Exile Nation: "A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing"
A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing
Shortly before I was scheduled to leave for Boston I was contacted by a man named Gola Wolfson Richards, “Wolf” for short. He told me he had been following Newtopia and had taken a particular interest in me. He explained that he was a spiritual teacher, and that he wanted to write a book about what he called his “contemplative path to global conflict resolution,” and would I be interested in meeting with him to discuss it? He offered to fly me to Maine, where he lived, and put me up with him and his wife in their home in Denmark.
The horror that was my experience with the Marquis in Los Angeles was only three years old, and I had not forgotten, nor had I regained my sense of trust, so naturally I was skeptical, to put it mildly. God knows the melange of emotions that coursed through me. When we first talked on the phone I hard-balled him a bunch of questions about his background, his plan for his book, did he have a publisher, what did he do for money, how did he find me, etc, etc. I could tell he could sense my defensiveness, and he cut right through it all.
“Look, son. I see you. You have passion. You have so much energy. You care about the state of the world. You care about peace. So do I. I feel that you may be able to help me bring my message to a larger audience, because I think you may understand it. But this is something that is very important to me, my life’s work, and I really believe it requires us to spend some time together and get to know one another. If you don’t understand me, you’ll never understand my program. Now, son, I’m not a freak or a pervert, I’ve spent my life helping street children in New York City as a therapist. I’m a professional, but now I’m retired, and before I leave this world, I want to give it this gift.”
He said that if things looked good to me after I came to visit, he would help me relocate. I was immediately conflicted as echoes of the Marquis kept resounding through my head. That was the last time I struck out on my own. Now here I was again in a position of feeling like I needed to get out of Chicago for my own safety, although this time I wasn’t running away from myself, I was running away from the cops, or so I thought. And here once again was another complete stranger, a misguided angel descending from heaven in my moment of need to pluck me from my situation and help me get set up in a whole new life. I had to be insane to even consider it, right?
Something compelled me forward, and I accepted Wolf’s offer to visit him and his wife in Maine for a few days before heading to Boston. He met me at the Portland airport. He was 58 years old, short, thick and bald, handsome African American with sharp Asiatic features and a white soul patch. He looked like the wise old Master from every kung fu flick that had ever been made, and he spoke in a soft, reserved, dulcet-smooth tone. He and his wife, Rachel, a beautiful Jamaican dancer, lived in a rustic cabin in the tiny rural village of Denmark about an hour and half north of Portland at the edge of the great Maine wilderness.
Over the next few days Wolf broke down to me his entire philosophy. He came from a violent home where his preacher father regularly savaged him, his mother, and his four siblings. When he was five his father put a gun to Wolf’s head when he tried to stop him from beating his mother. He was such an explosive man that by the time Wolf turned twelve his father had died of a stroke. Wolf carried black hatred in his heart for his father for three years until one day he had a sort of breakdown that led to a spiritual awakening, an event he wrote about and showed me:
Three years after my father's death, at age fifteen, I was walking home from school when from out of the blue, I started running and crying, "I want my Daddy, I want my Daddy." Once home, I ran to my bedroom, dropped on my bed, and immediately fell asleep. That afternoon and for the two nights that immediately followed, Daddy came in dreams, begging to be forgiven. In the first two dreams I reacted to his pleas by loudly hurling hateful insults and spitting on him. With every insult I hurled, bloody cuts streaked across his face. On the third and final night, while Daddy bled profusely and pitifully pleaded for forgiveness, my sense of compassionate understanding become so strong that instead of cursing him, I kissed him for the first and only time. Immediately, his gratitude was so strong that no room was left in the dream for anger. Then, just as my heart changed, the bloody cuts on his face completely healed. With his form seeming to shift in waves, he became a much younger man, who thanked me sincerely and repeatedly as he receded into a brilliant light. In the morning I opened my eyes and sensed my father near me, totally freed from rage. Now, it seems that he is a warm presence, reminding me to think of my mother as he once wrote, "It is not enough for you to know that you are well, nor for others to see that you're well; but if you would encourage other sick folks, you should tell how you got well and who treated you."
From that day forward he devoted his life to helping abused children heal. He studied developmental psychology and theology and eventually went to work with street kids in New York City in the 1970s and 1980, where was involved in the development of experimental therapies.
At some point he became interested in Eastern philosophy and became a student of the I Ching, which he showed me for the first time. He gave me a text and a coin and told me he would teach me how to interpret the book. It was his study of Eastern philosophy that contributed to the creation of his “contemplative” philosophy, a kind of archetypal storytelling that utilizes clever symbolic wordplay. It’s difficult to explain. His stories are meant to evoke dual meaning. For example, he tells of a giant tree with a knothole (“not whole”) in it. I think the symbolism is pretty evident there.
On the first day, he was all business. He introduced me to his benefactor, a man named Chris who was one of the heirs to the Alcoa aluminum fortune. Chris had funded the creation of Wolf’s Contemplative Education school in Denmark. We talked about editorial and marketing strategies as we toured around Portland.
On the second day, he got intimate about himself, about what he saw as his role in the world. He was hyper-confident, focused, and utterly convinced that his program could literally bring about world peace. On some level, he truly believed it, and I needed to gauge whether it was simple hubris, or a much more complicated megalomania.
The third day was dedicated to me. He was able to sense pretty much everything that was going on with me at the time without me telling him a word. I imagined his acuity came from dealing with his own demons and years of analyzing traumatized youth. He immediately recognized that I had suffered terrible abuses and violations, and that there was a huge wound in my soul where the love for my father used to be.
I really hadn’t spoken to my father in a number of years, years of anger and hurt and resentment. We were both too afraid to face it, to face each other. Wolf sensed my need and longing for a father figure, a mentor. He knew I was wounded and angry, and there was a child trapped inside me clamoring for acknowledgment. He also, naturally, could sense how much shame and self-loathing I schlepped around.
Whatever his intentions, Wolf was very kind to me. He praised me, called me a “powerful young man” and told me that he loved me, as a father would love a son, and that if I wanted to, I could call him father. He was, after all, a Minister. He was also the archetypal Father, onto which he would let those in need project whatever it was that they needed. Where I would usually be snappy and defensive like a beat up old hound dog, I allowed myself to be vulnerable with Wolf for the first time in many, many years.
All at once I was overwhelmed with grief, thinking about my father. My mind was besieged by the image of him dying alone, an image that had haunted me for years. No level of anger could ever remove the guilt I felt. I realized that I missed him terribly.
In many ways my father died in 1992, when the man who had raised me disappeared, vanished, evaporated into a smoke of insanity, and another, somewhat similar man took his place, albeit with significantly fewer responsibilities. Although my relationship with my father was nothing like Wolf’s was with his, when we are dealing in primal emotions and we wound that child consciousness, particularly if it’s a parent doing the wounding, the result is always the same.
I broke down in his arms. The river of grief for my father merged with the reservoir of pain that lies inside every abused and traumatized person, the one we guard fiercely as our right to suffering. For the moment, I felt safe. In a very short time I had experienced a deep level of intimacy with this man, and I was not one who was familiar or comfortable with intimacy. The catharsis had me in a kind of revelatory euphoria; I literally felt like huge cancers had been excised from my soul, and in an entirely predictable fit of irrational thinking I decided that Wolf was a miracle worker, and I was going to move to Maine.
I had to be in Boston a week ahead of the convention to give a workshop on “Organizing for Peace” at the Boston Social Forum. Wolf brought me to the Portland airport and had my return flight rerouted through Portland so that I could come back and decompress with him and Rachel before heading back to Chicago. When my plane touched down at Logan Airport, it was the first time I had set foot in Boston since my midnight escape in April of 1993, eleven years earlier.
Through my friends in the Massachusetts Green Party I found a place to stay in an industrial loft along the waterfront with a guy named Steve who had also gone to Boston University. He took me on a bike ride through the city over to Kenmore Square through the BU campus, past my old apartments, and even south down Massachusetts Ave to a place that used to be one of the ghettos where I would cop. I was blown away by the gentrification. The infamous “combat zone” section of the city off the Boston Common, which used to be populated by porn shops, strip joints, and crackheads, was gone. An entire block of Kenmore Square that used to house live music spots like the Rathskeller had been knocked down and a luxury hotel had been built in its place. There wasn’t a homeless person in sight. The Boston where all this happened to me a dozen years ago had been wiped clean from the earth.
We doubled back and headed east towards the Fleet Center where the convention was being held. After we crossed over the Common we rode past Quincy Market The city felt deserted.
“Where the hell is everyone?” I shouted.
“Bugged out,” he replied. “They’ve closed off access for cars to most of the Downtown.”
I pulled up alongside Steve, and we rode in tandem. He looked over at me and smiled wryly.
“They left because of you and your friends, I guess,” he said.
“For weeks all they have been talking about are all the ‘Anarchists’ who are coming to rain violence on the city. Most people left if they could.”
“That’s ridiculous!” I said.
“No, I’ll show you ridiculous,” he said, and shot ahead of me. Within a few minutes we arrived at the Fleet Center. It was immediately apparent what he was talking about.
The Fleet Center was surrounded by an 8 foot high wrought iron wall, and concrete traffic barricades. To the east of the Center lay the ruins of the I-93 overpass, which hugged the perimeter of the building and ended abruptly on the south face. A short street next to the Fleet Center named Accolyn Way had a row of new restaurants and bars. Across the street lay open ground that was being turned into park space, and beneath the street lay the new I-93 which had been rerouted underground during the 15 year long project known as the “Big Dig.”
There was also the broken disembodied shell of a small section of the former overpass, perhaps 10 yards wide at its narrowest, 30 at its widest, and 50 or 60 yards long. The whole thing had been wrapped in the same concrete barriers with chain-link fence, razor wire, and black netting, making it look like a holding pen in a detention facility.
“There it is,” Steve said.
“That’s the ‘Free Speech Zone?’” I asked. I stopped and felt the air run out of my lungs in a protracted sigh.
For about a week or so we had been hearing through our partner group the Bl(A)ck Tea Society that the police were creating a space for the protestors that they were calling the “Free Speech Zone.” No one expected they would build a refugee camp, and it did not go down well with the activist community. The Bl(A)ck Tea Society were a collection of anti-authoritarian Lefties and neighborhood groups that included the Massachusetts Green Rainbow Party, one of the older and more radical of the state parties. They were not going to let this one slide.
Setting aside the painfully obvious paradox of an American “Free Speech Zone,” the action was justified by the authorities because Boston had been designated a National Special Security Event (NSSE) which made the U.S. Secret Service (recently absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)) the lead federal agency in charge. The Secret Service was backed up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, FEMA, the US Coast Guard, US Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Safety Administration, the DHS Science & Technology Center, and a literal gauntlet of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that included:
Boston Fire Department
Boston Emergency Management Agency
Boston Emergency Medical Support
Boston Police Department
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
City of Cambridge Fire Department
City of Cambridge Police Department
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Defense
Department of Energy
Environmental Protection Agency
Federal Aviation Administration
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Communications Commission
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency
Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety
Massachusetts National Guard
Massachusetts State Police
Massachusetts Turnpike Authority
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
U.S. Attorney’s Office
U.S. Capitol Police
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
U.S. Marshall Service
U.S. Park Police
U.S. Postal Police
Boston was given $60 million in Federal money designated for Convention security that was a line item in the Iraq War appropriations bill. They used it to transform the city into a heavily defended fortress, with the Fleet Center as something of a de facto castle for the visiting elites. Word had been circulating that the summer conventions would be testing grounds for all sorts of new surveillance and crowd control technology, but once you got on the streets and saw it for yourself, there was no doubt. It literally looked like Boston was preparing for an invasion.
To make matters worse, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino opted to bring in Miami Police Chief John Timony as a “security consultant.” Timony is despised in the activist world because of his indefensibly brutal treatment of protestors at the Free Trade of the America’s Summit which was held in Miami only six months earlier in November of 2003.  Timony was tasked with not allowing a repeat of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, so when the few thousand protestors showed up they were immediately besieged by Timony’s overzealous stormtroopers who beat them up one side of the city and down the other. The small band of committed activists were hopelessly outmanned and outgunned. This “new model for homeland security” became known as the “Miami Model.” These brutalities hardly saw the light of day outside of the alternative media. Hundreds were injured and arrested for peaceful demonstration. 
It earned Timony his own anthem by folk singer David Rovics, a favorite of the Radical Left:
butcher for hire.
He’s a brutal thug
and a dirty liar.
Many veterans of Miami attended the Boston Social Forum and planned to stick around for the DNC protests. It’s important to note that quite a few more activists did not make the trip. It was reported in the days and weeks before the Convention that activists and their relatives in many parts of the country, including several who hadn’t even planned on going to Boston, received visits from the FBI attempting to dissuade them from going. In certain cases the harassment was done by the FBI’s “Joint Terrorism Task Force” (Denver, Lawrence, Topeka, Kansas City, Columbia, Fort Collins, Kirksville and St. Louis). 
Those who did make the trip were expecting the worst from the police. At the same time, Menino and his top cops spun the usual bullshit tales of “threats of anarchist violence” to whip the population into a tizzy and get them out of town. The only thing that threatened to derail the security juggernaut was a very public dispute between the Boston police union and the city over a new contract, and talk of a strike was in the air.
It was also understood in the weeks before the convention that upwards of 90% of the on-the-floor delegates to the Convention were opposed to the war in Iraq. In spite of this glaring fact, the party had made it clear that no dissent against the war would be tolerated on the Convention floor. Dissent wasn’t the only thing that was on the ban list, most progressive platform issues were shut out as well. What was most unsettling was that no one seemed to be complaining.
The Sunday before the Convention began the protest movement held a picnic in a small park in the Roxbury neighborhood. There were maybe a hundred people, if that, gathered to listen to music and a few speeches. David Cobb, Pat LaMarche, Medea Benjamin and Leslie Cagan, the national coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, had all made the trek to Boston to participate in the protests, although UFPJ’s contingent kept their distance and was not involved in the organizing, hoping to protect their appeal to mainstream democrats. It was just after Cobb had finished speaking to the crowd that a loud roaring began to invade the park.
Dozens of motorcycle cops funneled in from the street and formed a long line that closed off one whole side of the park. The noise was deafening and all activity just stopped until they had all neatly lined their bikes up, dropped their kickstands, and had the blessed largesse to turn off their motors. They took their time.
No sooner had the motorcycles been quieted when a helicopter pops over the trees and hovers over the park for a few moments. Finally, a line of squad cars pull up, and before you know it, this very mellow gathering of people is under occupation. It set the tone for the entire week, and we got the message loud and clear: we’re in charge here!
For the next four days a few hundred veteran activists and a motley crew of no more than 1500 protestors kicked around Downtown Boston trying to get someone’s attention. On Monday the 26th there was a tepid march of a few hundred people that began Downtown and ended at the Fleet Center. Once there, police attempted to funnel the march into the “Free Speech Zone.” It was only then that police saw for themselves the absurdity of asking a few hundred protestors to politely move single file into a cage. The marchers refused. Police scratched their heads. Do we beat them now?
In response two of our women—Aimee Smith, a Massachusetts Green and my Co-Chair on the Peace Action Committee, and Elly Guillette, the coordinator for the Bl(A)ck Tea Party—collected the media and held a civil disobedience action at the opening of the “Free Speech Zone.” They told the police and the media and who knows how many million New Englanders, “we will not be caged.” They were polite, but unrelenting. To everyone’s surprise, the police backed down. Ok, so, you won’t go into our cage, well, just behave yourselves. The march ended there without incident, and everyone went on their way.
On Tuesday the Bl(A)ck Tea Society held a festival on the Boston Common called the “Really Really Democratic Bazaar.” Hundreds of people milled about looking at tables of political literature, demos of mobile compost toilets, videos of intentional communities, and a live music stage with a slate of local acts. An old school bus had been turned into a mobile community center, and the kids who owned it dished out a vegan meal for everyone. People wrote messages on the sidewalk with chalk, and a young woman scribbled in three foot high letters, “YOU DESTROY WHAT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND.” Next to her a young man held a simple cardboard sign that read, “FREE HUGS.” Twenty members of a progressive organization called The Backbone Campaign undulated through the crowd like a Chinese dragon holding a huge replica model of a human spine measuring some 40 feet in length. Each "vertebra" was labeled with one issue of the Progressive platform. Throughout the day Secret Service agents milled through the crowd in groups of three, eyes hidden behind mirrored Revos.
A slow roar rose up from the crowd when a stocky goateed bald man in a blue athletic suit and dark glasses went barreling through the bazaar surrounded by four uniformed Boston Police officers who were acting as his security detail. He was holding a huge sign covered with cutouts of fighter jets, missiles, tanks, guns, and battleships. It read, “FREEDOM HAS NEVER BEEN CHEAP” on one side and "JESUS IS LORD” on the other. Squeezed along the bottom was "JOHN 14:27” and “HEB 9:22.” The crowd closed in fast around him, and he began shouting in a slow deliberate cadence, “you fucking people don’t deserve to live here!” emphasizing each word with a jab of his outstretched finger. In response the crowd started chanting, “SHAME SHAME SHAME!!” Chicago activist Jimmy Johnson hastily scribbled on the flap off a cardboard box, “HE WAS JUST A CARPENTER,” and held it in in front of the guys face.
Later that day Aimee Smith and some friends attempted to put up an art installation made out of PVC tubing and a nylon tarp that was a model of one section of the apartheid wall in Israel. On the tarp was stenciled, “THE BERLIN WALL IS DOWN. BRING DOWN THE ISRAELI WALL.” Police suddenly swarmed and ordered the installation dismantled, claiming that it was “against building codes to erect structures on the Common.” It was a transparent ploy recognized by everyone who had gathered around. We knew AIPAC was the single most powerful lobby in the Democratic Party, and this installation was taken down so as not to offend them.
Not too long after that, the helicopter that had been buzzing protestors since Sunday evening made another appearance over the Common. Fed up, a few dozen protestors laid down on the grass and spelled out, “FUCK OFF!” A tiny five-foot tall woman curled up in a ball to make the dot in the exclamation point. The helicopter leaves, and the Bazaar erupts in a playful cheer of Na na na na...na na na na...hey hey hey...good bye!
The lone expression of dissent inside the Convention came Tuesday night during Tereza Heinz-Kerry's address. Medea Benjamin miraculously figured out a way to get inside the Fleet Center and she unfurled a small banner from the upper deck that read, "End the Occupation." It was one of the more surreal scenes that summer. As tiny Benjamin was being dragged from the upper level in handcuffs, Tereza Heinz-Kerry was announcing to the delegates that she was a proud “African American” (that’s right) because she grew up on a Austrian colonial plantation before becoming an American citizen.
Wednesday afternoon there was a rally at the Boston University Medical Campus in the South End to protest a new “Level 5 biodefense lab” that BU was building at the behest of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases. The Federal government gave BU $128 million dollars to construct a “national biocontainment laboratory,” placing my alma mater at the center of the nation's “biodefense effort,” which is of course the standard euphemism for biological warfare. The Feds promised another $3 billion in funding and revenues over the next two decades.  This meant that pathogens capable of wiping out the planet would be stored and experimented on in the dense center of a metro region of over 5 million.
Surrounded by a phalanx of bicycle cops, I spoke at the rally, but was soon interrupted by a gaggle of Pro Life demonstrators who showed up holding huge graphic full color posters of aborted fetuses. They had been bird-dogging the Convention delegates for days, but they were also harassing us, and when we asked them why, since we were protesting too, they said that we were all “Liberals” and thus “supported abortion.” They camped out behind the stage disrupting everything, and at one point I lost my patience and asked them to leave. They began arguing about their right to “free speech.” To me it was emblematic of the political schizophrenia that pervaded American culture.
Wednesday night I went to the Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center for the “DNC Sideshow,” a kind of multimedia political art exhibition in support of independent media. Amy Goodman was the keynote speaker, and Robert Greenwald screened his new film, Outfoxed. I saw that Sander Hicks was scheduled to speak, and the night was going to begin with a screening of Horns and Halos, the documentary about Jim Hatfield and Fortunate Son.
Sander and I had not seen each other since our acrimonious parting the year before, which took place on the phone amidst a petulant screaming match. So when I finally ran into him he wasted no time in cornering me in an attempt to try and get the answers he felt he never got back then. I didn’t want to start anything new with him, but we would invariably be drawn into another hostile confrontation if I was candid with him, so I just demurred and told him it was all my fault and asked if we could move past it. He was there with his then-partner Holley, and I was with my my friend Carolina Johnson, a Massachusetts Green who was running for State Representative, and we really just wanted to try to have a good time.
It turned out to be a rough night for me. I had not yet seen Horns & Halos, and now I was seeing it with the star of the film sitting next to me, which made the experience a bit uncomfortable, because it was not a happy movie. There is a gut-wrenching scene at the end of the film where Sander finally begins to take in the enormity of Jim Hatfield’s suicide, and he breaks down on camera. The moment that happened, I felt something break loose inside me, and I started sobbing myself, deep painful grieving. I felt such sympathy for Sander and Jim, for what they went through, and the guilt Sander carried around. It was brutal and unfair, and with it came a hefty side order of disillusionment. I was also grieving for the loss of my country, as I had perceived it for so long, which may or may not have ever truly existed. It was the sadness of accepting the dismal reality of this country, and knowing that when it comes to those who rule, the truth will not set you free, it will get you killed.
When Amy Goodman took the stage, she told the story of a young soldier who had seen horrible atrocities in Iraq, and unable to cope or find effective help once he came home, had taken his own life. Hearing this, I withered and collapsed into Caroline’s lap.
I had been riding this anti-war train for a year and a half, slowly moving through the ranks, learning and adapting, even criticizing. But I had yet to let in the emotional impact of the men and women who were dying in the desert for these pointless wars. The real human stories of life and death that would have made an impact on public opinion were deliberately omitted by the mainstream media, who, like Rumsfeld, no longer “did body counts.” How exactly was the citizenry engaging in a democratic political process when delegates who opposed to the war were silenced and forced to support it anyway? In the end it was left to us, a small group of radicals gathered in an old church, to mourn the fallen whose flag-draped caskets were not allowed to be seen by the public, whose funerals were closed, whose family members were hushed, and whose nation had already forgotten about them.
Beyond the obscenity of war, which was officious enough, I hadn’t factored in what had just been opened up in me while in Maine with Wolf. I didn’t know that I was as much grieving for myself and the pain of my past as I was for the victims of war and atrocity. My emotional awakening was taking place on multiple fronts, and they were bleeding into each other at every turn. Unable to parse them, and under intense emotional duress, I fell prey to guilt and made a solemn vow to commit myself even deeper to “the movement,” a decision that would bring me no end to grief or frustration in the coming months.
The next day protesters gathered at Copley Plaza in the morning in preparation for another march to the Fleet Center. Many of the “anarchist” kids had dressed up as pirates and were marching around going, “Arrrr!” and “Yo ho ho!” Bored and disappointed, the mainstream media milled about asking various protestors if today might be the day that the predicted “violence” would take place.
About half an hour before the march, a group from the LaRouche Youth Movement appeared out of nowhere looking like a bunch of Mormons in white shirts and dark pants and skirts. They lined up like a church choir, unfurled a banner that read, “BOB SHRUM, WHY ARE YOU BETRAYING US?”  and began singing religious hymns. Other LaRouchies milled through the crowd handing out LaRouche literature. The particular tract they were distributing was about the “Congress of Sexual Fascism,” and it contained LaRouche’s 2004 presidential platform, which called for putting Americans to work “in the Roosevelt fashion” by building a transcontinental high-speed rail system. A handy diagram was included with the plan, showing tracks miraculously traversing the oceans somehow.
“Don’t you want to protect yourself against fascism?” a young man with glazed eyes asked me after I initially refused the handout.
“I think it’s safe to say LaRouche is a fascist,” I replied.
“No no no,” the kid responded, gently. “He’s a Roosevelt Democrat.”
“Interesting,” I said. “I don’t recall Roosevelt ever employing bat and chain wielding gangs to go around beating up his political opponents.”
The kid stared at me blankly, with no apparent understanding of just who Lyndon La Rouche is and what he stands for. Typical of the cult of alienated youth that tend to gravitate to “The Old Man” and his explicitly totalitarian ideology. I asked the kid if he had actually read the tract, and to tell me what the “Congress for Sexual Fascism” is. He muttered something about the “domination of the Anarcho-Syndicalists” and when I asked him who they were, the kid shook his head and said, “you are lost in decadence” and walked away.
The anarchist pirates quickly tired of the LaRouche choir and began to shout them down with “ARRRRR!!!!” and “YO HO HO!!” Then, it became a battle. The conductor of the LaRouche choir told them to pump up the volume, so they sang louder. The pirates countered, each “ARRRR!!” echoing across the empty plaza. The media stood by completely bemused while most of the rest of us could barely contain the laughter.
“What’s going on today?” an AP reporter I had befriended ran up and asked me. “I heard this is going to be the big day?”
“The ‘big day’” I asked?
“Yeah. We were told there were reports that something might happen.”
“Define ‘something’?” And by who?”
“We don’t know. We [meaning the press pool] just heard there was going to be violence.”
“Well, you didn’t hear it from me, or anyone I know.”
“Doesn’t seem like there’s enough people for that anyway," he says. "You guys are pretty outnumbered.”
He was right. The “big march everyone had been waiting for” had maybe a few hundred people. The purpose of the day’s actions was to bring attention to the police state that had been installed around us, but very quickly we had realized that we were the “justification” for all the “heightened security measures,” and rather than a statement of legitimate protest, we ironically became just another mobile expression of rage from the fringe, from which the public needed to be protected.
And the reason there was so much “talk” about “violence” was because there were noticeably more Bostonians in the city that day. Having watched the news all week from within the safe confines of their homes, the lack of any violence or major terrorist incident convinced most Bostonians that it was safe to go back into the city. Now, they piled onto the sidewalks as this rag tag group of oddballs marched past them. Most spectators were completely amused, looking on with the most bewildered expressions. Who are these people? Where do they come from? They laughed and shook their heads, and generally dismissed us. We were entertainment, pure and simple. Most of them couldn’t even decipher if we had a message; the banner we held across the front, the one that had been at the head of every march that week, read, ‘THE RICH LIE, THE POOR DIE!” and “ANARCHY IS FREEDOM, GOVERNMENT IS SLAVERY.” Not exactly a Leo Burnett ad campaign.
When the march turned down Newbury Street, a densely populated upscale shopping district in the Back Bay, the anarchist kids in the march begin flipping off the public and hurling insults at them, calling them “sheeple” and chanting for “the revolution.” The people on the sidewalk reacted with understandable hostility and disgust. I thought to myself, this was not the point. Then it dawned on me: Aw man...we look totally ridiculous. This is not accomplishing a goddamn thing except pissing off the one class of people we most need to reach. Even though the omnipresent threat of “anarchist violence” was more or less total bullshit, an intentional myth, it didn’t stop said anarchists from acting infantile and reinforcing whatever negative stereotypes had been put on them.
I mean, I was as guilty as anyone else for indulging in a little rage venting, I grabbed the megaphone at one point and did this whole satirical bit on martial law and dissenters being shot that I cribbed from something Jello Biafra once said before a Ministry show in 1990. But that was all in the spirit of absurdity and humor, political theater, Yippie style. These kids, however, hated mainstream America, and even though I had defended them all week in the media (which they mostly deserved) I could not get behind this kind of behavior. This shit would never build a mass movement, and suddenly the UFPJ strategy made a hell of a lot more sense to me. I did, however, keep that opinion to myself, for the moment.
At the Fleet Center, for the first time all week, we had a sizable crowd. And after such an uneventful week under the omnipresent eye of The State, there was crazy energy in the air. We marched all the way up to the barriers surrounding the Fleet Center. At the front of the crowd was a sign that read, “I WILL BE HEARD.” People began passing the megaphone and airing their grievances towards the thousands of people inside the walls of the castle who had the ostensible power to change things, but would never hear them.
Above us on an old sections of the I-93 overpass were army soldiers in green fatigues monitoring the scene. A well-known Boston activist named Vermin Threat, dressed like a Teutonic warrior in bronze helmet with horns, shoulder pads, and fake animal fur, began reading a prepared statement through the bullhorn.
We object to the exclusion of the Progressive platform from this Convention. We object to the exclusion of the anti-war voice from the floor debate. You gentlemen above us in fatigues are in violation of the Posse Commitatus Act...
While this is going on, a line of riot police (antagonistically referred to as the “Ninja Turtles”) march in and form a barrier between us and the iron security wall. The demonstrators all look at each other and wonder what’s going down. The riot police stand there staring past us, but never at us, their faces a mixture of aggression, placidity, boredom and dismay. The people continued to chant and dance around, while drummers banged away on plastic buckets.
This went on for about an hour, without incident, so the media once again got bored and began to pack up and leave. By now, their anger vented, people were running out of steam. Some of the anarchist kids had dialed back the raised fists and Marxist slogans and started playing ring around the rosy. The final march was about to fizzle out ingloriously, punctuating a mostly pointless week of protest.
Then, from somewhere in the middle of the crowd of a few hundred people, someone thrust a burning two-headed effigy of Bush and Kerry into the air, the flames licking up towards the amused army soldiers. The media apin on their heels and swarm a young anarchist pirate who is holding the effigy, blinding him in a barrage of flashes. Out of the crowd pops Sander Hicks with the megaphone, and he starts talking about Fortunate Son, quickly mentioning a few random facts about George W. Bush, and then his relationship to John Kerry. After he says the words, “Skull & Bones” the mainstream media roll their eyes or smirk obnoxiously. As the effigy slowly burns out, the pirates get bored, and the throng of media is left staring at each other, wondering what to do next. People begin walking away.
Unnoticed by nearly all of us, a group of nine uniformed police officers from the BPD quietly slip into the crowd and form a quick line dividing the front of the march from the rear. They surround the anarchist kid who lit the effigy, and one older cop drops him to the ground. The remaining cops whip out their batons and form a barrier to keep the rest of us back. I scramble up a nearby tree with my camera and start taking shots. The pirate’s buddies immediately start shouting at the cops and are themselves smacked down. The whole crowd surges around this small embattlement of cops shouting, “let him go! Let him go!” The cops start to get twitchy, and I see one reach for his pepper spray.
The anarchist kid is hauled away in cuffs as the rest of the uniforms back off in a group. A moment later the line of riot police is ordered to advance, and they start pushing us back towards the entrance to the “Free Speech Zone.” The protestors back away and form a small DMZ between them and the first line of riot police. Behind the first line of police a whole other detail of Massachusetts State Police in full riot gear materialize and form a second line of “defense.” Then yet another unit enters from the other end of the block. At this point the demonstrators are completely surrounded. Not knowing what to do, people mill around directionless, enclosed on all sides by riot police who all seem to be waiting for the “go” order.
Amy Goodman, the host of Democracy NOW!, was moving among the crowd covering the march. She asks me if I would tell her on camera what I had just witnessed with the burning of the effigy and the arrest of the anarchist kid, so I download the whole incident to her, the adrenaline still coursing through me.  When we finish, she sees Boston Police Superintendent Robert Dunsford passing by and asks him why they arrested the kid. Dunsford ignores her, so she follows him, holding out the microphone and repeating the question. Dunsford turns around and smacks her on the arm, knocking her back. She stops, shocked and amused, a wry smile crossing her lips. Dunsford plods on without looking back or saying a word.
“Hey Chief, what the fuck?!” I yell at him.
He ignores me too. I begin to walk back towards Amy to check on her when this big guy with a buzz cut steps in front of me and sticks his face an inch from mine.
“Why can’t your people just comply?” he growls.
I had seen this guy hanging around the movement all week, marching with us, attending events. I figured he was one of us. Not anymore. Holy shit, it immediately dawns on me, the fucking guy’s a cop!
I step back and start taking pictures of his face. He balls up his fist as if to hit me and I yell, “COP!” Everyone turns and looks. He takes one more good look at me, spits on the ground, and walks away as the crowd of anarchist kids all laugh at him.
After the police deployed, the crowd dispersed within a half an hour. I was later told by the AP reporter I had befriended that the reason the riot police were called in was to clear the protestors from the street because DNC delegates, who were dining on the outdoor patios at the restaurants along Accolyn Way, complained about the noise and asked to have us removed. The anarchist kid was arrested as a pretext to clear us from the street. Police claimed he had an “incendiary device” like a Molotov Cocktail. The “incendiary device” turned out to be a paper-mache hook, part of his costume.
After the AP put the incident out on the wires, Dunsford later told CNN, "The younger members of the crowd ... lost control ... They assaulted officers. We will not allow anyone to assault us." 
CNN never bothered to interview anyone else who was present, who would have told them the truth. It summed up the media coverage of the event: the police would tell the media what to expect, and the media would go out and try to find it, and if something unexpected happened, they went back to the police for clarification. The people, the so-called witnesses on the scene, were only used to bolster the police’s preconceived stories. I appeared or was quoted in stories in the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as a number of AP and Knight-Ridder wire stories that appeared all over the world. As the coverage shows, as the week wore on the accuracy of quotes became less and less. I learned that when there’s nothing going on, you tend to be quoted exactly as you spoke, but when there’s something “newsworthy” going on, your quotes tend to fit the story, not the other way around.
The media were like children. Their attention was easy to get, and difficult to keep. All you had to do was be the loudest at any given moment and they would flock to you, but to keep their attention, you had to keep feeding them. If you stopped feeding them, they went elsewhere.
In Boston, the anti-war movement largely chose to stay home, preferring not to “rock the boat.” This permitted the Democrats to unabashedly present their platform for an overtly militaristic “Republican Light” approach to US policy. Before the convention was even over John Kerry had committed to sending 40,000 more troops to Iraq and had vowed to “hunt down and kill every terrorist” on Earth. In the minds of my fellow Greens, progressives and radicals, there was little to differentiate the Democrats from the Republicans except for the malapropisms and bellicose rhetoric which were the hallmarks of the Bush Administration.
I left Boston exhausted, wondering if we had accomplished anything.
I spent the next week with Wolf and Rachel at their cabin. They were exceedingly kind to me, helping me recover my strength and make sense of the Boston experience. Irrespective of their kindness, I found myself increasingly uncomfortable with Wolf’s affections. It wasn’t that there was anything inappropriate about his behavior, on the contrary, he was, at least to me, unconditionally loving and accepting. In my serpentine healing path, those traits were still to be regarded with suspicion.
Wolf was slowly trying to introduce me to the idea of conflict resolution, the real way, by teaching me about compassion. Compassion, he explained, was the key to peace. For me to be able to work with him, he told me I needed to adhere to the philosophies that undergirded his contemplative philosophy. He needed to shift me from a place of confrontation and defiance to a place of collaboration and acceptance. He challenged me to leave my righteous indignation behind and head out into a new frontier of peaceful coexistence. The badlands of my hyper-defensive and judgmental personal history lay in between, making the crossing a decidedly unattractive option. I defended my perspective by telling myself that he was belittling my work and my beliefs.
I was already feeling myself withdraw, but I didn’t want to ruin the opportunity I felt we had, so I pressed ahead, all business. Wolf wanted to go to New York for the Republican National Convention protests, and he wanted me to help find him places to speak. He also wanted me to review his entire contemplative educational program and come up with a way to market it, and he offered to pay me nicely to do so. I desperately needed the work. And even though so many of his ideas were foreign and even uncomfortable to me, there was some part of me that was genuinely interested in delving further into the philosophy and psychology of Wolf’s teachings.
Shortly before I left I met another young man who Wolf introduced as “my student, and my son.” He was living in Denmark a short way from Wolf and Rachel, and he was nice, the little bit I got from our brief meeting. Wolf made a point of explaining that the young man had moved here to “be closer to Papa,” and it was clear that he was introducing us so that the guy could pitch me on moving to Denmark and being a part of Wolf’s “family.” I had made the mistake of pretty much committing to move there already, and now I was beginning to wonder how I was going to get out of that.
Back in Chicago, I went to see Tom Goforth. I explained to him my discomfort with Wolf’s affections, perhaps emphasizing the discomfort part too much, and mentioned that I thought that the whole “you can call me Daddy” thing was a bit weird.
“Well. yes it’s certainly unusual,” Tom said, “but it sounds like it’s coming from a decent enough place. It sounds like he was ‘reparenting’ you.”
“Yeah. It was a radical therapy that was popular in the 1970s. The idea was that you would take abused and traumatized children and give them the proper parental experience. The therapist would ‘adopt’ the child, would tell the child, ‘you can call me Mommy’ or ‘Daddy,’ and the therapist would then treat the child with parental love. Through this direct interaction they hoped to teach the child about healthy relationships. It was radical stuff, man. Some of the therapists went real deep with it, complete intimate bonding with these very wounded, very damaged, very distrusting kids.”
“Wow. That sounds like the work he was describing.”
“The only problem is that it’s also a thoroughly discredited therapy, and hasn’t been used since the 1980s. What ended up happening with ‘reparented’ kids was that eventually they would have to move on, and so would the therapists. Despite promising the kids that they would be ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’ to them, they somehow never took into account the lifetime commitment that parenting is, and once the bond was broken, the kids fell apart. Unless you maintain that bond for the rest of your life, you are not really ‘Mommy’ or ‘Daddy.’”
I told Tom that I was “afraid” of how I surrendered control to Wolf, and I felt “manipulated.” I asked Tom what he thought Wolf’s angle was.
“Well, it’s obvious he’s experienced with this sort of stuff and knows who he’s dealing with in the sense that he knows a victim of abuse when he sees one. The real ethical question is, was he manipulating you like the Marquis did back in LA? He had to have known how you would respond if he tapped into your past abuse, the question is did he do it altruistically to help you, or did he do it to assume a position of dominance over you? That’s what separates the healer from the Guru. Did he try to plant ideas in your head about who or what was the real cause of the problems in your life?”
“Honestly, no. I sense a kind of megalomania in him, but I don’t see him as unhealthy, he seems like a genuine guy.”
“Well, what does he want you to do?”
“He wants me to take his message into the anti-war movement. He believes his conflict resolution philosophy can save the world.”
“What do you think?”
“I don’t understand it. It’s very weird, in my book, and I don’t know much about that type of stuff. You do, though.”
“I’m not sure I get it either. It’s obvious he considers himself something of a Guru, and there is a state of ego development that is a real trap for the Guru types. Most begin as vessels, messengers of higher forces, and that’s what garners them followers. At some point they forget that they are vessels and they evolve only so far. They then enter a realm where they are granted all their worldly desires, and they begin to believe that they are the higher power. They fall prey to their own vanities and become corrupt. The real prophets never make a dime, and always end up dead.”
“I don’t know what to do. I really need to get out of Chicago for a while.”
“Well, I understand, but that doesn’t mean you should go running into another situation that’s not right for you. Look, I don’t think Wolf’s a bad guy, but do you really want to devote all of your creative energy towards helping this one dude? The Charles Shaw I know is way too Type A for that kind of thing. You’ve got a lot going on right now, your own work, that you’ve worked very hard to get. Are you ready to give all that up now?”
“Of course not.”
“Then I think you have your answer.”
I had my answer, but I cannot admit to handling it well. Instead, I gave into my fears. Something about the intimacy I had shared with Wolf terrified me, and I reacted by withdrawing sharply. I was overly harsh in my evaluation of his program, and told him I felt it was unmarketable as is. I badgered him as to why he stopped practicing psychotherapy, insinuating that he might have somehow been run out of his profession for using discredited therapies. I demanded that he let me speak to his benefactor. He refused, explaining that it was his job to protect Chris as much as benefit from his patronage. I took that as confirmation of my suspicions, and accused Wolf of trying to “make me a part of his cult,” and I broke my ties with him.
Wolf’s hurt and disappointment was clear in his last words to me.
“Ok, son. I thank you for your time. Please take care of yourself.”
In hindsight, although he was not perfect, he meant me no harm. It would be a long time, however, before I would come to understand that. At the time, I convinced myself that someone had once again tried to exploit me for their own gain. I remained a victim, comfortable again in the only real space I knew.
In the wake of the DNC I couldn’t shake my disappointment at the low turnout, and low quality, of the demonstrations. My irritation with the anti-war movement extended deeper, and had been fermenting for some time. After having just planned and executed two major protest actions in the last few months, I felt it was wise to review them and make adjustments based upon what we learned. I took my role with the Green Party reeeeeeeaally seriously (perhaps a bit too seriously given our limited ability to bring about any real change) and I genuinely felt that the movement was stuck in the Middle Ages.
I felt compelled to share my feelings, so I composed a 14-page debriefing report on the DNC protests and circulated it to every standing committee of the party. I opened the report by explaining that despite public opinion polls that showed more than half of Americans and 85% of the delegates to the convention opposed the war in Iraq, the Peace or Anti-War community somehow was grossly underrepresented, both inside the convention, and out in the streets.
I attributed this to a number of significant factors including the overwhelming security and police presence, the daily recurring threats of transnational terrorism and so-called “anarchist violence,” the prevailing notion that most Americans blame Bush and the Republicans solely for the war, the lack of organization on the part of the protest community, and the unwillingness on the part of most mainstream Americans to make the Democrats look bad when they were being viewed by many as the potential saviors of the world.
I went on to state that what was most problematic was the lack of any unifying theme or message, bogged down as we were by an overpopulation of causes, and thus the movement was suffering from a crisis of identity. Both we activists and the general public seemed confused about who we were, why we were protesting, and precisely what our message was. This contributed to the reluctance of the mainstream public to join movement politics, and it reinforced a perceived difference between “us” and “them.” If our intention was to somehow influence the delegates into making a stand, it was never explicitly stated, nor was a strategy ever developed. The net result was exactly the opposite of what we had hoped for. Instead of embracing us as partners, they called the cops on us.
Without really thinking through the potential consequences, or considering the diversity of political beliefs that I was speaking to, I accused the various anti-authoritarian groups of hijacking the peace movement to serve their confrontational agenda. I claimed our ineffectiveness was due to the relative immaturity and disorganization of the Left, who were constantly mired in internecine political struggles and ideological disagreements, and were separated by conflicting goals, language, and tactics.
I then tried to explain the cosmology of the anti-war movement as it existed then, proposing that this fractured movement could be broken down into the following camps:
“The Radical Left” – (Anarchists/Black Block, Bl(A)ck Tea
Society, International Socialists Organization, International ANSWER,
International Action Center, International Solidarity Movement, Green
Party of the USA, Not In Our Name, Revolutionary Communist Party,
various Trotskyites, Chomskyites, etc). These groups and those like them
are highly ideological, and in some cases, somewhat utopian. They are
stridently anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and anti-authoritarian.
They advocate an overthrow of the current system by revolution, some
violently, some non-violently. By and large, they view the United States
as the enemy and the aggressor. They are fiercely inclusive of the
plight of Palestine in their platforms, and they view Israel as an
aggressor nation. Their absolute refusal to compromise this position has
caused them problems in popular opinion and in working with more
mainstream movements. They also view the police as an instrument of
oppression, and tend to distrust conventional wisdom, denouncing much of
it as propaganda. Owing largely to its inherently countercultural
nature and the young median age, this wing of the movement is the most
creative and best incorporates art and culture into politics. They are
also the most extremist, angry, and immature wing of the movement. Many
of their slogans and demonstration tactics are highly confrontational,
divisive, and deconstructive in nature. They largely feed on enmity,
drawing from their collective struggle as marginalized citizens and the
targets of unbelievable police harassment, oppression, and brutality.
This exists because this wing of the movement also forms the core of the
anti-WTO “anti-globalization” movement. To this group, US
Imperialism/Militarism and Trade Liberalization are directly related.
They are viewed by the mainstream public as fringe extremists, and they
engender fear in those communities. Most mainstream Americans are
unaware that this subculture even exists, and if they do know anything,
it is more than likely a grossly superficial and distorted media
“The Progressives” – (Deaniacs, GPUS, Kucinich Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, Naderites, Progressive Democrats, United for Peace and Justice, Left academics like Howard Zinn and Cornel West, media/cultural figures like Amy Goodman). This group is what’s left of a Progressive caucus in the American political system. It is a fractured, wide ranging collection (not a coalition) of Progressive groups and figures that are united against American unilateralism, preemptive war, the abrogation of Civil Liberties, and the policies of the Bush Administration, but differ greatly on the role of the United States and WTO in the world, the “War on Terror”, “War on Drugs”, the ongoing role of Liberalism, centralization, the environment, the electoral process, Israel/Palestine, the UN and multilateralism, and the prospect for lasting peace and conflict resolution. What unifies them in practice and separates them from the Radical Left is that they are all “in the system,” engaged in elected governance and the electoral process, and as such, are not advocating any form of revolution or overthrow of the present system so much as they are advocating significant changes to the system. Most promote a non-interventionist foreign policy, and nearly all oppose a US Empire. They have no real power, but have strong tangible and intangible influences on the system. Moreover, the artists and organizers in this group are powerful shapers of our real socio-political culture.
“The Liberal Elite Opposition” – (elected mainstream Democrats, teachers unions, celebrity culturati like Bill Maher, Arianna Huffington and Michael Moore, liberal media like the Nation, 527 PACs like MoveOn.org, People for the American Way, True Majority, Rainbow-PUSH, etc) These groups are almost entirely defined by their opposition to the Republican Party and their concurrent service to the Democratic Party. They generally accept the role of the United States as a dominant force, but differ from the Republicans on the methods by which they should exercise that dominance. Their singular purpose is to make Republican war policies look inept, so that a Democrat can take them over and replace them with their war policies, which they believe are sounder. They generally buy into the “War on Terror” paradigm, and are not apt to lay much blame for transnational terrorism at the feet of the United States. This is in part because this group fiercely backs Israel and their policies towards the Palestinian people. Their absolute refusal to compromise this position has caused them to refuse to organize or demonstrate with the Pro-Palestinian wing of the anti-war movement. Mainstream popular opinion in America is decidedly behind Israel, largely because of the actions (and capital holdings) of this group. The Liberal Opposition groups are immensely influential and highly visible in mainstream and popular culture.
“Mainstream Americans and Traditional Conservatives” – (Veterans, military families, 9/11 families, labor unions, the faith community, moderate to conservative Democrats and Republicans, non-partisan and non-voting citizens). This is the bulk of America, and represents the 60-70% of the public who think the war in Iraq was a mistake. They are the people most directly affected by the Bush Administration’s policies, but they are also fiercely patriotic and nationalistic in their thinking, and are in support of a big defense budget to keep the US as a sole superpower. They don’t give much thought to Palestine, but many of them know exactly what NAFTA and the WTO has done to their professions, particularly if they are in manufacturing or agriculture, and thus they quietly oppose it, doing little to seek redress. They do not, however, see a link between free trade and US foreign policy, such as the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. This ultimately is the group that needs to be reached most for the anti-war movement to gain mainstream approval. They are largely averse to most of what the Left has to say regardless of any pretense of anti-war unity.
I concluded that the Green Party had a historic opportunity to emerge as leaders in the Peace & Justice movement, provided it position itself more in the path of Mainstream America. To do that it had to rethink its connections to the Radical Left, and adopt new, clearly defined principles, goals, language, and tactics.
The reaction to my efforts was not the eureka moment I had hoped for. Although many people shared my feelings, no one particularly appreciated the delivery. I chose to keep it real, and it mostly backfired in my face. More than anything else I managed to offend the people with whom I had just spent months working, most of the party, and most of my anti-war colleagues, with whom I still had to plan a huge week of demonstrations in New York.
- The Miami Model - Documentary film about the protest actions at the summit for the Free Trade Area of the Americas, Miami, FL, November, 2003.
- “Police violence at Miami FTAA protest”, By Jennifer Van Bergen, WSWS, November 26, 2003.
- “FBI harasses Boston activists, Chicago activist,” Chicago IndyMedia, July 24, 2004.
- “FBI harassment in Midwest being generated by illegal red squad,” Boston Indymedia, July 28, 2004.
- “When Bioterror Moves Next Door,” By Daniel Schulman and Adam Smith. Boston Globe, August 8, 2004
- This is a rather obscure reference to Robert Shrum, a Democrat political strategist who worked on a number of presidential campaigns, including John Kerry’s. LaRouche and Shrum had some kind of beef (well, to be fair, LaRouche seems to have a beef with everyone) and LaRouche accused him of working for the Republicans.
- “Hundreds Protest DNC in Boston; Two-Faced Effigy of Bush & Kerry Burned,” Democracy NOW!, July 30, 2004.
- “Protesters, police skirmish outside convention” by Sean Loughlin, CNN Washington Bureau, Thursday, July 29, 2004.