Random but Heavy Memories

imagesDragged out like a lady

Consistent with my status as a “token follower” in the film Berkeley in the Sixties, I never did anything remotely resembling leadership and only spoke out voluntarily at a public meeting once, story elsewhere on this blog. I can, however, claim a few more or less unique experiences, even though one of them, I learned much later, happened to at least one other person. That was my reply to the police busting us in Sproul Hall when they asked me “Do you want be dragged out or walk out like a lady?” and I said, “I want to be dragged out like a lady.” It has been considered a witty comeback by fans of Berkeley in the Sixties, ever since, somewhat to my chagrin, and even made it into Herb Caen’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle soon after the bust.

The reality is that the police were asking every woman that question and I heard them ask it to several women before they got to me, so I had some time to think about it. My aim was to come up with some dignified and righteous remark that would illuminate the false dichotomy, the insinuation that if you got dragged out you weren’t a lady. I had no great ambition to be a lady, of course, and had ditched that aspiration in the sixth grade to spite my mother, who did care a lot that I should either be a lady or be seen as one. If you engaged in civil disobedience, the question implies, you would prove yourself to be some kind of scum. “Lady” was their shorthand word for not-scum. When I said I wanted to be dragged out like a lady, I was dead serious. I’m doing this, its an honorable thing and I am still not-scum. As it turns out, the remark probably got a lot more circulation as a joke and, as a joke, probably makes my point even better, so over the years I’ve gradually come to terms with it as a joke.

But, if it was a joke, I was not the only person to have made it. At the 30-year reunion of the FSM in Berkeley, I was approached by another bustee, a man, who asked me if I had really said that. I assured him that I had, whereupon he asked me what floor I was on. I told him the third. The Herb Caen reference had been to a woman on the first floor who had made the remark and at the time I had thought it was just a mistake about the floor I was on. This man said that he had been on the first floor and they had asked him if he wanted to walk out like a gentleman and he had made the same reply AND for the same reason I had. He hadn’t been joking, either. We agreed that Caen had made a mistake either about this guy’s sex or my location, we’ll never know which, and that great minds work the same way or come to the same conclusions or however that saying goes. I think this fellow was a bit aggrieved that I should have gotten all the attention, but there was not much I could do about that except present his case here.

Last one standing

My other claim to uniqueness as an FSM bustee was also planned, this time with an eye to the future. It is that I was the very last bustee to leave Sproul Hall. I am utterly certain of it because as the last group was taken out of the holding cell in the basement, I happened to be the second-to-last in line. As we walked to the outside door, I was struggling with the taunt some of the not-campus cops had been making to us–that everyone had gone home and nobody cared about us and we were just dupes, in this all alone. I thought to myself that if I were the last in line, I might be able to drag my feet just enough outside the door and before we were put into whatever we were going to be put into to get a really good look at what was actually happening outside. I stepped a bit sideways and let the person behind me ahead of me. She was too out of it to notice. Then, I had the fleeting thought that, as unimportant as I was personally to this whole thing, I could now and forever claim that I was the last bustee out of Sproul Hall–a little intrapersonal gallows humor to get me through the next couple of hours.

It does occur to me now, after believing for years that I was the last one, that I may have only been the last woman. The sexes were separated in the basement and we had ringside seats watching the men being beaten as they were dragged out. I looked around as we were being lined up to leave and saw no other students, only police and there was certainly no one else in the cell the women had been in, but I guess I have no way of knowing if there might have been some more men being held somewhere I couldn’t see them. So, ok, I was the last WOMAN out!!

When I stepped outside the door, I saw that it was now daytime, the busts having continued through the night and the dawn. I noted the paddy wagon, its door backed up to the steps, open and ready to receive us (most bustees had been put into buses, but there were some paddy wagons). The next thing I saw was well worth my last-in-line maneuver. There were people everywhere, crowding as close to the steps as the police would allow, hanging from balconys and tree limbs, sitting on each other’s shoulders, waving at me from the roofs of campus buildings and the buildings across the street. It seems to me now, in memory, that there was no place I could look that was not filled with cheering, smiling, waving people.

I stopped still and drank it all in, smiling back at everyone, which was not hard in spite of how down I had been two seconds earlier, until I received a firm push from the officer behind me. I was not the only one who had gotten recharged between the Sproul Hall door and the paddy wagon door. Several, but not all, of us immediately started grabbing each other’s hands and laughing and talking a mile a minute about what we had just seen and experienced. They were there, the people supported us, we were not alone.

All the FSM photos below were taken by Dr. Jim Jumblatt and provided courtesy of FSM archives. There are more at http://www.fsm-a.org/Jumblatt Photos.html

A police van awaits FSM bustees at the side entrance to Sproul Hall. Photo by Dr. Jim Jumblatt, courtesy of FSM archives.

A police van awaits FSM bustees at the side entrance to Sproul Hall. Photo by Dr. Jim Jumblatt, courtesy of FSM archives.

This photo is not exactly what I remember seeing when I came out of Sproul Hall, since there are no people around, other than police and journalists. It must have been taken of a different van, at a different time. I don’t remember it being white, though I do remember the doors opening in back. My memory may be confused by the fact that, in addition to people jokingly calling them paddy wagons, some also jokingly called them Black Marias–evidently the kind of paddy wagon used in labor protests decades earlier. I am told that most people were put in buses, though I never saw them because I was inside until the end. The big difference would be that buses have windows and forward-facing seats. What I was in had no windows, was pretty dark and had benches on the sides. I was carsick, but thankfully, did not throw up on the way to jail.

Supporters at the side entrance to Sproul Hall

Supporters at the side entrance to Sproul Hall

The photo above is closer to what I saw, though I’m pretty sure there were people in that tree.

The sidewalk from Sproul Hall side entrance is blocked off to allow passage of the vehicles carrying bustees.

The sidewalk from Sproul Hall side entrance is blocked off to allow passage of the vehicles carrying bustees.

I did not see this view at all, though this is the side entrance, probably at a different time of day. All of this area, it seems to me, was filled with people and there were people in the trees and on those roofs across the street. Perhaps this is at the beginning of the bust and since what I saw was at the very end, they had opened up all this blocked off area.

Meanwhile, Back in the Anthro Department

At one point in later conflicts in Berkeley,  I did assume the role of spokesperson but only because I was tricked into it. What happened was that anthro student activists had called a meeting to come up with a group statement of some kind to the anthro faculty, explaining our actions in whatever the most recent thing had been. It was after the FSM, but before 1967, because I was still an undergrad. Probably had to do with peace marches or strikes. While we were meeting, the anthro faculty was also meeting, down the hall. The plan was to write up something, then deliver it to the faculty by knocking on the door of their meeting and handing it in.

At my meeting, I was hearing much more nastiness than I wanted to pass on to the faculty, for most of whom I still had some degree of respect. I feared to sign anything that would be delivered by any of the loudmouths in a possibly disrespectful manner. I felt whatever we said would carry more weight if we all behaved, at least before the faculty, as rational, respectful, polite academics. (This was too early in my life for me to have known that academics are not always all that polite.)  I suppose I was a bit of a goody-goody in that crowd at that time. I rose and said, “whatever we decide to say to them, I hope we will say it respectfully.” The person leading the meeting rounded on me and said, “Ok, if you’re so worried about that, you can deliver it.” Full disclosure, it was Richard Cowan, who wrote the McCall’s article posted elsewhere on this blog.

There was no way to back out of it without appearing a fool, so I allowed my Scorpio rising to rise and said “Well, ok, I’ll just do that thing.” While I might have been expected to shake in my shoes for the rest of the meeting, I actually did not because I envisioned that I would just knock on the door and hand the paper to whomever answered it. Silly me. Naive me. What happened is what I now imagine everyone else at the meeting knew would happen. I knocked on the door, a prof answered, I handed him the paper and then he grabbed my hand and pulled me into the room, where the entire faculty sat, many stony-faced, surely making note of  just which student appears to be leading this revolt, so that they could later bring it up when I applied for grad school, which they did.

One of the senior faculty members, Professor Theodore McCown, a physical anthropology professor noted for his severe personna and dry wit, asked me to explain verbally what the paper said so that I could answer any questions the faculty might have. I had not realized I had consented to be the sacrificial virgin. I had never spoken to any political group of students, let alone a group of my own professors, though I did occasionally dare to ask questions in section. I was not entirely sure I even knew exactly what the paper said, since we had been through several wordings and versions. I wondered if Professor McCown knew I had aced both the classes I had taken from him. He gave no sign. I looked around the room.

They were seated at tables in a half-circle facing inward, so I could see everyone clearly. It was not unlike the setting of a gladiator fight in ancient Rome, and here’s to the Grateful Dead. Luckily for me, Professor Gerry Berreman, later my senior and graduate advisor, was seated directly in front of me, smiling serenely. I had talked to him, many times, in private, about anthropology, the war, social change, student activism and how did he like my last paper. I knew he was on my side and might even be enjoying the whole spectacle. He wore an expression that said he fully expected me to survive triumphant.

So I kept my eyes focused on Gerry and got into my Baptist Training Union head, which allowed me to speak up and stand tall and I did my damndest to explain what was in the paper and how we had come up with it. There were questions and I answered them, again, as best I could. I can’t remember the particular issue or how I ever got out of there, or how I did explaining-wise, but I do remember the feeling of being pinned like a collector’s bug by one of the scariest professors in the department and then the sink-or-swim feeling that followed it, and the lifeline thrown to me by Gerry that allowed me to at least not turn around and run like the wind.

I was in there for an eternity, but probably about a half-hour. When I returned to the students, I noted quite a few cat-that-ate-the-canary smiles on the faces of people that knew I had just taken it full in the face for them and without a clue that I would have to do so. They knew it wouldn’t go down on THEIR permanent records, so to speak. On the other hand, most of the students were simply eager to hear what had gone down and, since I hadn’t fainted with fear before, I was now on a roll, so I told them what had happened, while staring down the canary people.

Though I’m sure that little sortie fixed me in the minds of some of the faculty as a rowdy to be thwarted at all costs, I know for sure that that one, along with another one, endeared me to the heart of Gerry Berreman forever and helped inspire him to fight for me later on when I applied to grad school (big fight, big, big fight) and win. I not only got in, but Gerry got me an all expense paid traineeship (“you get the money, but no prestige,” he told me, “it ain’t a fellowship. Its like you get no bread with one meatball.”) The traineeship would have paid all my expenses, including field work in another country, until I finished my doctorate. It was that one chance in a lifetime you may or may not get, prestige or no, and it was the only such chance I did ever get.

Unfortunately, at the end of my first year of grad school, I was so exhausted physically and mentally from the preceding years of conflict, poverty and toil that, being refused a medical leave of absence by the conservative professor who administered the traineeship, I dropped out anyway and lost it. I comforted myself with the sour grapes thought that it was blood money, anyway, since at least one anthropologist in our department had by then been exposed as using his fieldwork in Cambodia to spy for the CIA. (Same one who later harassed me sexually and politically out of grad school).  If my discipline could be used in such an immoral way, to support the Vietnam War, was I not also tainted by pursuing the same discipline, and on federal money? (It was an NIH traineeship.) When I came back six months later to finish the semester left between me and my M.A., Gerry landed me a quarter-time research assistantship and a quarter-time teaching assistantship and that’s how I financed that year.

I suppose that hits on another small claim to fame I can make regarding my sojourn in Berkeley. I was also the first person ever to be awarded an M.A. in Anthro at Berkeley. The department had just that semester started an M.A. program, responding to the complaints of  T.A.s that, with no M.A., they were being paid less than T.A.s in other departments.  We were being processed alphabetically and my last name was, by then, Arnold. It so happened that when I showed up for my orals, James Rector had been shot dead and others blinded and paralyzed, only four days before that, by the police at a demo on The Ave. Must have been about People’s Park. I showed up wearing a black armband for those killed and maimed. My committee members, Gerry and two others I had been allowed to pick, all looked at the armband, looked at each other and said, “Well, I don’t feel much like doing this either. Re-schedule?” And we did, for a few days later.

Outpreaching the Preacher

The following tale is not related directly to a particular political movement, but indirectly to the charged political atmosphere at Berkeley after the FSM. It fits in with the theme of things that happened uniquely to me and also explains how it is that my anthro advisor came to be such an enthusiastic advocate for me in the department. The FSM, as is pointed out  in Berkeley in the Sixties,  had drawn the attention of multitudes of dingbats, left and right, to UC Berkeley and some of them showed up there. Among these was a red-headed, freckle-faced southern Baptist preacher who appeared on the plaza some days to preach to anyone who would stop and listen, berating us on our morals, condemning us to hell, telling us we should be obeying authority, etc. Can’t remember his name. His audience, in the main, consisted of people who were amused by him.  Apparently, unlike me, they had never heard a dumb fundamentalist preacher struttin’ his stuff.

One day, on my lunch break from the Lowie Museum, where I worked, I passed by him and his audience, just in front of the Sproul Hall steps. He was raving on about how God had told him this and God had told him that and more on his theme that we should be obeying authority. Soon, he managed to hit my Baptist button. One thing about Baptists, say whatever else you will about Baptists and I won’t defend them, but the religion itself has one thing in it I find quite beautiful. Ain’t nobody between you and God– no hierarchy, no confessor, no penances, no indulgences, nothing. Not officially, anyway.

Baptist churches are independent, people are supposed to be independent and even the Southern Baptist Convention is something churches may choose to join or not. You read and study your Bible and then you pray directly to God and you wait and be open to Her answer (I’m reversing sexist language). Your preacher is there to help you understand the Bible, but in the last analysis, you interpret it for yourself, with the help of God. I certainly make no claim that more than a handful of Baptists I have ever known behave as if that were a basic tenet of the religion, but it in fact is, making Baptists, in my view, among the most Protestant of Protestants.

Acting on my lifelong training that my co-religionists are supposed to agree that we are all equals in the sight of God, no special deals for preachers, I made my way into the cleared center of the fairly large group to face off with him and I said to him that I, myself, had spoken to God that very morning and God disagreed with him about us activists. He rose cheerfully into the battle and began to question me about my statement. Was I a Christian? I said, “I’m as Christian as you are.” What church do I belong to? I told him, “the First Baptist Church of Groveland, Florida, though I haven’t been there in a while. But, as you know, Baptists never take you off their membership roll unless you tell them to transfer you to another church. So I’m sure I’m still a member.” Ok, smarty-pants (I’m sure he was thinking), “What did God tell you?”

I told him and a, by now, much larger crowd watching the showdown, that God had reminded me of the verse that goes “render unto Caesar the things that are Caeser’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” I told him we activists were doing God’s work every bit as much as he was, probably more so, that we rendered unto Caesar, ie, gave to the authorities, everything possible right up to the point where they were asking us to give them what belongs to God, ie, the conscience that tells us to fight to be allowed to fight for the oppressed and lowly. I told him that God had told me He (pre-feminist language) was very pleased with us and had urged me to keep up the good work. Applause broke out in the crowd, along with not a few hearty “Amens.”

I grinned at the preacher and the crowd, this time not at all intimidated because it was church-related. I had been speaking Biblese and “testifying” from childhood, not to mention singing solo in church. I felt myself on very solid ground. Presently, I found myself looking into some familiar faces in the crowd, that of Gerry and one of my more conservative fellow workers at the museum. Gerry was grinning ear to ear. I had, at that point, taken at least one class from him and maybe spoken to him about papers and such in his office, so I may or may not have looked familiar to him. But, if not, he would have known I was an anthro student because my fellow worker next to him would have told him. He told me much later, that that little speech was the one that caused him to start watching me more closely.

My museum colleague could scarcely contain herself when we met again that afternoon in the museum basement. Before an audience of other museum people, she tore into me, ostensibly for telling lies but, I imagine, really for reflecting negatively on the museum (if that was the case, she was pretty much alone in that sentiment), or perhaps, acting above my station.  “God did not speak to you, you liar,” she said. To which I replied, “How the hell do you know?”

In point of fact, God, had not, in that instance, spoken to me. My claim was, indeed, a device to beat the preacher at his own game, since I had suddenly perceived myself as the only person on the plaza who might have the requisite background and credentials to do that. I could claim not only to be a Baptist, but the descendant of a Baptist preacher. But, God had spoken to me on other occasions in the sense that I felt my prayers had been answered, so maybe it was only a fib. In any case, I had and have no doubt that I had a better claim to following “in the footsteps of Christ” than did this hateful dodo and I have never had a reason to change that opinion. And who knows but what God spoke to me by giving me the idea to dramatize a bit to make a good point?

Here I am, senior in high school, Baptist in good standing, on the way to church

Here I am, senior in high school, Baptist in good standing, on the way to church

As for reflecting negatively on the museum, I hold among the highest compliments I have ever received the one I got from my boss in the museum office, a woman named Shirley Gudmundson. Shirley scared most people. She was pretty dour-faced and a very demanding boss, but she had my admiration because of her story. She had been a WAC sergeant in World War II, had gotten pregnant while unmarried, been discharged (whether honorably or dishonorably I don’t know), but, son-of-a-bitch, she had kept that baby and raised it openly to adulthood. She never told that story, but it was pretty high quality scuttlebutt among museum people. What courage and conscience that represented to me! She faced’em all down and kept her baby and busted her ass her whole life to support it. To have done that in the 60s would have been amazing enough, let alone to have done it in the 40s.. . And she was never afraid to say anything to anyone, major role model for me.

One day I came into the office flushed and shaking after some new terrifying event, seems to me this one involved tear gas. Shirley whipped off her glasses and leaned one elbow on her desk to stare at me directly over them, a frequent mannerism of hers. I braced myself. “Oh Lord, here it comes,” I thought. But, Shirley, deadpan as usual, said, “You know, I’ve never seen anyone with a conscience like yours.” Now, there are two ways to take that, and Shirley would have been fine saying it either way, if it were the truth. But, I have no doubt that she meant it in the good way and I have never ceased to cherish it as such. I wish I had had the wit to have replied, “Hey, Shirley, go look in the mirror.”

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