Politics, Pigasus, and Paul McCartney

When we can take today’s challenges and view them through the lens of something we have experienced before, it can help us breathe through our now. It helps to remember our history and this much is true: we have experienced political upheaval before. We just didn’t have social media to drive and magnify the frenzy at the level we are experiencing today.

The Democratic National Conference of 1968 was one of the most tumultuous and confrontational in history. The candidates in the primaries had included Robert F. Kennedy, the incumbent President Johnson, and George McGovern. Johnson dropped out of the race after facing the unprecedented embarrassment of finishing third. In June, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. Two of the three candidates had delegates that had to go elsewhere. Everyone wanted them.

At the time of the convention, the Vietnam war was in full swing, anti-war protests were everywhere, along with civil unrest and riots happening in more than 100 cities across the country. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in April. 

Leaders like Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, and Abbie Hoffman were leading rebellion in the youth. To sabotage the convention, Hoffman announced they were sending “super-hot” hippie girls to seduce the delegates with LSD, and sending hippie “studs” to seduce the wives. Hoffman told the press: “We will p*** and s*** and f*** in public…we will be constantly stoned or tripping on every drug known to man.”

Walter Cronkite was complaining of unwarranted restriction to information. Intelligence agents infiltrated the protesters, including agents from the CIA who had been sent to spy upon citizens.

Just before the convention started, Hoffman showed up at the Civic Center Plaza to free the pig named Pigasus whom they had nominated as the Democratic candidate. The police seized Pigasus and arrested Hoffman and five others. The whole incident was captured live on television. 

The Chicago police raided the mostly black neighborhoods of South Chicago to stage mass arrests of a black power group that was allegedly planning to assassinate Humphrey. Over 10,00 people arrived to protest the war. Within the convention itself, tensions were high between pro-war and anti-war Democrats.
Politically, unrest was at a peak. But culturally, the arts were peaking as well. This post started because I read that on the same day that the DNC opened, the Beatles released “Hey Jude.” With its encouraging message, it offered reassurance to millions and became a musical unifier for people around the world.

Supposedly Paul McCartney wrote the song—originally called “Hey Jules”—for Julian Lennon. Julian was upset about his parents’ divorce, after Lennon had a public affair with Yoko Ono. McCartney wanted to tell him that life would get better. Though written for one person, the song resonated with many and is a message we still need today. Great art is timeless and universal. 

Politically, we have experienced tumultuous times before. That is not minimizing what is at stake today. Nor is it denying the chasmic division we are currently experiencing. There is so much at stake. But sometimes it helps to know we we have made it through other explosive times.

I wish there would be music to release hope today. Maybe an artistic space to “let it out and let it in” would help calm our racing hearts. A chance to take a “sad song and make it better.”

A couple lines of “Hey Jude” might help. This song has been stuck in my head since I started writing. I think that’s ok.

Hey Jude, don’t make it bad. Take a sad song and make it better…
So let it out and let it in.Hey friends begin…
Hey Jude , don’t be afraid.You were made to go out and get her…
And any time you feel the pain, hey Jude , refrain. Don’t carry the world upon your shoulder
Naa na na na na na na, na na na na, hey Jude… (continue for a verrrrry long time…)

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