The “Orphan” of America

A. H.

"Revolution is not something fixed in ideology, nor is it something fashioned to a particular decade. It is a perpetual process embedded in the human spirit."
by Abbie Hoffman, 1936-1989

Up to now, I am still amazed at how "witty" this Abbie Hoffman guy was during his trial – popularly known in the 70s as the Chicago 7 Trial. I would like to share some of his points in the said trial as witness for himself while being cross-examined by the prosecutors.

But before that, let me introduce Abbie to those who doesn't know him at all. According to Wikipedia, Abbott "Abbie" Hoffman (November 30, 1936 – April 12, 1989) was a social and political activist in the United States, co-founder of the Youth International Party ("Yippies").

Hoffman came to prominence in the 1960s, but practiced most of his activism in the 1970s, and has remained a symbol of the youth rebellion of that decade.

Abbie went underground during the 70s to avoid being sent to jail on drug charges, but he continued to be politically active. In his last years, Hoffman suffered from severe manic depression. While deeply depressed, he committed suicide in 1989. You can have his full biography on wikipedia here.

Now let's dig his testimony at the Chicago 7 Trial. The following are the excerpts, however, I will only put the "more interesting ones":

Will you please identify yourself for the record?

My name is Abbie. I am an orphan of America.

Where do you reside?

I live in Woodstock Nation.

Will you tell the Court and jury where it is?

It is a nation of alienated young people. We carry it around with us as a state of mind in the same way as the Sioux Indians carried the Sioux nation around with them. It is a nation dedicated to cooperation versus competition, to the idea that people should have better means of exchange than property or money, that there should be some other basis for human interaction.

Now you said Woodstock. In what state is Woodstock?

It is in the state of mind, in the mind of myself and my brothers and sisters. It is a conspiracy. Presently, the nation is held captive, in the penitentiaries of the institutions of a decaying system.

When were you born?

Psychologically, 1960.

Between the date of your birth, November 30, 1936, and May 1, 1960, what if anything occurred in your life?

Nothing. I believe it is called an American education.

Can you tell the Court and jury what is your present occupation?

I am a cultural revolutionary. Well, I am really a defendant—full-time.

What do you mean by the phrase "cultural revolutionary?"

Well, I suppose it is a person who tries to shape and participate in the values, and the mores, the customs and the style of living of new people who eventually become inhabitants of a new nation and a new society through art and poetry, theater, and music.

THE WITNESS: My background has nothing to do with my state of mind?

THE COURT: Will you remain quiet while I am making a ruling? I know you have no respect for me.

MR. KUNSTLER: Your Honor, that is totally unwarranted. I think your remarks call for a motion for a mistrial.

THE COURT: And your motion calls for a denial of the motion. Mr. Weinglass, continue with your examination.

MR. KUNSTLER: You denied my motion? I hadn't even started to argue it.

THE COURT: I don't need any argument on that one. The witness turned his back on me while he was on the witness stand.

THE WITNESS: I was just looking at the pictures of the long hairs up on the wall . . . .

Was there a course given in snake dancing on that day also?

Yes. Yes. People would have a pole and there would be about six people, and then about six people behind them, holding them around the waist, four or five lines of these people with men, women, and kids maybe eight years old in on this whole thing, and people would bounce from one foot to the other and yell "Wash oi, Wash oi," which is kind of Japanese for "Yippie," I guess. And they would just march up and down the park like this, mostly laughing and giggling, because the newsmen were taking this quite seriously, and then at a certain point everybody would turn in and sort of just collapse and fall on the ground and laugh. I believe we lost about four or five Yippies during that great training. The exciting part was when the police arrested two army intelligence officers in the trees.

Did they tell you why you were being arrested?

They said they arrested me because I had the word "Fuck" on my forehead. I had put it on with this magic marker before we left the house. They called it an "obscenary."

I put it on for a couple of reasons, One was that I was tired of seeing my picture in the paper and having newsmen come around, and I know if you got that word on your forehead they ain't going to print your picture in the paper. Secondly, it sort of summed up my attitude about the whole thing—what was going on in Chicago.

I like that four letter word—I thought it was kind of holy, actually.

Are you done, Mr. Hoffman?

I am done when you are.

MR. SCHULTZ: At this meeting on the evening of August 7, you told Mr. Stahl that you were going to have nude-ins in your liberated zone, didn't you?

THE WITNESS: A nude-in? I don't believe I would use that phrase, no. I don't think it's very poetic, frankly.
I might have told him that ten thousand people were going to walk naked on the waters of Lake Michigan, something like that.

MR. SCHULTZ: You told him, did you not, Mr. Hoffman, that in your liberated zone, you would have—

THE WITNESS: I'm not even sure what it is, a nude-in.

MR. SCHULTZ: —public fornication.

THE WITNESS: If it means ten thousand people, naked people, walking on Lake Michigan, yes.

MR.KUNSTLER: I object to this because Mr.Schultz is acting like a dirty old man.

MR. SCHULTZ: We are not going into dirty old men. If they are going to have nude-ins and public fornication, the City officials react to that, and I am establishing through this witness that that's what be did.

Mr. Hoffman, isn't it a fact that one of the reasons why you came to Chicago was simply to wreck American society?

My feeling at the time, and still is, that society is going to wreck itself. I said that on a number of occasions, that our role is to survive while the society comes tumbling down around us; our role is to survive. We have to learn how to defend ourselves, given this type of society, because of the war in Vietnam, because of racism, because of the attack on the cultural revolution—in fact because of this trial.

Read the entire transcript of Abbie's testimony in this page.

Abbie Hoffman in the 60sI used to have a copy of his biography written by his brother which was published years after his death. It was a good biography. Unfortunately, I lost that copy about two years ago. As far as I can recall, in that book, Abbie was portrayed as someone who loves to say the word "fuck" and would blabber it wherever, whenever and whoever is in front of him. In the movie Forest Gump, I recall a scene in the Lincoln Memorial park wherein there was a guy who shouted "Viet-fucking-nam!!!" and who wore a long-sleeves printed with the American flag who gave Forest the mic and let him speak. I recalled Abbie and made some Google and got a picture of him wearing that shirt with that flag on it.Photograh credits to Fred W. McDarrah.

Well, there are people like Abbie who really possess such a spirit to move and motivate other people. Those who get elected in the government for public office ought to know that they are not the only ones who can win the support of the people. 

Oh, before I forget, Abbie's son was named america – intentionally with a small letter "a."

Advertisements

About this entry