How Coffee Bars Fueled the Vietnam Peace Movement – The New York Times

Further evidence of the importance of coffee bars in the radical culture of the 1960s. (From the New York Times.)

In the summer of 1967, Fred Gardner arrived in San Francisco with the Vietnam War weighing heavily on his mind. Gardner was 25 years old, a Harvard graduate and a freelance journalist for a number of major publications. He was attracted to Northern California’s mix of counterculture and radical politics, and hoped to become more actively involved in the movement to end the war. He was particularly interested in the revolutionary potential of American servicemen and couldn’t understand why antiwar activists and organisers weren’t paying more attention to such a powerful group of potential allies.

Ever since completing a two-year stint in the Army Reserves in 1965, Gardner had been closely watching the increasing instances of military insubordination, resistance and outright refusal that were accompanying the war’s escalation. From the case of the Fort Hood Three — G.I.s arrested in 1966 for publicly declaring their opposition to the war and refusal to deploy — to the case of Howard Levy, an Army dermatologist who refused his assignment to provide medical training for Special Forces troops headed to Vietnam, it was clear that the Army was fast becoming the central site of an unprecedented uprising. By 1967, the “G.I. movement” was capturing national headlines.

And it wasn’t just the war that was aggravating American servicemen. The military’s pervasive racial discrimination — unequal opportunities for promotion, unfair housing practices, persistent harassment and abuse — fueled increasing outrage among black G.I.s as the war progressed. Influenced by the civil rights and black liberation movements, black soldiers participated in widespread and diverse acts of resistance throughout the Vietnam era. Racial tensions were particularly high in the Army, where a vast majority of draftees were being sent, and where evasion, desertion and insubordination rates among black G.I.s exploded in the war’s later years. An antiwar movement in the military was beginning to take shape, with black soldiers often its vanguard.

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Antiwar veterans protest at the Federal Building in Seattle, September 1968. CreditFred Lonidier

As Gardner sat in the radical coffeehouses of San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood that summer, he thought about the explosive power of servicemen turning against the war and wondered how that power could be supported and nurtured by the civilian antiwar movement. Most of all, he wanted to find a way to reach out to disaffected young G.I.s, to show them that there was a whole community of antiwar activists and organizers who were on their side. He finally settled on an idea: opening a network of youth-culture-oriented coffeehouses, just like the ones in North Beach, in towns outside military bases around the country.

In January 1968 he did just that, travelling with a fellow activist, Donna Mickleson, to Columbia, S.C., home of Fort Jackson, one of the Army’s largest training bases and the crown jewel of the state’s many military installations. The UFO coffeehouse, decorated with rock ’n’ roll posters donated from the San Francisco promoter Bill Graham, quickly became a popular hangout for G.I.s — and a target of significant hostility from military officials, city authorities and outraged local citizens (“It’s a sore spot in our craw,” a Columbia official said.) The coffeehouse was located just off base, out of the military’s reach but close enough for soldiers to visit during their free time — places where active-duty servicemen, veterans and civilian activists could meet to plan demonstrations, publish underground newspapers and work to build the nascent peace movement within the military.

By the summer of 1968, major antiwar organizations took notice of the controversy the UFO was stirring up in Columbia and initiated a “Summer of Support” to organize funds for more coffeehouse projects around the country. In ensuing years, more than 25 “G.I. coffeehouses” opened up near military bases in the United States and at a number of bases overseas.

Over the course of six years, the coffeehouse network would play a central role in some of the G.I. movement’s most significant actions. At the Oleo Strut coffeehouse in Killeen, Tex., local staff and G.I.s mobilized to support the Fort Hood 43 — a large group of black soldiers who were arrested at a meeting to discuss their refusal to deploy for riot control duty at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. A black veteran present at the meeting described its mood: “A lot of black G.I.s knew what the thing was going to be about and they weren’t going to go and fight their own people.” Army authorities were caught off guard by the publicity the coffeehouse brought to the case, and began to examine their strategies for dealing with political expression among the ranks.

When eight black G.I.s, each of them leaders of the group G.I.s United Against the War in Vietnam, were arrested in 1969 for holding an illegal demonstration at Fort Jackson, the UFO coffeehouse served as a local operations center, drumming up funds for lawyers and promoting the “Fort Jackson Eight” story to the national media. After G.I. and civilian activists created intense public pressure, officials quietly dropped all charges, signaling a shift in how the military would respond to soldiers expressing dissent.

During its brief lifetime, the G.I. coffeehouse network was subjected to attacks from all sides — investigated by the F.B.I. and congressional committees, infiltrated by law enforcement, harassed by military authorities and, in a number of startling cases, terrorized by local vigilantes. In 1970, at the Fort Dix coffeehouse project in Wrightstown, N.J., G.I.s and civilians were celebrating Valentine’s Day when a live grenade flew in through an open door; it exploded, seriously injuring two Fort Dix soldiers and a civilian. Another popular coffeehouse, the Covered Wagon in Mountain Home, Idaho (near a major Air Force base), was a frequent target of harassment by outraged locals, who finally burned it to the ground.

Though their numbers dwindled as the war drew to a close in the mid-1970s, G.I. coffeehouses left an indelible mark on the Vietnam era. While popular mythology often places the antiwar movement at odds with American troops, the history of G.I. coffeehouses, and the G.I. movement of which they were a part, paints a very different picture. Over the course of the war, thousands of military service members from every branch — active-duty G.I.s, veterans, nurses and even officers — expressed their opposition to American policy in Vietnam. They joined forces with civilian antiwar organizations that, particularly after 1968, focused significant energy and resources on developing social and political bonds with American service members. Hoping to build the resistance that was already taking shape in the Army, activists at G.I. coffeehouses worked directly with service members on hundreds of political projects and demonstrations, despite relentless government surveillance, infiltration and harassment.

The unprecedented eruption of resistance and activism by American troops is critical to understanding the history of the Vietnam War. The G.I. movement and related phenomenon created a significant crisis for the American military, which feared exactly the kind of alliance between civilians and soldiers that Fred Gardner had in mind when he opened the first G.I. coffeehouse in 1968. Despite the extraordinary political and cultural impact that dissenting soldiers made throughout the Vietnam era, their voices have been nearly erased from history, replaced by a stereotypical image of loyal, patriotic soldiers antagonized and spat upon by ungrateful antiwar activists. In the decades since the war’s end, countless Hollywood movies, books, political speeches and celebrated documentaries have repeated this image, obscuring the war’s deep unpopularity among the ranks and the countless ways that American troops expressed their opposition.

This historical erasure serves a distinct purpose, casting dissent — from wearing an antiwar T-shirt to kneeling during the national anthem — as inherently disrespectful, even abusive, to American soldiers. A fuller reckoning with the era’s history would begin by acknowledging the countless G.I.s and civilians who stood together against the war. G.I. coffeehouses are a vital window onto this history, showing us places where men and women came together to share their common revulsion at the war in Vietnam, and to begin organizing a collective effort to make it stop.

Kenny Wilson at Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution 12th July 2017

This is a video of my talk at BRLSI in July. It’s not great quality but you get the whole thing! I originally put it on YouTube but it got blocked because of my use of two Bob Dylan songs. This was a bit disappointing but I have decided to upload it here instead. I hope Bob won’t mind too much, he always seemed to understand the true value of copyright theft and plagiarism!

Me? I’m having trouble with the Tombstone Blues!

 

Golden daze: 50 years on from the Summer of Love | Culture | The Guardian

High times: dancing during the Summer of Love, San Francisco, 1967.

San Francisco 1967

It’s the 50th anniversary of San Francisco’s Summer of Love. Here five people who were at the heart of the counter-culture movement tell Aaron Millar how flowers, LSD, music and radical ideas changed youth consciousness forever

Source: Golden daze: 50 years on from the Summer of Love | Culture | The Guardian

The Untold Story of the Peace Sign

<p>That same year, protesters calling for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan also adopted the symbol, using it to striking effect on a series of ‘Time to Go’ placards.</p>

You can find the original of this at Fastcode Design website.

The symbol that would become synonymous with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) was first brought to wide public attention on the Easter weekend of 1958 during a march from London to Aldermaston in Berkshire, the site of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. The demonstration—the first large-scale anti-nuclear march of its kind—was organized by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC), one of several smaller groups in the U.K. that would go on to form CND. Some 500 symbols were held aloft by protesters as they walked the 52 miles from Trafalgar Square, which suggests that the organizers were aware of the need for both political and visual impact. The fact that, in the form of Gerald Holtom, they already had a professional designer and graduate of the Royal College of Art on board perhaps explains why the symbol achieved immediate success, as well as the swiftness with which it was officially adopted by CND a few months after the march. Holtom was a conscientious objector (during World War II he had worked on a Norfolk farm), and also an established designer. He had created designs as diverse as fabrics based on west African patterns from the late 1930s and a range incorporating photographs of plankton for the Festival of Britain in 1951.

According to Professor Andrew Rigby, writing in Peace News in 2002, Holtom was responsible for designing the banners and placards that were to be carried on the Aldermaston march. “He was convinced that it should have a symbol associated with it that would leave in the public mind a visual image signifying nuclear disarmament,” writes Rigby, “and which would also convey the theme that it was the responsibility of each and every individual to work to remove the threat of nuclear war.”

In a sense, Holtom’s design did represent an individual in pursuit of the cause, albeit in an abstract way. The symbol showed the semaphore for the letters N (both flags held down and angled out from the body) and D (one flag pointing up, the other pointing down), standing for Nuclear Disarmament. But some years later in 1973, when Holtom wrote to Hugh Brock, editor of Peace News at the time of the formation of the DAC, the designer gave a different explanation of how he had created the symbol.

“At first he toyed with the idea of using the Christian cross as the dominant motif,” Rigby explains in his article, “but realized that ‘in Eastern eyes the Christian Cross was synonymous with crusading tyranny culminating in Belsen and Hiroshima and the manufacture and testing of the H-bomb.’ He rejected the image of the dove, as it had been appropriated by “the Stalin regime…to bless and legitimize their H-bomb manufacture.'”

Holtom in fact decided to go for a much more personal approach, as he admitted to Brock. “I was in despair. Deep despair,” he wrote. “I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya’s peasant before the firing squad. I formalized the drawing into a line and put a circle round it. It was ridiculous at first and such a puny thing.”

In Holtom’s personal notes, reproduced by peace symbol historian Ken Kolsbun, the designer recalls then turning the design into a badge. “I made a drawing of it on a small piece of paper the size of a sixpence and pinned it on to the lapel of my jacket and forgot it,” he wrote. “In the evening I went to the post office. The girl behind the counter looked at me and said, ‘What is that badge you are wearing?’ I looked down in some surprise and saw the ND symbol pinned on my lapel. I felt rather strange and uneasy wearing a badge. ‘Oh, that is the new peace symbol,’ I said. ‘How interesting, are there many of them?’ ‘No, only one, but I expect there will be quite a lot before long.'”

In fact, the first official series of badges made by Eric Austin of the Kensington CND branch were made of white clay with the symbol formed from black paint. According to CND, these were in themselves a symbolic gesture as they were distributed “with a note explaining that in the event of a nuclear war, these fired pottery badges would be among the few human artifacts to survive the nuclear inferno.”

The symbol itself became more formalized as its usage became more widespread. The earliest pictures of Holtom’s design reproduce the submissive “individual in despair” more clearly: the symbol is constructed of lines that widen out as they meet the circle, where a head, feet and outstretched arms might be. But by the early 1960s the lines had thickened and straightened out and designers such as Ken Garland, who worked on CND material from 1962 to 1968, were able to use a bolder incarnation of the symbol in their work. Garland built on the graphic nature of the symbol to create a play of black-and-white shapes for a series of striking posters. He also used a photograph of his daughter Ruth in the design for a leaflet on which the symbol was used in place of the O in “SAY NO.”

In the U.K. the symbol has remained the logo of CND since the late 1950s, but internationally it has taken on a broader message signifying peace. For Holtom this perhaps came as a bonus since, according to Rigby, he had been frustrated with his original design, which depicted the struggle inherent in the pursuit of unilateral action. Shortly before the Aldermaston march Holtom experienced what he termed a “revolution of thought.” He realized, Rigby writes, that if he inverted the symbol “then it could be seen as representing the tree of life, the tree on which Christ had been crucified and which, for Christians like Gerald Holtom, was a symbol of hope and resurrection. Furthermore, that inverted image of a figure with arms stretched upwards and outwards also represented the semaphore signal for U—Unilateral.”

This last quirk of a symbol that had its message so neatly encapsulated in its design meant it could echo both the frustrations of the anti-nuclear campaigner in the face of political change and the sense of optimism that the task at hand would bring. This was another example of the thinking Holtom would bring to the first march to Aldermaston, which has since become an annual event. Of the lollipop signs he designed for the event, half displayed the symbol in black on white, the other half white on green. “Just as the church’s liturgical colors change over Easter,” CND explain, “so the colors were to change, ‘from Winter to Spring, from Death to Life.’ Black and white would be displayed on Good Friday and Saturday, green and white on Easter Sunday and Monday.”

From the beginning, Holtom’s aim had been to help instigate positive change, to bring about a transformation from winter to spring. Today CND continues to pursue this mission, just as the peace movement does internationally.

This was excerpted with permission from TM: The Untold Stories Behind 29 Classic Logos (Lawrence King). Buy a copy here for $27.

Infinity Blue a poem/song by Kenny Wilson!

This is a poem/song I wrote in 2005. It was inspired by the name and the view of a restaurant on the island of Skiathos in Greece. I was trying to connect with the space between consciousness and sleep, that space when thoughts drift without any idea of rationality, when words just connect with each other and everything makes sense! I composed a backing that I recently rediscovered and will record it again!

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The first time that I saw you
I was dressed in black.
The last time that I saw you
You said you won’t be back.

Oh Infinity Blue

There were times
When I thought I could be with you
To be a real lover
And always be true.

Oh Infinity Blue

The angels came down once
And they spoke to me.
They gave me a message
That would set me free.

Oh Infinity Blue

The sun it was setting
It set in the east.
And somewhere inside me
It unleashed the beast.

Oh Infinity Blue

I walked through the centre line
Of what’s right and wrong.
And I tried to find freedom
In the words of a song!

Oh Infinity Blue

The words they controlled me
They forced me to stand.
When I was lost at sea
They showed me the land.

Oh Infinity Blue

And as I was waiting
For wisdom to come.
The words came and showed me
The warmth of the Sun.

Oh Infinity Blue

Between what is lost
And what cannot be
The words are like diamonds,
The words set you free.

Oh Infinity Blue

I was looking for mercy
I was looking for love
The words they came to me
Like a snowy white dove.

Oh Infinity Blue

I looked in your eyes
And I found mystery
And love, peace and mercy
Was our destiny!

Oh Infinity Blue

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