Randy Ford Author- NAM

NAM

by Randy Ford

And war is personal
And it hurts

As a writer, a poet, and a patron of the arts, Margo had long been a crusader. Then came a time when nothing was more important to her than expressing her opposition to war in Southeast Asia.

She reinvented herself several times, while working through phases as they came along. This scared her husband, particularly after she decided to hold a colloquium at her coffeehouse on “Freedom and the Return to Paganism.” From her small stage, speakers led discussions about eroticism with emphases on body parts (for women belly, tits, and thighs and for men beards, balls, and muscles). Obviously each person had to make up their own mind, but the most prevalent ideas concerned freedom. When someone then asked what freedom meant, someone else yelled, “Make love, not war!” It wasn’t long before word got out and “Make love, not war!” became a rallying cry.

Margo’s coffeehouse attracted a certain crowd, and this crowd tended to be against war in Southeast Asia. And many people considered Margo a hippie, though she wasn’t one. She was more complex than most hippies but she liked the label and used it as a marketing tool. When Yippies came in vogue she adopted them too. This enabled her to meet the Chicago Eight before the rest of the world did.
If you were looking for reasons why Margo opposed war in Southeast Asia asking her wouldn’t have helped. During the early years of the war she didn’t pay didn’t pay much attention to it, and she was against it before she knew why. One source could’ve been her brother. She heard from him from time to time, and by then he lived in Bangkok, but it just didn’t click that he was connected with the war. It wasn’t until she opened her coffeehouse that she was exposed to the protest movement.

She sympathized with the Vietnamese, though she couldn’t say where these feelings came from. She was too busy to keep track of what was going on. Yet it was through her business that she came in contact with bands and musicians such as Country Joe and The Fish and Moby Grape. Or rather kids in bands that imitated Country Joe and The Fish and Moby Grape. And it was those kids, who stood up to the troops with bayonets and yelled, ”And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for?”

There wasn’t a specific incident that turned Margo against war in Southeast Asia (like the Tet Offensive of that year that showed that the American public was lied to). Nothing specific like what energized the five thousand women who rallied in Washington or caused Eartha Kitt to yell at Lady Bird Johnson. Margo never got overly concerned about the “credibility gap” or followed the Gallup poll that showed that 50% of Americans disapproved of Johnson’s handling of the war. Early on she identified with the “hawks.” Because of her husband, she almost had to. In those days there were “chickens” and “hawks,” and Margo’s husband couldn’t afford to be seen as a “chicken.”
Symbols such as chicken foot were most useful and usable. Chicken foot was important to many GI’s because it was their symbol for draft dodgers. It didn’t matter that it was also a symbol for the peace movement. It wasn’t a big deal because many grunts were ex-hippies … only they hadn’t escaped the draft. So many of them drew chicken feet on their helmets.

Margo grew fond of a chicken foot medallion, given to her by a GI, but while there were still questions in her mind she didn’t wear it. It was around the time Democrats chose Chicago for the site of their national convention. Then because of riot, violence, she began wearing the medallion around her neck. It reminded her of the GI who gave it to her and her brother, who ran away before the draft became a problem for him. Look! She didn’t know what her brother was doing in Southeast Asia. Didn’t know whether he was a chicken or a hawk.

The thing to remember is that Chicago got a bad rap. As Abbie Hoffman said “it was where flower children lost their innocence and grew horns.” In trying to explain what happened people said all kinds of things. For it is only when one collected posters, slogans, and medallions can one save something tangible. Regarding the overall scheme of things, it’s often all we have left.

It kind of went like this. “Cool” and “groovy” replaced substantive comments. Margo accepted this laziness. Dope was cool. Longhaired runaway kids were groovy. When saints were eliminated her eyes were opened by truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. Well, it was cool and groovy. So Margo demonstrated, marched, carried picket signs, and got herself arrested. And it was cool.  All of it was cool.

Forget the same ol’ bullshit. Get involved. Do as much as you can. Stick it up whose ass? Nixon’s ass! What happened to LBJ? Every night at the coffeehouse, Margo offered theater and magic and madness. She never promised a polished work, or a logical argument, but insisted on truth. War hurts, so without peace, she didn’t believe life was worth living.

Sing “Tommy Gun’s,” repetitive phrases, staccato fire and shatter glass. There was a suggestion of mayhem. Take the crowd trapped in front of the Conrad Hilton. Take clubbing and bleeding as spectators in the Haymarket Lounge watched and a feeling of uselessness hung over the scene. Here we were at war in American, as it was brought home from Nam. And as Janis Joplin breathed heavily into a mike, she warned us that “world ain’t pretty.” Of course the Mayor had to comment. “These are ugly times, but I’m doing everything possible … An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The act of touching became a statement and a cause. Touching promoted expression. Orgasms signified life. Throw in screwing. Lincoln Park became a freak show, with kids yelling “we are the future” as they pissed on the grass. With contempt they cried for freedom, while Margo insisted that the description of universal promiscuity didn’t fit her.  Pass out condoms.

To Margo’s parents, other people’s children seemed more adjusted than their own. Many of them were heroes, men and women serving in Southeast Asia. Now whenever these service men and women were honored, Margo’s parents wondered where they failed.  They considered their son a draft dodger.

Now the levitation of the Pentagon was really something. It released energy somehow, and God knew it needed to be released. It also sent a clear message to the brass working inside the building. So this extraordinary event, the levitation of the Pentagon, couldn’t be poo-pooed.  Clubbing and shouting “pig” couldn’t either. It meant that war was closer to home than any of them thought. Mostly white, protestors were called spoiled brats, yet they went to battle, or soon would. But for the grace of God they were fighting in Arlington and Chicago rather than Southeast Asia.

Many people remembered that Margo wore a chicken foot medallion. But for her sex, she would’ve been drafted and in spite of her feelings would’ve served her country. “Linebacker Two, this is your quarterback.” White and female and over thirty, she survived Chicago and had personal reasons for protesting war in Southeast Asia.

Randy Ford

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