Rebels With A Cause

Rebels With A Cause

"It isn't the rebels who cause the troubles of the world, it's the troubles that cause the rebels." -- Carl Oglesby, SDS

So true, so true.
My documentary festival continues ...

I watched Rebels With A Cause about the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and the first disc from What We Want What We Believe from NewsReel Films' Black Panther Party archives (there are four discs on this and I'm watching one a week so that I can really process each) last weekend. Both were inspiring to see how strong and organized each movement was and how committed so many young people of that era were. Yet it was a reminder of how much we lack that form of large scale, give-it-all-up organizing for social justice today.

It was so disgraceful to see the Black Panther members being criminalized for their social justice programs (and even more so for just being Black), such as the children's breakfast program -- what an amazing example of community DIY response to racist America. It was also surprising to see how naive SDS leaders were about the records/files that the government was keeping on so many of its members, as well as infilitrating their organizing efforts, following them, and giving directives to stop these "rebels" by "any means necessary." And we know that hasn't changed -- I'm currently on the terrorist threat list at airports. I hope that I have the opportunity to view my files at some point.

This past week I watched Riding the Rails about the 250,000 youth (boys and girls) who left home and hopped freight trains during the Depression. I'm sure my grandfather was one of them (I need to check with my dad). For some of them it was the best experience they've ever had (one guy is still doing it every summer at 70) and for others it was the worst and they wouldn't wish it on anyone. I think the difference lies in the reason for having to hop trains to begin with. It seemed pretty clear that for the kids who were forced to leave to go out and try to find work and send money home, it sucked; and for the kids who saw it as a great adventure, it was just that.

Finally I watched Be Here To Love Me about Townes Van Zandt last night. I was left with such such strong, conflicting, and familiar emotions ...
I think my favorite scene, which is in both Heartworn Highways and Be Here To Love Me, is when he's at his cabin in Tennessee and with his girlfriend and neighbor and he starts singing the first song he ever wrote Waiting Around To Die:

Sometimes I don't know where this dirty road is taking me
Sometimes I can't even see the reason why
I guess I keep on gamblin', lots of booze and lots of ramblin'
It's easier than just a-waitin' 'round to die

One-time friends I had a ma, I even had a pa
He beat her with a belt once cause she cried
She told him to take care of me, she headed down to Tennessee
It's easier than just a-waitin' 'round to die

I came of age and found a girl in a Tuscaloosa bar
She cleaned me out and hit it on the sly
I tried to kill the pain, I bought some wine and hopped a train
Seemed easier than just a-waitin' 'round to die

A friend said he knew where some easy money was
We robbed a man and brother did we fly
The posse caught up with me, drug me back to Muskogee
It's two long years, just a-waitin' 'round to die

Now I'm out of prison, I got me a friend at last
He don't steal or cheat or drink or lie
His name's codeine, he's the nicest thing I've seen
Together we're gonna wait around and die