“Anybody here seen my old friend John? Can you tell me where he’s gone? He freed a lot of people, but it seems the good they do die young. I just looked around and he’s gone.” Abraham, Martin and John – Dion
When the shots rang out in Dallas the sound was shrouded by daydreaming a’capella sounds from Marta’s passionate horse-husky voice; whisky whispers syncopated in rhythm with the pulsing of her soft full pendulant breasts; hard pressed against my bare chest in the fogged-up windows of my 57’ Chevy Nomad. Astral-traveling memories of our lovers rendezvous on sandy barren secret back streets in our tiny Midwestern childhood home made me forget I was an Illinois’ captive; locked tight away in their juvenile detention facility outside the gates of Statesville Penitentiary in Joliet, Illinois. It was November 22, 1963. In their clutches for a year now; I was fifteen years old.
In a time of Better Dead Then Red bumper stickers, when news flashes’ announced it was a Russian commie that did the deed, we feared the earth would open up and swallow us whole; the result of thermonuclear war we thought sure to follow. Remembrance of those bullets open wounds now fifty years on, with its accompanying loss of innocence still laying crisp and cold on our hearts, an open gash structuring trauma of the past five decades; a reminder of the fate awaiting those who try to halt the money-war machine. Proof that ambitions of peace makers, any chivalric American hero patriot who kicks that particular to America ego needle addiction, trumping strength over empathy, will end in a grotesque aftermath; a bullet to the brain; the pink mist.
The MTV style flash-cut assassination porn that fills the eye and ear tonight disturbs my catacomb quiet harmony bliss. In the false dawn of 4 a.m. watching the descending cellophane membrane fog sway supple frosted undulating silhouettes of ancient tree stands over the cold stiffening lake reminds me how everything can so easily be obliterated, like Hiroshima; in a flash. In commemoration of our broken-hearted history I yearn to be, once again, a back seat burning man.
The 1960’s was an era of giants and giant slayers. After the deluge of grief from an orgy of assassination; some of us abandoned our self-imposed societal mausoleum prison of the mind and the black iron mangle of industrial omnipotence opulence. We burned in all-night hash houses with dirty floors and white marble counters with coffee rings and round celluloid cake covers nursing cups of coffee and doughnuts, dream-weavers, listening to Dylan and Morrison and washing our laments down with bilge water.
Our dreams as broken as a split lip and dry as cord wood we grieved more in hieroglyphics than manifestos. It mattered less what methods we chose and more how we looked each other in the eye; knowing a quantum change was afoot. In our existential loneliness we lay awake staring at nightmares on Venetian blinds in deathtrap bedrooms; tearing the throat out of the night. Dreams shattered and scratched out, prayers strangled, tied up with barbed wire and push down the stairs; we drove our angst down the wrong side of the road.
He was placed by fate atop the last hand-made decade; the Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King of politics. He was, as they were; beautiful, and he belonged to us; was one of us. We were at the bottom charging up and he was at the top reaching down. We would meet in the middle; and in the process change everything.
“We were thinking far-out visions, history thoughts, believing after the shallow, nostalgic fifties, knowing that America had run out of philosophy, that a new, empirical, tangible meta-physics was desperately needed, knowing in our hearts that the old mechanical myths had died at Hiroshima, that the past was over, and that the cold war could not fill the spiritual vacuum.” Timothy Leary
“Let the word go forth from this place; that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans”. We cheered the Peace Corps; his words chilling our spines. We will leave Viet Nam, travel to the Moon and create Camelot. Then, just as suddenly he took a bullet to the brain on the six o’clock news that killed us all; causing his head to go back and to the right; causing us all to go back; and to the right.
Our broken-hearted king was dead and we would never recover. We shared his dreams and we loved him for them. When we heard that they had shot him we could not breathe. I can not tell you the depth of our vicious hatred toward who we did not know. We wanted to tear them apart, to incinerate them unto oblivion forever. The voice of our generation from on high was silenced, our hearts destroyed by madness; we screamed the no, no, no of such an atrocious deed. No tomorrow, no god, no us. We spun and shrieked hysterical, folded over retching blood and guts of no future.
Our aspirations crushed like bugs we smoked and shot and snorted and swallowed everything that would ease the pain. We sat on mountaintops and contemplated the sun and the moon and our navels ; our hearts and minds held the realities of god-less-life. Our lives like limbs snapped and fell off society’s tree. We are not be a part of that and fuck you and all your machinations.
We HOWLED like Alan Ginsburg for the Killers of JFK; then Martin and Bobby. Evil in three scenes walks the earth and love is crushed like clay; Jesus wept; we felt abandoned. Thirty years later a carbon arrived copied thirty times and bastardized. But by now we did not remember and we would drink sand and think it waters, so we embraced Bill Clinton and we loved him too.
Nixon said of Kennedy; “when they see him they see who they want to be. When they see me they see who they are.” Yes, there are golden gods and Hitler’s in each one of us; and with every piece of knowledge we sacrificed a little innocence. We were great but without our leaders the center could not hold. 1968 was Nixon, the anti-us, the counter-reformation. Those of us that are left are survivors, the hero’s did not make it and neither they nor we have ever been redeemed. The silent majority took us back; all the way back to death in Cambodia with nothing left to do but “duck and cover”. Kent State was more than a metaphor; it foretold the bloodletting to come; in Viet Nam, the streets of America and the sands of Arabia.
The new cultural messages of the 1960’s could only be deciphered by the cognoscenti and this confused the rest, creating lots of scared and pissed off people, people in power. So, one by one they shot us down like the Black Panthers in CONTELPRO or discredited us like Tim Leary or had us mysteriously die from drugs like Morrison, Hendricks and Joplin? We were like a first round draft choice that blew out a knee on the first play of the season.
It was our first collective loss. We had it all and then one by one our heroes; leaders and saviors were slaughtered, killed before our eyes on the evening news; we were lost forever. We watched in horror and kept a vigil searching for the next true one that would rise from our streets. It never happened. The divergence, individualism, and Utopian optimism of the sixties was crushed by violent reaction.
We could have had a wonderful new paradigm but instead we drifted from disco to punk to rap, from Indian Gurus to EST to conspicuous consumption and alienation, the same old more of the same. We did not know where we were going because we did not know where we had been. Now dazed, shell-shocked as we sifted through the detritus looking to salvage and preserve the Holy Grail and hold it safe until next time; it crippled our hope once so paramount. We smoked our sacrament and waited; watching the madness. The other side took over.
When the signals of the 1960’s were received we became rebellious flower children and New Age entrepreneurs and renaissance men and women and always in every incarnation we were hoping to find a connection to that future, searching for a true companion; a prophet, a hero. We found only martyrs invested in hope. Our minds (JFK) and hearts (RFK) and souls (MLK) destroyed; our fathers never giving us the baton; betraying us, unsure and fearful we would go communist. The mighty Oak tree that was to grow from the seeds of the 60’s never matured. Instead, stunted and dwarfed we were served up a Lilliputian Bush.
We were emerging from the lost years of McCarthy, the massively repressive 1950’s, when there was more to rebel against than to join. Then, while my generation convulsed from a culture of assassination; and Martin, Jack, Bobby and all the others lay face down in the mud it was the poets, Dylan and Baez and Morrison (Van & Jim) that turned the screw for us; bringing meaning to the era.
When our leaders fell we were wounded, a cut for each one and a larger cut for the betrayal of our fathers. When our contemporaries were anesthetized by fear we gained another wound. When greed overcame them, another; when friends abandoned friendships, another and when love’s loyalty was lost still more. When the business of cynicism corrupted more still; we were one large psychic wound no less pained than from the bloody ones of our fathers. Most of my generation recoiled in horror, the scene to grotesque and scary to witness they turned away as if it never happened.
“This philosophic vacuum was temporarily filled by a renaissance of old dogmas which latched on to the new energies; experiential Christianity, homogenized Buddhism, TV Hinduism. These pessimistic, nostalgic creeds served to turn-off, shallow-out and calm-down the explosive messages of the decade.” Timothy Leary
It had been a great renaissance of brotherhood and love when all the war, violence, racism, enslaved careerism, sexism and established religion of the previous decades were rejected; when a signal of hope and freedom was sent throughout the world. Poets in Russian Prisons heard it and young people everywhere heard it.
Tonight we crawl along the peripheral margins of graveyard streets America, dead Indians lay everywhere beneath our feet, the spawn of the greatest generation, on the edge, incognito. My generation, assassinated, murdered in its sleep; now await the rise of the Millennials, in the fervent hope that the heroes they throw up the political pop charts will resurrect the message of our massacred hero king in a Renaissance; and take it further on.