A double-whammy for me: Tom Hayden’s death just after hearing Bill McKibben at Bioneers makes me cry a bit, then I want to seize the day, Carpe Diem. As Bill McKibben said last weekend at The Bioneers Conference “Give it all you’ve got,” referring then to all the efforts to face off with climate crisis. Tom Hayden inspired earlier generations to take up work for peace and later for social justice and the environment.
Just read a bit about Tom Hayden “overcoming his past” to become a “responsible California Assemblyman.” I’d say no, his past was stellar – he was true to his beliefs and an early ecologist. This from his site in 2014: “My dream is that California under Governor Jerry Brown’s leadership will become a multi-cultural world-class economy powered entirely by renewable resources and energy conservation, and a model to which President Barack Obama can point during the critical global talks on climate change in December 2…” (referring to the Paris climate agreement known as COP).
In Berkeley in the ’60’s, from Santa Monica and in other countries, Hayden called for anti-Vietnam War protestors to rally and to prevail. As a new bride of 21, I was quite impressed with his passion and ability to lead; he never caved; brave and clear and generally humble, my favorite Berkeley radical “outside agitator,” not a Cal student but a force for everything I believed in then, admired for leading from the back of the room, nudging the crowd to be their own leaders, dig in and do the work of stopping an unjust war.
He was the core organizer of SDS, Students for Democratic Society, anti-Vietnam War and pro-democracy group I engaged with SDS as a college sophomore in DeKalb, Illinois, starting a chapter with three guys, creating a march on our streets, traveling together for a March on Washington that remains in my mind as the time a Nazi group yelled at us “We’ll gas you, you Peace Freaks!” Hoping we’re not feeding that kind of sentiment currently, but am afraid we are!
Tom started Community Control of the Police in Berkeley and I invited the group to meet in my commune’s living room. One day, I relished sitting with him in his library during a long-winded meeting of CCP, asking about what he read and his philosophy. Quite a fine human according to me.
I joined up with his Campaign for Economic Democracy years later in San Francisco and lost 15lbs hiking up and down stairs to collect money and signatures to clean up superfund (polluted) sites. Each day of canvassing, you’d meet memorable people who would invite you in for tea and then that one person who believed you had no right to knock on doors and bared their teeth as if to bite.
I was very pleased to help Tom Hayden a last time when I ran a meeting space at 3220 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, a home for visionaries of many stripes. Tom showed up unexpected and requested a press conference in 1/2 hour; I wrote a release and got it running, landing him on, of course, KPFA FM radio, and a few other places.
Last time I saw him he was upbeat at a book signing at Georgia Kelly’s Praxis Peace in Sonoma and after I relayed some of the above to him, he gave me two extra books. I always his newsletters, hoping to learn and agreeing with his assertion that patience is core to any political progress. Needed political changes may take decades rather than months or years but don’t give up or your even slim chance is gone.
“Tom Hayden never lost his passion for social justice,” says a CNN headline. Yea. And he was pretty spiritual, too.
This from Discover the Networks.org:
In the 1970s Hayden organized the Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED), which identified “Corporate Capitalism” as “the source of our ills” — i.e., “racism and sexism and joblessness and wars and inflation and [the] sugar-coated poisonings of our minds and bodies.” Same old nagging issues we face bigtime about now.
This from Jerry Brown:
Governor Brown Issues Statement on the Death of Former Legislator Tom Hayden
SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued the following statement regarding the death of former legislator Tom Hayden: “Tom took up causes that others avoided. He had a real sense of the underdog and was willing to do battle no matter what the odds.”