So far being in DC feels like a reunion. Beyond high school but not as fraught as the emotional purging that goes on at Vietnam Vet reunions. Noreen, Carole, Michael and I, former organizers of the Mayday Tribe, reminisce. . We look up old Mayday posters on line. We talk about the present: will Hillary make it? If not her, then what? We’re older, heavier, some among us in worse health. The three recount an incident of which I have no recollection.
Here’s the story: At least 30 of us are camped out in a large farmhouse in Allamuchy, New Jersey. It’s after Mayday, perhaps November of 1971. We are the remnants of the anti-war movement, of an organizion called PCPJ- the People’s Coalition for Peace and Justice. By now we are aware that the majority of Americans want the war to be over. But the anti-war movement is in flux; trying to come up with our next step. Should we get involved in the 1972 elections? Work for local candidates? Or gear up and go to San Diego to confront the war mongering Republicans? Jerry Rubin is in Allamuchy, as am I, Stew, the attorney Arthur Kinoy, his wife Barbara Webster, Carole, Michael and Noreen. I come downstairs into the farmhouse living room. People are sleeping on mattresses, the sofa, on the floor like a gaggle of puppies, as was our wont back in the day when we had no money for hotels. I’m up at 6 a.m. I nudge the women. I roll them over. To wake them up. Their grunts, complaints and general chaos wakes the men up too. At six a.m. in a rural New Jersey farmhouse with thirty people formerly asleep in a dark wood paneled living room.
“You were so militant, “Noreen says. “You were on fire.”
“I chalked it up to pot,” is Michael’s explanation.
Why did I do this? Here’s how Carole sees it: 6 a.m. was the only time of day the women’s caucus could meet. Women were a faction: meetings of the whole were considered more important. No one wanted to get up; all of us had been up to 3 a.m. the night before. But I had Stalinist discipline; if you schedule a meeting you make it happen. The liberation of women was that important. I was the true-believer who took responsibility for waking people up. Still, not a single woman followed me up the dark wood stairs at 6:00 a.m. to talk about the women’s movement.
Carole’s is the political explanation; my own is more personal. I act better when I’m with someone who helps reign in my fire, who keeps me on an even keel, who moderates my passions. This incident occurred after I broke up with Stew. Did my rage at him now burn with such ferocity that I interpreted something he may have said through the lens of women’s liberation? Innocent remark or sexist insult, deliberate or unintended; any words emerging from Stew’s lips I considered suspect. Such was my self-righteousness: Stew could do no right and I could do no wrong. I could justify waking people up by generalizing my personal anger to the situation of every woman present; others needed to be free much as me.
” Do you forgive me? ” I ask Noreen, Michael and Carole. I’m joking with a hint of serious. This is one of those occurrences Stew and I would label a breadcrumb sin; getting woken up at 6 am has no long term ill-effect, but none the less is painful enough that the memory lingers. Noreen and Michael take the humor further saying they’ve been silently holding the incident against me for years. Carole recalls saying fuck that shit, turning over and going back to sleep. This must be one among very few occasions when no-one paid attention to me, is Noreen’s expert opinion. I like to think my 1960s self was more appealing than this funny yet trivial incident implies. Still, I’m glad to hear this story even if it despoils my image of the invincible Judy Gumbo?