Personal History: More on the FBI…


Several months back, I blogged about  getting my FBI file.  It was sort of ammusing…. and it wasn’t.  Me, the  figure model/dog groomer was being followed by the FBI…or so they thought. They were actually following my tenant, a clown who delivered singing telegrams.

I came across this book, the title being  Crisis, Pursued by Disaster, Followed Closely by Catastrophe, written by journalist Mike O’Connor.    His experience with the FBI turned out rather more tragic.   It was the story of his family, and how they were always moving suddenly.  I could tell it had something to do with his mother being an illegal alien, but that was not totally true.  He didn’t find out the mystery of his family until both his parents died and he doggedly pursued what they were running from,.

The book was published by Random House in 2007, and  has not received much press. For anyone interested in  recent American History, it is a must read.

Without giving too much away, it seems that  part of what got this family on the run was that the FBI was determined to find COMMUNISTS where there were none.  Due to a convergence of circumstances and group dynamics, this led to the family  being on the run.

The events O’Connor  writes about happened about 50 years ago, and that means an awful lot of Americans  don’t remember any of this.

I briefly taught at an alternative High school about 10 years ago. The  kids didn’t want me teaching them African History, they wanted me teaching them my history.  So, I  talked about what radicalized me.

As a teenager, I had heard about Martin Luther King, and civil rights.  My parents did not consider themselves racists, and they weren’t the worst, but all the black people they came into contact with wer servants. They were very influenced by the media. They distrusted King & they really believed he was inciting people to riot.  They had both grown up on the near west side of Chicago, and fled to Rogers Park (on the north side)when  Rogers Park opened up for development.  They saw what negroes did to their former housing. Never mind that  virtually all that housing was owned by absentee landlords and most of it was rental.  I can tell you stories now  about what renters of any race do to rental units (I own one, & I am horrified)—but no matter.

I graduated from grammar school in 1967.  In August of 1968, the Democratic Convention was held in Chicago, and a bunch of people  protesting the Viet Nam War, poverty, and racism– and the Yippies—came to disrupt the convention.   This was before the internet.    They wanted the Democratic Party  to come out with a platform to end the Viet Nam War, and address civil rights and poverty.

A few miscreants caused some trouble, which turned into a riot when the police tear gassed everyone. This was when Mayor  Richard J. Daley said, “The Police are not there to create disorder, but to maintain disorder.”  The Kerner Commission  (one of our few governors who did not go to jail for corruption) characterized what happened as , “A police riot.”

The trial of the Chicago 7  was scheduled very quickly, in 1969.    It’s true…there was a ‘media circus‘, mostly due to the antics of Abbie Hoffman, but the judge for the trial, Julius Hoffman,   had the wrong personality for this particular courtroom.

The musical group Chicago incorporated some of  the recordings of the protesters (“The Whole World is Watching!”) into their  first album, and Crosby, Stills, & Nash  begged people to come to Chicago “Or else join the other side..” because they had bound and gagged Bobby Seales and chained him to a chair.  Bobby Seales was a Black Panther, and they were providing free breakfasts for  very poor children in inner city schools.  They wer also working on developing health clinics in  the very low income communities.  They were doing self-help projects in their communities,

Abby Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Jon Froins,  Lee Weiner, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis — & Bobby Seales, the Conspiracy 8 (7 after Seales was removed & given his own trial) were indicted  for crossing state lines with intent to incite a riot.  In fact,  they didn’t all know each other. There was no conspiracy. There was no internet, no  tapes of tapped phones.

Their lawyers were treated disrespectfully by Judge Hoffman.  I’d come home from school every day & listen to the news, and my teenage self was aghast.  My mother said, “Robyn, you are becoming a radical!”

I replied, “I am not a radical!  They were  drawing attention to  what they hoped the Democratic Party would do!”  But it did radicalize me.

The class I taugh over 30 years later  didn’t believe me.  I told them to ask their parents—and one of my fellow teachers told them to ask their grandparents.

J. Edgar Hoover  really wanted to prove these guys were COMMUNISTS. Alas, they were not.  Sure, they might have been communists or socialists, but Tom Hayden was elected to the legislature in California (& married  Jane Fonda).  Bobby Seales also held an elected office in California.

After Hoover, the head of the FBI until his death, died, it came out that he was a homosexual crossdresser.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that—but there is if —to deflect attention from yourself—you make thee lives of innocent people a living hell. This is what this book is partly about, and what made  O’Connor’s parents paranoia.

Have I become less radical?  No, I have not.  I am somewhat disappointed by Barak Obama, but have to acknowledge he is 1000 times better than John McCain during  this economic crisis that the  Republicans allowed to happen. Deficit? For some reason, as Bush  spent the surplus on the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, it didn’t bother anyone then.

There was a news story on ABC about how  the nonprofits are spending the donations for Haitian Relief…& it seems that only about 1/2 of what was donated is reaching the Haitian people.   YOu would think that , in addition to the Radiacl Moslem Extremists, the FBI would investigate  some of the major nonprofits, like the Red Cross, which are able to  raise public funds based on their reputation—not the ‘bang for the buck’ they get.

We are so affected by media—and the perceptions  we hold are due to media and marketing.  It’s painful to dig deeper.  However, as Santayana said—paraphrasing here…if we don’t recall the past, we will be condemned to repeat it.

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