“One Nation, Indivisible,” features excerpts from The Sun’s archives that speak to the current political moment.
America the notion is still very different from America the nation. What’s touching and almost regenerative is that, whatever is happening in the real America — where the murder rate is worse than Lebanon’s, and there is homelessness and poverty — America is still a shorthand throughout the world for everything that is young and modern and free. One interesting thing is that Mick Jagger, the Beatles, Reebok, pizza, enchiladas — everything that is hip and desirable — are all regarded as American no matter what their true origins. Japan may arguably be stronger economically than America, yet there is no “Japanese Dream,” and people in Germany and Peru aren’t longing to emulate Japanese pop stars or see the latest Kurosawa movie. America has a hold on imaginations like no other country, I think partly because it is an immigrant country, and partly because there is still a kind of innocence in America that translates very well everywhere in the world. The American Dream is strongest of all in the hearts of people who have only seen America in their dreams.
“Global Villager,” Pico Iyer, interviewed by Scott London, January 1996
The Sun: If you come at direct action with that us-versus-them attitude, doesn’t that perpetuate the very power relationship you’re opposing?
Starhawk: You’re the one who’s saying us/them, not me. There’s a difference between seeing the structure as destructive and seeing the people in the [system] that way. When we do a nonviolent action, we approach it in a spirit of openness to the human beings we’re going to meet. That’s the point in doing it. It may be the police or the guards who suddenly realize they maintain that [system] and decide not to participate in it.
The Sun: Have you seen this happen often?
Starhawk: Yes. At Vandenberg, one of the military men on the line threw down his baton and joined the demonstrators. At Diablo Canyon, one of the guards resigned after the action. Just recently there were two military people who went AWOL and took part in the sea blockade to stop arms shipments to El Salvador, and then turned themselves in, saying they just couldn’t participate any further. It’s a spirit that spreads because you are open to the people and realize they’re not there because they’re evil but because they don’t see that they have a choice.
“Reclaiming the Dark,” Starhawk, interviewed by Howard Jay Rubin, August 1983
My brother was a soldier. He was drafted, and he went.
I was there for Vietnam, too: not for the war, but for the antiwar. Watching the fighting on television, marching against it, making posters, sitting in, screwing shaggy-haired college radicals after interminable political rallies. It’s hard to imagine them all now, those militant pacifists, cleaned up and familied and working regular jobs. We thought we could change the world back then. What would they think of me now? Of Henry and our redwood house tucked away in the hills, of Will’s courtroom proficiency in defense of insurance companies? What would we have thought of ourselves if we’d known we would turn out like this?
“Small Favors,” Linda Foust, January 1993
I ’ve become obsessed with George W. Bush. I spend hours googling “George W. Bush low IQ” (500,000 hits), “George W. Bush stubborn asshole” (67,000 hits), and “George W. Bush deranged maniac” (43,000 hits). I loathe this man with an intensity that makes my stomach hurt. Why he wasn’t thrown out of office long ago baffles me. All Bill Clinton had to do to get impeached by the House was lie about a blow job, while Bush has engineered, in a spectacularly negligent manner, what’s acknowledged by many as the worst foreign-policy blunder in the history of the Republic.
“Mission Accomplished,” Al Neipris, May 2007
Sister Joan Chittister: I wouldn’t be involving myself with social questions if I weren’t a Benedictine Sister. I am not a politician. Nor was Jesus. But he kept pointing out how the system failed the people it purported to serve.
Benedictines read from the Scriptures three times a day, every day. We start on page one of Genesis and continue on, reading a little at a time, until we reach the last page of Revelations. Then we start all over again. I would not be doing what I’m doing now if I were not hearing the psalmists and the prophets dealing with much the same problems in their time, and if I did not have the story of Jesus walking from Galilee to Jerusalem, picking people up out of the dust, raising people from the dead, curing lepers, and giving sight to the blind.
The Sun: I had an Old Testament professor at Union Theological Seminary who said she saw the trials and tribulations lamented by the psalmists and the prophets every day in the headlines of The New York Times.
Chittister: That’s exactly right. My own efforts are not political acts for me. What I do has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with justice, equality, compassion, and mercy. We’re here to take care of the garden, but we’re tearing it apart. If you have a religious heart, how can you not speak to this? How can you not be there with the poorest of the poor, who are bearing the brunt of the sins of this system? This, for me, is a religious and spiritual obligation — nothing more and nothing less.
“Be Not Silent,” Sister Joan Chittister, interviewed by James Kullander, June 2007
Times are urgent and we must make monumental changes in our character very quickly. We must drop the programming or training that we have encountered. Yet, if that is done poorly or superficially, then we lose everything. We’re at a very precarious time, and because of that we must work with the utmost deliberation and concentration. One missed step and it’s all over. There’s a poem I wrote which ends: “They are trying to set the world on fire / there is time only to work slowly / there is no time not to love.” I think this is the most urgent political task. Never before have we had to work politically with so much integration of our psyches into the political process. We don’t have the luxury of just doing politics, of just doing good works on the outside and not living them on the inside, because anything superficial won’t hold. So every political and committed person must take care of those political actions on the inside as well as the outside.
“When the Heart Speaks,” Deena Metzger, interviewed by Elizabeth Good, April 1984
Populism is a recurrent force in American politics. It represents a struggle of the “ordinary working people” against the vested interests: big government, big business, the unions. But populism has its drawbacks, such as a tendency toward xenophobia, racism, and fundamentalist Christianity.
I represent an emerging trend in American politics: unpopulism. The stands I take — against men’s right to vote, in favor of splitting the U.S.A. into fifty sovereign nations — are unpopular. Why? Because they are visionary, unique, and (let’s face it) slightly nuts.
“Buy One, Get One Free,” Sparrow, December 2008
The Sun: Do you think there was a relationship between LSD use and progressive political activity in the late sixties and early seventies?
Paul Krassner: Definitely. The CIA originally envisioned LSD as a means of mind control. Instead, for millions of young people, acid served as a vehicle to explore their minds, deprogramming themselves from mainstream culture and creating an alternative culture, which included the antiwar movement. So the CIA’s plan backfired.
All kinds of artists were influenced by LSD: painters, sculptors, comic-book artists, musicians, writers, dancers, filmmakers. . . .
The Sun: You helped Groucho Marx take his first LSD trip. What was that like?
Krassner: . . . We had a period of silence and a period of listening to music. I was accustomed to playing rock-and-roll while tripping, but we were at the home of an actress whose record collection consisted entirely of classical music and Broadway-show albums. First we listened to Bach’s Cantata No. 7. Groucho said, “I’m supposed to be Jewish, but I was seeing the most beautiful visions of Gothic cathedrals. Do you think Bach knew he was doing that?”
At one point Groucho somehow got into a negative space. He was cynical about institutions such as marriage (“legal quicksand”) and individuals such as then-President Lyndon Johnson (“that potato-head”). I asked Groucho, “What gives you hope?” He thought for a moment, then said one word: “People.” He told me about one of his favorite contestants on his TV game show You Bet Your Life: “He was an elderly gentleman with white hair, but quite a chipper fellow. I asked him what he did to retain his sunny disposition. ‘Well, I’ll tell you,’ he said. ‘Every morning I get up, and I make a choice to be happy that day.’ ”
“In the Jester’s Court,” Paul Krassner, interviewed by David Kupfer, February 2009
I ’d been raised Jewish but wasn’t observant. I prided myself on being a hardheaded realist who scoffed at religion and didn’t do drugs. But in 1969, when I was traveling in Europe, I met a German hippie who handed me some LSD. He promised that it would “make everything beautiful.” I carried it around for months, unsure whether to try it or throw it away.
When I finally took it, what happened was beyond “beautiful.” The boundaries between myself and the world began to dissolve. And I realized, not just in my head but in every cell of my body, that the plants and the trees and the clouds and the birds weren’t separate from me or from each other. Somehow we were connected. And instead of being frightened by this, I felt a great sense of relief, as if I’d finally stumbled upon a truth that had eluded me all my life. I knew I was on LSD, but I also knew I was seeing something clearly for the first time.
I remember sitting with my eyes closed, transfixed by an endless stream of vivid and intricate images. I intuitively understood these complex symbols as if they were some kind of code — about myself, about my past, about the nature of reality. Then, after what seemed like hours, I opened my eyes, glanced at my watch, and stared in disbelief: only five minutes had gone by. I took off the watch that afternoon and left it off. It wasn’t until I started The Sun several years later that I put it back on. I had deadlines to meet, after all.
But what I remember most about that day was that my heart opened in a way it never had before. I felt a powerful and all-encompassing love, not for anyone or anything in particular but for all of creation. And the next time I did LSD, a few months later, I felt that unconditional love again. I felt it every time I did LSD. I also saw more clearly that behind our seemingly separate bodies and personalities, we share one consciousness. And, over time, I realized that if I was willing to leave a little more of “Sy” at the door, if you will, I’d experience myself as part of something far more interesting: everything that wasn’t me. Then, on one trip, I no longer had a choice about how much of “Sy” to leave behind. I was “gone, gone beyond, gone beyond beyond,” as the Buddhists say. And when I finally came back from that place where “I” no longer seemed to exist, when I was back in my body and back in my more-or-less-rightful mind, the love coursing through me was exponentially more powerful and more expansive than ever before. And I knew with absolute certainty that all I wanted to do from then on was to serve others. And I knew, too, that the best way to do this was never to announce it; that if you wear your spiritual heart on your sleeve, even though it might come from good intentions, it will inevitably create a sense of separation between yourself and another person.
“Beginner’s Mind,” Sy Safransky, interviewed by Gillian Kendall, January 2014