ambassador) a sinner and being gay is a decision and we don’t want such an evil person representing the U. S. Lot stated that homosexuality was a moral choice and they can go get it fixed if they want to, that people choose to be homosexual, just like someone would choose to dye their hair —then the first lovely person to support Lot was our representative here from NWA, who said the prospective ambassador had some kind of gay agenda. We’ve tried to figure out what this gay agenda might be --

Anyway, it goes back to my thing about intolerance. I’ve tried to teach my children to be tolerant and have a sense of humor. I think if you go from there --

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

# 54

Met with subject near his Fayetteville home. Born 1949, Michigan

My sister bulldozed the way for me into the 60’s. She is six years older than I. After transferring from Oberlin, a well respected liberal arts college in Ohio., my sister was attending the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI., U of M. She got somewhat involved with the civil rights movement while there. My parents, specifically my father, really didn’t like that. Their most discussed fear was the possibility of her getting arrested and what their friends and neighbors would think if they found out about it. My father wanted her to transfer again to a different school. She agreed and decided upon the University of California, Berkeley campus and would pursue an advanced degree in marine biology. At that point in time, Berkeley didn’t have the student activist reputation it was about to develop as the Free Speech Movement (FSM) got going soon after my sister transferred there. She became very involved with the FSM and was arrested several times.

She and I stayed in touch, as best we could. There was a point at which she was banned from coming home or having any communication with any of us -- mostly my father’s doing. She was very intelligent, had worked several summers at Ford Motor Co. where my father had worked for 20+ years and she had received a Ford scholarship to college. Consequently, a lot of my father’s co-workers knew my sister. Through a series of events it had become general knowledge that his daughter had “gone off the deep end”. Much of the details were also general knowledge, i.e. getting arrested, involvement with the FSM, and dating a black man.

One of my last conversations with my father before he had a heart attack and died, we got into a pretty big argument after he admitted to me that he had recently voted for George Wallace for President.

I didn’t see my sister for several years while she lived in California and we were not supposed to be in any communication. She wrote me birthday cards and sent other communication to me via a friend. It is unfortunate that this huge schism in our family was not resolved until after his death.. He died very suddenly of a heart attack in 1968.

As I graduated from high school, I was planning to go into the Air Force. My girlfriend and I were going to get engaged as soon as we were a couple of years into school. I had chosen entering the Air Force because I wanted to learn to fly. It hadn’t occurred to me, when you’re up in those planes, what you drop on the people on the ground. I went to the U of M. too. As I got there, some lights started going on pretty quickly. I had started having conversations with, first, my dad, that quickly got very conflicted and then he died. My mother tried to pick up his torch, but she didn’t feel the same as he did.

When I graduated from high school in 1967, there were two kids in high school that had ever smoked marijuana. Where I was in suburban Detroit, it wasn’t happening yet. That summer the black communities in Detroit and all over the US burst into flames. John Sinclair and the White Panther Party were just moving from their commune in downtown Detroit to Ann Arbor. The Black Panthers and the Black Muslims were just beginning to organize in Detroit and I knew nothing about either of them at that time. My sister told me I should look into a CO [conscientious objector] status -- don’t just register. I remember talking to my high school counselor, and he said, “Oh, CO’s are just for Quakers and other ‘unusual’ religious people -- that’s not for you, you can’t do that -- just get your 2-S deferment”. A 2-S was a deferment to go to school -- and initially, that’s what I did. Then as I got to know people who were involved with setting up a draft counseling center I got interested in helping. They needed people to act as counselors and I went to a training program offered by the American Friends, Quakers. That’s the point when things started to add up very differently for me.

At the same time, I had a lot of good profs and people I got to know personally at the University who were showing me things I’d never seen before. New ideas. Pretty quickly it seemed pretty clear to me that “we”, the US, were making some major mistakes and that we shouldn’t be doing what we were doing. Soon before his death my father had shown me plans of the assembly plant that FoMoCo had planned to put in what was then Saigon. He made it very clear.

He said, “The reason we’re over there is so Ford Motor Company and other people can go over there and exploit cheap labor.”

He didn’t think that was ok -- it was complicated. He wasn’t just this totally crazy right-wing racist. He grew up in a small town in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan, as did my mother. He had no exposure to blacks, some exposure to Native Americans, who were mostly people who had real serious drinking problems in the UP. He came down to Detroit, this wide-eyed kid, and the guys -- the blacks and the other people that were around Ford’s headquarter’s in Dearborn, MI, Rouge plant, were a rough bunch, common laborers making good money. It was a real rough and tumble environment. He didn’t come into contact with blacks who made the best citizen role model. He got an impression -- and it was hard -- as I got older I started to see. He had just wanted the best for his daughter and saw his daughter doing things that could possibly create problems for her in the future. He didn’t know how to express that very well. He and I actually had had a very good relationship. And most of the time, my sister and he did too. All through school while she lived at home she had toed the line, had been a good little daughter, pulling straight A’s, was popular at school. Earlier I had always heard, ”Why can’t you be more like your sister?” And then all of sudden, “OK, if you want to work on drag race cars and hang out with these motor-head kids -- just don’t get involved with politics or racial issues and civil rights.” So she really broke the ice for me.

I was working at Ford Motor Company during the summers. I was still drag racing. I’d never identified with hippies. Summer of ‘68, after the Summer of Love, my sister was at Golden Gate park -- I didn’t have a clue. I was a motorhead.

But next year as the Vietnam War was raging on, I did get involved with draft counseling as I mentioned earlier. Because I was living in Ann Arbor near Detroit and Canada just across the Detroit River, I soon found myself helping to get AWOL’s out of the country. Helping young fellows my age leave military service and move to Toronto. There was a huge community of people who were deserting the armed forces. I made several runs over there with people. People stayed with me who were AWOL, people who had joined or had been drafted. I heard several young guys say, “Oh my god, what am I doing in this army uniform.” Large numbers of these guys wanted out regardless of the difficulties it would mean for them in the future. We were draft counseling mostly in Detroit and Ann Arbor with AWOLs. The volunteers were committed people working loosely within the American Friend’s service -- networking all over the United States -- a big operation getting people out of the country. We shuttled hundreds into Canada, people, friends, wives.

As I got more involved, I began to change and became more involved with other political activities as well. Students for a Democratic Society, SDS, got started on the U of M campus and I got involved. During this whole period, I was still in school. I transferred into the veterinarian program at Michigan State University, MSU.

I ran into some big problems there -- we were demonstrating to abolish ROTC, working with a small group. We had regular weekly demonstrations at the ROTC building -- maybe a dozen or two people at most -- it was a much less active campus than Ann Arbor. We’d go on radio and do talk shows about why the military should not be allowed to recruit on campus. Then Nixon invaded Cambodia. There was going to be a huge increase in the draft. Then some of these disinterested students on campus got more concerned since now it might be THEIR asses out their in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

By then I had come to the conclusion that I should not continue taking a 2-S deferment and was 1-A. I was really just waiting for my draft notice when I would be leaving school and immigrating to Canada myself

My girlfriend’s mother forbad her from getting on my motorcycle -- I was just a troublemaker -- I was going to wind up in jail or in Canada or both -- a lot of things were changing very quickly.

Then we had another one of our weekly demonstrations at the ROTC building and 1800 people showed up. Two of us had bullhorns as usual -- we hadn’t anticipated so many people -- we saw a parked car, people taking something out of their trunk -- walking toward us – a bullhorn with a BIG amp. Another one of these guys had a box full of stuff -- their bullhorn was massive and they were much louder than we were.

The guy with the bullhorn told us to “Shut up!” They said, “We’ve come from Detroit, we’re from the Hole in the Wall Gang -- it’s time for you to have an option -- instead of being involved with these rinky-dink demonstrations, it’s time to ‘seize the time’ and change the basic operating rules of how demonstrations are going on. Those of you who want to participate in ending the ROTC program, we’re prepared to do that right now.” They then uncovered this box with dozens of Coke bottles filled with gasoline and rags hanging out the tops.

We tried to speak but they were much louder and ignored us. They had obviously decided what to do. This was one of the first “actions” of the Weather Underground -- the ROTC building was badly burned but not destroyed.

The next morning I got called into the dean’s office and he said, “Young man, you’d better transfer from this school, right now. And -- pick a new career, because I’m going to see to it that you never get into another vet school here or in Canada or Europe.”

I did not see it coming but my career plans had been interrupted that afternoon during that demonstration. My life had been permanently altered in a matter of minutes. It was a very radicalizing experience. I tried to explain, “Wait a minute…”

Ignoring me, he went on, “Well, you called the demonstration and you couldn’t control it -- you’re responsible as I see it.” We got called into the police department, the FBI -- the whole thing. His message had been pretty clear so at the end of that semester I transferred, ending back at U of M finally.

I saw people I’d been working with politically burn out. When I finished school, some friends and I started a garage in downtown Detroit to help people learn how to work on cars. I had also helped start the Ann Arbor food coop when I made some major dietary changes and decided to become vegan. What started making sense to me was setting up alternatives to the mainstream. I got involved with the cooperative community and doing things in groups. I lived in a communal situation in Detroit. We taught classes in auto repair. I did engine rebuilding. I was making good money, actually. And I was having a really good time. I grew up a lot in three years from being a sheltered college kid to living in inner city Detroit learning to work with a lot of different kinds of people, different races, gaining respect for people who were able to survive in that kind of environment.

My politics matured. I saw it wasn’t as simple as the black and white issues I might have looked at in college. My mother’s mother had lived with us part of the time and she had introduced me to cooking and baking. As a little kid, I loved it. I had a great time making pizza, making cinnamon rolls -- she had lived in the upper peninsula and worked as the scratch baker and cook in a lumber camp for about forty lumberjacks, cooking all the meals. She taught me a lot. So while I was working at the garage, some friends said they wanted to start a collective bakery. I got into whole grain baking, trained with some people in Lansing I’d had known -- when I left I decided I didn’t want to keep working on cars -- it was like, god, what a backward way to move around -- we had switched over to just working on Volkswagens -- I had completely forsaken my Ford heritage.

I thought it was very likely there would be a severe economic shakeup -- which hasn’t happened yet -- and I also wanted a warmer environment. I was really tired of working on cars with slush dropping on me, my hands cold. This lady I was with was a finish carpenter, and I was a mechanic wanting to get into baking, and we traveled around the country looking at different places, and it came down to flipping a coin between Ashland, Oregon and Fayetteville, Arkansas. That was in ‘74.

I had a friend from Detroit who was teaching chemistry at Kingston High School. He’d been in the Peace Corps and had bought land near Ozark. We came to visit and met some of the people he knew, one old woman who made rugs and I hit it off with all the people. They were friendly, straight forward -- I never liked being in the -- what would you call it -- I’d go to Boulder and be like, oh god -- too much affectation -- and Berkeley was much the same. I felt more comfortable in the backwoods areas like the Ozarks than I did in these chic cities. I continue to feel comfortable with country people. I go down around the Gulf to play around -- this same friend now lives on a sailboat near Biloxi. I run down there with a catamaran I have and going into towns in Alabama or Mississippi I have a good time. And I realize that my being a white boy gives me a lot of privilege that if I were black or a woman could make my experiences very different here in the South -- but there is nothing gained by my beating myself up about that either.

I seem to hit it off fine with people that others would go, oh god, you know -- weren’t you worried they’d hit you with a monkey wrench or something? It was working in Detroit that I learned to be comfortable with the working class. A lot of it comes from what I’ve done because even though I’ve been to school, I’ve ended up working with my hands and doing work that’s blue collar. I’ve done welding, worked as a journeyman electrician -- I’m glad I went to college -- if I hadn’t gone -- I went back to my high school reunion a couple of years ago, and it was scary. Some of these people were like -- same mentality as high school -- most of them very unhappy -- I’m glad I got out of there.

I wanted to buy property. I got involved with several others in a farm near Cane Hill, AR. We built a home out there -- but the property never was properly deeded and while it was supposedly collectively owned, it actually stayed deeded to this one couple, who ended up having marital trouble and the whole thing blew up in my face. I ended up losing my house and getting only a fraction of what I had invested. It was my own stupidity, to build a beautiful three story solar home without assuring my ownership before hand.

I had started my business then, baking regularly. Initially, a lot of my time was spent learning more about gardening and making my business succeed. It was set up as a worker owned business -- it was pretty helter-skelter for several years. The garage and bakery stuff in Detroit had been set up that way -- the only other business that was run that way around here then was the Ozark Food Coop and soon after the Ozark Coop Warehouse.

By the early 80s I had a partner with whom I had been living for several years and we had begun a family. We both were working with people who didn’t want to see the bypass cut through beautiful farmland near Springdale. And I got to know a woman who was working around Gore, OK, named Jesse Deer in Water -- I really respected her and what she was doing, working with the Cherokee against the nuclear processing facility there. And I got to know Carrie Dickerson, who was instrumental in the fight against the proposed nuclear power plant at Claremore, Okla. She raised thousands of dollars and was inspirational to me. Then Ben Spock appeared on the scene wanting to help in anyway he could. Both Ben and his wife, Mary, got really involved. We saw that we could raise money making jams that helped pay for legal intervention to stop the Black Fox Nuclear plant..

From that, my interests went to looking at nuclear power and nuclear weapons. We did a bunch of surveying around Gore, and it was scary, the number of cancers and other things that were obviously a result of that plant’s existence. Then we started looking at the plant at Russellville -- and some other people -- we started making trips to the public documents room at the Russellville, researching the plant -- then Three Mile Island happened, and we started really pushing to get the plant closed. We continued to go down to research operating history which we then publicized.

My partner was very supportive. By then we had two children. Both of us were burning our candles at both ends. Very busy.

I knew a little about what the United States was doing in Central America but. I’d never been involved with public political actions concerning it. OxFam contacted me –my partner and I had been steady contributors -- I don’t know why they did this but they contacted me and asked if I would be interested in going to Nicaragua with a Tools for Peace program they were doing throughout Nicaragua to appraise how they should spend $300,000 that they had earmarked. They asked me to look at irrigation equipment, tractors, farm buildings, etc. As I considered this OxFam offer, Duncan Murphy came on the scene with people who had been involved with exposing the US intervention there. Before I actually spent nearly two months in Nicaragua and saw the horrible effects of US intervention there, I got swept into that work.

I went to Nicaragua for six weeks. I saw schools bombed, hospitals bombed by terrorists the US supported, with bombs we had supplied. I kept asking myself, “What is going on here?” I looked at it more, studied it, got engrossed in it, came to see we were making a terrible mistake there. I was involved in that for four years.

There were some reporters at the Gazette who alerted me that they would pay for an FOI if they could use part of it for articles. People had said we were being watched by the FBI. I didn’t know what might have been in my file but was curious enough to agree to their offer. I got this large stack of primarily blocked out pages back. More pages than I had assumed would be there but no real surprise. It was clear that my phone had been tapped, I’d been followed, and my public Nicaragua presentations in various cities had been recorded by what was undoubtedly very expensive taxpayer financed, undercover federal employees. This was while Reagan wanted especially to silence people who were involved with a major anti-US intervention public political organization, Citizens In Support of the People of El Salvador (CISPES). I wasn’t really surprised the federal investigation had greatly expanded the group of dissidents they had under illegal surveillance. Pretty much standard operating procedure for our intelligence community in the US. The stuff I was doing, exposing US support and arming terrorists and brutal military regimes throughout south and central America -- they didn’t want us to do. I had been aware that I was possibly, no, likely, being watched.

Earlier I had not felt like I quite fit in with the “counterculture”. I had considered myself working class. Going to Ann Arbor, being in the college environment did something to me. My first year of school I was in a dorm, and my roommate was this party-going fraternity pledge. He just on my own as far as I was concerned. I didn’t want that. All they were interested in doing was getting drunk and seeing how many girls they could lay. I met this guy from England who lived in the dorm. One night he said, “ Here listen to these guys with these earphones.”-- it was the first time I ever heard a group called The Cream. I went, wow -- they’re really good. He goes over to his dorm room door, rolls up a towel and shoves it under the door and says, “If you’ll smoke a little of this and then listen, you’ll REALLY like them.”

I knew what it was, and I was a little frightened maybe. He said, “It’ll be fine…just try it once.” And he was right, I really did like the Crème afterwards. Then he brought out this album with a picture of a dirigible blowing up -- the Hindenburg -- Led Zeppelin’s first album, before they had released it in the US-- I listened to it and thought this is REALLY good.

So several Friday nights after that while most of our dormmates were partying, getting drunk and throwing up 3.2 Budweiser beer, we’d have a towel under his door, listening to music that friends of his were sending from England. Definitely opened my eyes to some new ideas -- That is how I got to know people involved with draft counseling because they came over to visit him. One of their dads had been to Togo, Africa with the World Health Organization and brought back some green contraband. Seems the doctor father had given some of it to his son -- so we tried it too. I remember not being able to find my dorm room down the hall. This was just prior to the citywide legalization of the public recreational use of marijuana in Ann Arbor and the John Lennon and Yoko Ono concert there to raise money to win the release of John Sinclair from prison for giving a narcotics officer a free marijuana cigarette at the White Panther commune.

I could see things getting a whole lot better or things could go to hell in a handbasket. I want to continue to work in a positive vein. I’m going to be going to Cuba. Their major trading partner is no longer exists since the fall of the Soviet Union and there’s been terrible poverty and malnutrition under the decades long US embargo. I’ve always been interested in this little country so close to the US, thumbing its nose at the US for the last thirty years. And as I’ve learned from others about what we’ve done to some of our neighbors in Central America, I feel almost as if I have something of a personal responsibility to undo some of the damage. I stumbled onto several thousands of dollars worth of food processing equipment for soy foods -- and the Cuban agriculture department is working with OxFam and others -- so I’ve been getting this equipment moved down from Missouri, cleaning it up, getting it ready to go, shipping it to Cuba -- I hope to go down and help assemble it and set up a good sized soy operation in rural Cuba. They’re trying to pull as much land as they can out of sugar production and grow more soybeans. There’s a lot of mental retardation among the young kids in Cuba because of lack of protein. They’re pushing hard to educate people about soy beans.

We are also involved with monitoring Nuclear One at Russellville. We’ve involved the Arkansas Public Policy Panel in getting a few VISTA volunteers to watchdog at the plant. They’re now storing high level waste on a parking lot -- and they’re still operating these old Babcock-Wilcox reactors like the ones that failed at Three Mile Island.

I’m more drawn to do things on an international scale than I am local politics, although I realize local stuff is also really important. My personal interest seem to point me more toward international projects.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Subject talked while chopping vegetables and cooking in the small kitchen area of her urban cabin. Born 1953, Texas

I was young--in junior high and high school--during the Sixties. You’re not too conscious at that age. But I remember sitting on my parents’ bed, watching the evening news with my father. There was always an update about the Vietnam War--bloody, terrifying scenes-- and sometimes that segued into protests against the war. I didn’t have an older brother or friends who were dealing with the draft, so the war wasn’t personal to me. I remember a very low level of dissent among a small minority of people -- wearing black armbands to protest the war -- in my high school in Corpus Christi, Texas. I wasn’t part of that.

I didn’t try marijuana until my sophomore year in college so I may have been a little behind the times. I went to college at a small women’s school in Missouri and remained fairly distant from the new cultural Zeitgeist, as it swung into the 70’s. I think it takes awhile for a movement to take form--I would say the Sixties as a movement was fairly amorphous, even to itself, until the Seventies. I think the intellectual convergence started happening in the Seventies, and continues today.
When I transferred to the University of Texas in 1973, I attended one or two demonstrations before the whole protest movement shut down. They were large-scale events, maybe about Watergate, or the war. I’m not sure. I was interested in attending and observing, just as I was interested in the streakings that were taking place at the same time. People would gather spontaneously at one of the fountains at the UT campus, usually in the evening, and then, strip down and run naked through the crowd. It was fun. I didn’t personally streak. Like most, I was a voyeur.

My parents persuaded me to get a degree in business, so here I was again in a fairly conservative environment. I was the radical in that group, which indicates that a personal ideology was beginning to take shape. The first energy crisis took place in 1973, during my undergrad years. It shocked a lot of people into an awareness of limitations. Later, as a graduate student at UT in Austin, I studied community and regional planning. One day I woke up and read the paper. There was a story about a small town in the Rio Grande Valley, Crystal City. The city had a municipal power plant that supplied all the electrical energy for the town. Problem was, Crystal City couldn’t afford oil for its turbines. People were going without electricity, so they were extremely vulnerable. It really disturbed me that these low-income people were suffering. That was a Seventies kind of social consciousness, building from Sixties. As a general rule, we were much more activist back then. When something was screwed up, people tried to take action. So I went to a place on campus called the Center for Energy Studies and talked to the associate director. I said, “Somebody needs to study solar options for Crystal City and other towns like it.” She loved that idea and got a grant. In putting together the team to work on the project, she hired me. That’s how I got into energy and environmental issues.

When you’re into alternative energy, it’s solar energy, it’s the whole appropriate technology movement, and then you’re into organic gardening, and you’re starting to look at alternatives to conventional society in many arenas, including alternative forms of living, more ecological ways of living, and ways to be self-sufficient in case the doomsday scenario--smacking into the limits to growth and subsequent collapse--does occur.

Unlike the Vietnam War, my concerns in this arena were not hypothetical or detached but personal. This may have a seed of the Sixties sprouting forth. To me, the Sixties were about being a part of something larger than ourselves, concern for a greater and more idealized society than our own. Some of that concern took the form of reaction against pre-existing norms, and some of it took the form of going in completely new, creative directions. When I and others remember the Sixties with fondness, it’s because of a feeling that we were part--even if only in a very small way--of something greater than ourselves. We don’t have many opportunities to experience that in our lives. Sometimes we’re part of a team experience that’s really remarkable, and we remember those team experiences, but on a broader more collective level, it may happen only once in a generation. I feel lucky to have been on the fringes during the Sixties and smack in the middle of it during the Seventies.

The environmental issue has been a significant thread in my life ever since. It’s a concern that manifests in the way I live my life and my work--some of which has been directly involved in ecological matters and some of which has been totally unrelated, but to which I have brought an ecological ethic. If I were to take my life and try to unweave it, environmentalism would be a major strand of color in the tapestry.

For example, one of the ways it manifests is living simply. I’m trying to live a life where I’m not working all the time in order to have material goods. My priority is having time for contemplation and leisure, and purposes other than the accumulation of goods. So I live in a small cottage, about 900 square feet, a building I bought for a song in 1990. It was a shack. Slowly, over the years, I tore it apart and renovated it from the top down and the bottom up. Now, it’s a sweet little place. It’s not fancy in any way, but people walk in and have a sense of comfort and appreciate the aesthetic. It’s right in the middle of town, but I have a quarter acre with a large garden. There’s a wood stove, so I’m fairly well set up if Y2K happens. There’s a concrete pond in the back yard for water storage and an old well too.

Right now, the main force of my energy is directed at writing. I write environmental/ecological pieces for magazines. I’ve also spent a couple of years working on an essay that reframes the environmental crisis from a pro-humanity framework. I think the underside of the environmental crisis is that it has bred in many of us activists and foot soldiers in the movement a lack of faith in humanity, a sort of disdain for humanity because the language in the environmental movement has been cast in terms of a second great fall from grace or as another manifestation of original sin. We believe humans are the cause of the problem and don’t have what it takes to solve it.

But going back to the Seventies…As the decade progressed, I found myself getting involved in other issues too. Feminist and lesbian politics, collective and cooperative households, organic gardening. I loved living in collective households, and they worked pretty well. Certainly as well as any romantic relationship works, in terms of expansions and contractions, the good times and the not-so-good ones. Since the early 90s, I’ve been active in the co-housing movement, trying to launch two different groups in the Fayetteville area.

Co-housing takes the cooperative/collective/commune model and brings it into our times. You own your own home, which you can buy or sell at your pleasure. So you’ve got autonomy and privacy and flexibility. But you also have community because cohousing is a group of people who are designing, planning, and building an intentional community from the group up and later managing it themselves. It’s really a neighborhood. Physically, it looks like a planned unit development or PUD and it’s usually designed from a very ecological standpoint. The scale varies quite a bit. Cohousing runs from eight units to hundreds of units--an eco-village. In addition to owning a house, you have an undivided interest in community property--the common house and other community features. Generally, the common house has a large kitchen and is a place where people can gather for meals. It may also have child care facilities, maybe a workout room, a laundry, so you don’t have to have a laundry in every individual house. And sometimes they have guest rooms, so you don’t have to build your own home as large. The idea is to also share meals several times a week so you don’t have to cook every evening. Beyond the common house, they may be other community assets--a workshop, community gardens, a softball field-- anything you want to have, even a swimming pool.

The idea came from Denmark in the 70s, when low-income families were trying to figure out how they were going to get home after work, put dinner on the table, and take care of the kids too. They invented co-housing, and it’s been very successful in Denmark. There it’s practiced in a high-density apartment format. People who come to co-housing tend to be social innovators who live and work at the margins, or beyond the margins, of society. They are also more educated and more politically active than the average person.

In terms of spirituality, I’ve been exposed to pantheism, transcendental meditation, goddess-based religions--ideas and practices that burgeoned in the Sixties. These and especially experiences with Nature led me to a universalist view, as opposed to a limited or Christ-centric view of spirituality. Nature is a very important part of my spirituality. Sometimes its a way of getting out of the mind, feeling more connected to the web of existence. Sometimes it’s a joyous aesthetic experience. When I lived in Alaska for 14 months, I had profound spiritual experiences of encountering spirit within the old growth forests. Right now, I’m a member of the Religious Society of Friends or Quakers because their universalist theology matches mine. The theology is pretty straightforward. It’s basically about living our values. For Quakers, these values or testimonies are equality, simplicity, integrity, and peace. What could be more Sixties than that?