ONE IS a Connecticut homemaker, another a physical therapist.
Some teach. Several are dead; several more are in jail. Some have
seen their lives turned into fodder for bad movies or weekly TV
These are the superstars of social consciousness, protesters
par excellence whose names became synonymous with the revolutionary
spirit of the 1960s. With the recent announcement that a onetime
associate of the violent Symbionese Liberation Army active in the
1970s is a potential suspect in the Unabomber case and the
continued release of the bomber's radical-tinged rhetoric, those
earlier epochs of radicalism are again being recalled.
Older, grayer and often beset by the infirmities that strike at
midlife, many of the warlords of social change remain committed to
causes that mirror their youthful fervor. Out of the headlines,
many are still in the trenches. For most, political philosophy
remains a powerful force in their lives.
With his bushy red ponytail, for example, Mario Savio - 52 and
plagued by an arthritic elbow - recently waited for a chance to
speak in the crowded room where University of California regents
were discussing plans to end affirmative action programs. He never
got it, because speakers were selected by lottery. Instead, the
Sonoma State mathematics and critical-thinking instructor, whose
oratory from the roof of a car sparked the free speech movement at
the University of California at Berkeley in 1964, handed out
brochures for the Campus Coalitions for Human Rights and Social
Justice, the organization he helped start nine months ago.
"Mostly I believe in going along with the program and keeping
your eyes open," said the father of three sons, one of whom helped
write the Campus Coalitions brochure. "There are so many things
wrong in the galaxy, you'd be fighting Klingons if you tried to
take on every one of them.
"But occasionally something comes down the pike which is just
so horrible" - in this case, Savio said, reduced funding for higher
education and the threat to affirmative action - "that you just
have to do something."
Across the country, former Black Panther chairman Bobby Seale
said he stresses a similar theme in his speeches at 40 to 50
colleges each year.
"If we're not reaching for the future world of cooperational
humanism, then we missed the whole damned point," said Seale, who
is 59 and lives in Philadelphia. When he is not volunteering as a
recruiter for Temple University's African-American studies program,
Seale is busy updating his autobiography, "A Lonely Rage," and
transforming his best-selling cookbook, "Barbecuing With Bobby
Seale," into a CD-ROM. He is also wrapping up a volume on what he
calls "polylectic reality."
In one of the strangest scenes in American jurisprudence, Seale
was so disruptive in the courtroom of Judge Julius Hoffman in 1969
that his trial was separated from the fellow defendants who became
known as the Chicago Seven. All eight had taken part in the
boisterous demonstrations that marked the 1968 Democratic National
Convention in Chicago. "I am proud that I stood up in front of
Judge Julius Hoffman and cussed his butt out," Seale said. Most of
the charges were dismissed.
The two class clowns of the Chicago Seven - Abbie Hoffman and
Jerry Rubin - both met tragic ends. Hoffman was 52 when he died in
1989, an apparent suicide. It brought to a sad close a flamboyant
life that included such antics as throwing dollar bills onto the
floor of the New York Stock Exchange, attempting to levitate the
Pentagon by mental force and running a pig for president. …