Notes from an SDS Re-Union
By Michael Rossman
We are given signs, but not their meanings. Fifty miles into Wyoming, we pulled off the highway, weary from all night at the wheel, and I bounded over ancient sea-bottom straight to my first pieces ever of dinosaur bone. All the rest of the way to Michigan I puzzled them, trying to fit them together -- those fragments from the head of a huge extinct creature, dark with history, luminous with mystery.
We ourselves were two fragments from the head of a huge extinct creature, on pilgrimage to join a hundred more to spend a week recovering our history and mystery at an SDS reunion. Remember SDS? Let's hear it for nostalgia, old home week, terror and devastation! Let's hear it for how our history has been buried, effaced, a national resource despoiled! For not one person in twenty now can recite the basic facts about Students for a Democratic Society, if they recall that name at all.
SDS was born in earnest in 1962, when its "Port Huron Statement" codified the spirit of the young New Left, on the rise after the absolute destruction of the previous American Left in the red-hunts of the Cold War. By 1966, with 200,000 members in 300 chapters nationwide and a million sympathizers, SDS had become the main organizational force in the white Movement -- a loose alliance of political activists who worked at first for civil rights and liberties, participatory democracy; then for more various campus and community causes; and finally, desperately, against the War as the bombings escalated.
By then SDS had also become the main white target, from without and from within. A vicious program of governmental repression jailed its organizers, purged professors and incited dupes to dynamite; while within its national caucuses and local chapters, vulturous sectarian groups tore the body to pieces in ideological dispute.
Fondling my fossils as we drove, I remembered the passionate men and women I met during the years of my campus travels; and remembered how it came to the crunch in 1969, when my friends came drifting back ghost-faced from the final SDS National Convention, shattered, unable quite to explain what had been destroyed, within them and without, in the most bitter political infighting of my generation.
This more intimate destruction is my story here, in part to right a betrayal. For all the public ever learned from the media was that SDS was some gang of crazies, addicted to assault on property and authority, responsible for every random act of political violence in the land (and, likely enough, only these.) From the Days of Rage in 1969 came the bombings, the Weatherpeople, who went underground to continue them and are there still -- thus runs the popular mythology of SDS, recording one frozen, sensationalized image from the historical instant in which impotent frustration turned for some into violence.
One would never know from this that SDS engaged for a long time a good portion of the best minds, the most richly generous and adventurous and complex spirits of my generation. This story, and their subsequent fate, have -- by some strange trick of social anesthesia -- been erased from America's consciousness, just as the fate of my parents' Left was written out of public mind, and is only now (twenty-five years later!) surfacing, most pointedly in the Rosenberg case.
It is now eight years after SDS was destroyed; I am 37. All that most young people seem to know today about the Movement of the Sixties is that it was quite exciting and romantic, that it tried to change America's institutions, and that it failed. Some say it died when SDS died. I don't know. The Movement I knew was never an organization, gave no membership cards. It was rather a collective spirit working through us, at once political and holy (though we lacked a language to confess this.) And SDS was only a form the spirit took for a time, before it changed the time and the time changed us in turn.
So I mused, as the turnpikes I once traveled from campus to campus led me back, recalling the rhetoric of that time --"Power to the People! Power and participation in the decisions that determine our lives!" -- and how my friends and I had tried to carry this mandate into a movement for educational reform, as others had tried to carry it into medicine and community health, labor unions, law, social work and welfare rights, new therapies, community organizing, appropriate technology. As I took my own night-shift at the wheel, my body more full of aches than it had been in my twenties, I felt like a living fossil myself, a man of the Movement, a madman, a sociologist, still thinking that Movement goes on, wanting its rightful history restored, and struggling with these particular mysteries:
Why the myth that the Movement died with SDS or at Kent State, when almost every way one could measure it -- by the numbers, ages and kinds of people involved; by the places and ways in which they worked for change; by the persistence, realism and sophistication of their efforts -- the Movement Toward a New America (as Mitchell Goodman named his great assemblage of its writing) continued steadily to develop during the Seventies?
And why the myth that it failed? It was crucial in bringing the War to an end, and in toppling at least one president. And it bequeathed us neither success nor failure, but ongoing struggle. For if America's institutions are yet much the same or growing worse, they have still within them and beyond more beach-heads where people work actively for change than ever before during my life. And the Movement's political expressions and cultural mutations have come now to penetrate so many domains of American life, from the most private (changed sex roles) to the most public (nuclear energy) that even to index them would take a long essay.
But there's a shorter way: I know the Movement did not die, for I am the mover and the moved, I carry it on as best I understand it and mostly not by that name, embarrassed at being a dinosaur, lonely at the living. Thus have I done for seven years now, gone to ground after the craziness of the sixties -- become a householder and a father, a teacher, grounding my skills in a trade, grateful to have survived with some chance still to make modestly real, in my life and by my work, the humane and political values that moved me and much of my generation to action in the sixties.
I speak as a survivor, this is my version of the common biography I expected to find among the hundred random survivors convening in the Michigan woods. For I knew how many each had gone to ground like me, were lonely still trying to carry some progress on, and nervous about touching that old pain, vast, encapsulated.
Because something had died, without a doubt. For why were we lonely and for what, but for some vanished solidarity -- destroyed, betrayed -- that had let us imagine ourselves one Movement in a chaotic land? And it wasn't just us who since had fumbled on, lonely, after our center failed to hold. A million young people were involved in the Movement, in making the serious changes of the Sixties; and most of them are still doing what they can to carry on their versions of its insights and mandates, often in odd places and companies indeed.
And most all, no doubt, feeling isolated in some crucial way, beyond and within their tight groups of friends or work. Ask almost any of these who carry the Movement on, and they will tell you it died around 1969. What a paradox, this isolated throng! And who are we then together but a huge creature without a sense of self, detached from our past, unable to reclaim it, in part because the devastation it contained and the challenges with which it faced us have not yet been resolved?
For something indeed did fail in the Movement -- not only our nerve in the face of the guns, our open organization in the face of sabotage and stress, but also our trust in each other, our support for each other, and (perhaps most crucially) our imagination, our ability to grasp the whole, the wholeness, of what was going on and what was to be done.
We failed this task of ideology -- indeed, we hardly began it. We had scarcely dragged Marxism out of the closet for a new look, and begun to update its notion of the working class, when the fundamental perspectives of feminism, ethnicity, gay liberation, the body, transcendental experience, ecology, ageism, humanistic psychology and post-industrial cybernation were clamoring for account.
There was no way to put it all together in a short time. It just blew our minds. And ever since, I think, we have been weaving our individual paths through the rich chaotic mix around us, still somewhat stunned, and awaiting a signal again that it makes sense, all of it together -- that there is indeed some way to honor all of what now seems necessary: a coherent way of thought, of practice, of life, of social being. Nothing less will do, and without this nothing one does quite makes sense.
I believe it was this in the end, the search for this signal of a new integrity, that brought us hurrying to rendezvous at the gates of Hell, (Mich.), an aging vanguard regathering to touch the live nerve of time.
Coming to the SDS reunion, re-encountering the history of the Movement, was like coming to a great city devastated by bombs, years later, when the radiation has finally died down enough to allow the survivors to creep in from the outskirts to peer toward where the center had been, reckon what had happened, and confront each other on the blasted ground.
But we came there for more, we came to work a magic -- a healing ritual, born only of and for our few private lives, yet perhaps with a larger meaning. The magic was not only to re-unite our past with our present. It was to achieve our own re-union, to make something whole from the rich, scattered fragments of our lives, if only for a week in the woods -- something wholer than what fell apart, enriched by what we've learned since: not an organization but a lived gesture of meaning, a social action.
I put it so because there are many stories to be told of our reunion and I have space for only one. The transcripts of our political discussions alone would fill three timely books. You can imagine the tale of a gang of quite ordinary folks, old friends and strangers getting it on for a week at a lodge by a lake, reminiscing, flirting, boozing it up in the kitchen, boogeying till late; and the FBI will imagine its own story of the affair.
Here I imagine a deeper myth, of death and of re-birth.
All Sunday afternoon we came drifting in from far corners of the land. We looked each other over to see what the years had done, traded stories as we prowled the grounds. It wasn't much, all things considered -- only enough of us bore the scars of political beatings or prison years to remind us how few did, and the dead were absent.
We were in our late twenties to early forties, like a million other survivors just growing into the prime of life. In the wrinkles at our eyes I read the strains and pleasures of our maturation. A decade later, we are solider, mellower, and pitched to survival -- this one in a rare college tolerating radical social scientists, that one as a therapist, another in the woods -- and to a bit more, still committed in a bewildering variety of ways each to moving a democratic spirit on.
And we are still young, we are strong, we have energy to begin again -- not only with this project and that one, for yet another decade and another, but also perhaps one time again for the big one. Everyone there knew it; we carried ourselves like proud crippled animals, wounded by hope once denied. And we vowed at the start, for the sake of what we hoped to do there, not to talk of forming another organization.
That night was our first group meeting, a ritual that set the week's tone. After dinner we sat around in a loose circle without a center, while the reunion's organizers took brief turns telling why they had shaped the week as they had, and what they hoped would come of it. And then we spoke with each other, in the open circle of testament, where each one calls upon the next until all who are moved to speak are heard.
We spoke each of why we came and what we wanted from the week. Our many answers in time included whatever you would have said, for that is the way of such circles. When my turn came, I said I hoped to hear us speak together as fragments of a large collective mind, thinking a very complex social thought in the slow time of history; and during the week I did.
The next morning we split into small groups and sat around in the grass all day talking about what we'd been doing, what sense we had made of our lives since SDS fell apart. As we took turns telling our tales, we were putting together the collective biography of our generation, or the part of it we moved within and spoke for once -- making sense of it, not in grand theory but by hearing all its parts.
Most of us had passed through some private agony, breaking and re-forming, after the general fall. We spoke of the variety of our personal odysseys, our lonely infiltration into so many domains of American life, our struggles to keep on making meaning through our work and lives against the grain of a society of meaningless corruption, the efforts of the spirit needed to sustain these struggles, the awkward tortuous rich courses of our relationships, our growth. Whatever our place in history, little is special about our experience in the Seventies. Millions share it.
Yet we were graced to share it there. A day was far too short a time, and we were still too shy to do it right, despite the trust we tried to offer as we told our tales. For most had come with the secret fear that what they had managed to do was inadequate or worse, "not political enough"; and it took time to let the mutual respect, the determination to hear our differences rather than react to them, sink in.
Face-to-face in our circles on the autumn grass, together we formed a complex mandala, invoking a present spirit -- digesting each other's lives, becoming one, as we prepared to digest our past.
That night we gathered for our first formal session, a panel discussion on the New Left, how it came to be, what its impact and meaning were for America -- as seen now not in the heat of action but in time's perspective. The transcript of our talk, which continued the next day, would make a good introduction to recent American history for college freshmen. But what mattered more to the spirit we were evoking was the theater of the event, subtle and personal.
For as he began, the first speaker made wry reference to the fact that once again, as so often long ago, he was standing in the center making a speech. I remembered what it was like, being a male "heavy" in the Movement, a sometimes leader -- and that amazing time at the decade's end when that role fell apart for me and so many others. For years, it seemed, one couldn't take on any kind of leadership, bad or good, without being attacked by someone fresh in the flush of their first indiscriminate rebellion against authority. And as if getting shot down by one's presumed compatriots wasn't enough, there was the inward crumbling. As the perspectives of women's liberation seeped in, I came more and more to doubt, often with justice, the aggressive impulses and skills which had enabled me to claim public space, make myself heard in the crowd.
The crumbling was pretty complete. It removed many of us from leadership roles for years, while we went through private changes trying to rebuild our inner assurance on sounder grounds, and waited for the time's tempers to change. For only when enough of us had gone through such changes, and only when enough groups of people accumulated who had experienced such early phases of working together and didn't need to repeat them, only then could we move on to something else, some better mode of shared authority and work.
And so as the speaker went on, into what proved a brilliant analysis, I felt the thrill of his liberation, which was our own as well. For something had changed -- it was clear even in the moment, as we leaned forward to hear him and the other featured speakers, rather than keep independent distance shaking our heads. When the panel ended we ignored the scheduled question period, and instead rose in turn to speak, extending their interpretation of our history, until the collective mind was once again (as it had patiently become the previous night) satisfied with its say.
I cannot name the magic of it. Yet in some sense each speaker there stood redeemed, enabled to stand once again in a circle of peers, sharing the full force of his or her unique vision and insight -- but now oppressing no one by taking the space, by acting to lead the flow. I felt the flow of energy through us as each spoke, no longer the speaker's but our own, our power restored to us through her or him. And I too felt redeemed, in the presence of the spirit of democracy, the mystery in which we are unique and yet together one.
We had come together, shared ourselves some, practiced making our energies one again. With this as our ground, the next day our reunion went deeper, into the "transition" years 1968-9 when everything fell apart, and the question, "What happened to us?"
Remembering the early angry days of female liberation, some thought the impulse to deal with old accounts might come from the women. It came instead from the gay men, whose workshop on Homophobia -- dealing, in the end, with self-hate -- went on all afternoon, engulfing people as they surfaced from the other workshops, till we were sucked together into the emotional pits.
It was a grave and orderly ritual, however spontaneous were the expressions of passion which gave it form. First our gay brothers stood to testify to the wrongs we had done each other. How it had been, to work together for freedom and justice, while living in constant fear of being found out a faggot. The invisible humiliations, lovers' suicides, no support, finally falling away! Didn't an organization that treated its own like that deserve to die? And had the straight men there yet faced their own contradictions which had made it that way?
The closet once opened, our wronged thronged out. This one purged from his chapter because the police accused him of holding one joint; that one whose friends froze him out without a word after false hear-say about his "racist" attitudes; the friend who froze him out. Our shames and our failures, personal and collective. The women testified about their old oppression, and what it cost the Movement's flow. They've come a long way since then, farthest of us all, and spoke in balance and without rancor, though with honest pain and anger. More ragged and unpracticed were the outbursts of class sentiment, as those of working-class background said at last how oppressive the intellectual and social elitism of SDS had been, even while it was dedicating itself in Marxist sympathy to The Workers.
The poets told how they had had to diminish themselves, hide their work to be taken as politically serious. And one sister grit her teeth as she accepted the task of tasking us with the enormous fact that she was the only person of color whatsoever there. "Where did you go in 1965?" she cried, "Did you think Stokley spoke for us all?" -- reminding us of how relieved we'd been, as well as how unsure, to hear him tell us to go home and work among our own kind, which we did, shifting white energy from civil rights to the anti-war movement. "Why couldn't you see me? Did you think I was a fool, to hang in with you?"
As she recounted her past and present pain and loneliness, as every voice there spoke, we were struck heart and mind by the most private pains, by the largest social issues, all still unresolved. And we knew, assembled there, part of the answer to what happened to SDS, how we helped destroy ourselves in the stress.
Children of America, we inherited her every contradiction, alive in our habits to burden us as we worked to change her. Nor could we let this lie. Instead we tore at the lie within our own body, determined in the end to make our own lives and groups reflect our beliefs, be the ground where we practiced utopia, where we would have all deep needs met, or bring the whole game down. Idealists, we expected the most of ourselves; judgmental, we criticized at close quarters. It's a wonder there was anything left for Progressive Labor to tear apart at the end.
Yet though SDS died, we survived -- and more, we grew, over the years re-forming ourselves, enough at least for this remarkable ritual. For the afternoon's litany of pain and wrong was not a blind thrashing, a destructive round of collective guilt-tripping. It was rather, simply, our confession, our testament, our reconnection to the history we had lived through -- articulate about the damage done, and almost without blame. For how could we deny the necessary truths about who we were at the time?
I cried on and off all afternoon; it was neither my first day of tears nor my last. A lot of people were crying, it was by far the most tearful political affair I'd ever seen -- wetter than an encounter group, and perhaps more authentic. For never before in my experience had any significant political group gathered together to touch so deep, so intimate a pain. And that act, that historical instant, felt as luminous and as transformative as any of the key instants of the Sixties.
That night we turned outward again, to sketch in the rest of the devastation that struck us during those years. We recalled how our fight against the War grew to engulf our energies, starving out our broader projects, inspiring us to despair as each more vigorous protest seemed only to bring escalations in troop commitments and technology, at home as abroad. But how we had misread the situation, when the Vietnamese instead rejoiced at each such escalation, seeing them as evidences of the loss of control that would lead the U.S. to defeat! And the irony, of our being instrumental in ending the War even while we fell wearily away, convinced of our impotence!
Meanwhile a rich chaos took our minds, as I mention above. By the time the New Left got over its brash innocence and realized that it needed a conceptual frame to support its moral purpose, we were swamped with conflicting and fragmentary perspectives. What person, what group, what program could comprehend them all? In the end, the attempt to cohere a new center of thought and action -- which SDS represented for the Movement, and the Movement for America -- fell apart. As people peeled off into dozens of camps, regrouping, so our thought fell apart again into this stream and that -- bequeathing us our present state, pregnant with unresolved contradictions and unaccomplished syntheses.
And then, as if the war and a blown mind weren't enough to do us in, there was repression and sabotage. The best estimates so far say the FBI alone mounted over 3,000 separate "actions" against SDS, in COINTELPRO and other programs, while Progressive Labor played along, provoking factional disputes to destroy the organization. And we recalled the texture of those years in which our friends were beaten, tailed, jailed for planted dope and absurd conspiracy charges, learned to travel armed and distrust old friends, were duped into rash actions by provocateurs and their own frustrations and paranoias -- or simply recoiled weary, seeking peace for a time.
From inside and from outside, then, this devastation came, to SDS, to the Movement. We never knew what hit us -- not the whole, though we knew parts. The collapse of our collective identity was so sudden and bewildering that it has taken us these eight years to begin to pool our understandings of what happened, to commemorate the many dimensions of our stress and failure in public space and ritual, as a prelude to moving on.
I remembered the demolition of the previous American Left, seared into my adolescent memory by the Rosenbergs' execution; I remembered the FBI/police slaughter decimating the small chapters of the Black Panther Party, and how our own harassments had seemed pale in comparison. And I realized suddenly how strange, protracted and deep our own agony had been, after all -- how I had somehow numbed myself to it, refused to feel its depth, all these years until I myself was part of the evidence assembled, in a group convened for this testament and supportive enough of each other to let this pain into the open at last as a collective artifact, rather than as the private wrenching and numbness it has been for so many during these years.
The next night, we remembered our dead.
We invent the rituals we need again, simply, from the beginning. At lunch someone put up a large sheet of paper; and all afternoon, between workshops analyzing the mistakes and strengths of our old perspectives and strategies, we came privately to write down names. After dinner we gathered again, put the list on a table in the center, added to it, lit candles around it. Two flutes and a marimba improvised a slow invocation. And then self-consciousness dropped away, as the rabbi read out the names, pausing after each for those alive to have their say.
There was no order to it, only the graveyard's random democracy, rich as our lives. We remembered our parents and teachers, our peers -- blown apart by their own explosives, riddled by government bullets, driven to suicide, died on the road or from early cancer, climbing mountains, doing drugs, in peaceful slumber after long productive lives. Between Weatherwoman and SNCC organizer, one sang the songs of the old union women he'd worked with in Appalachia; between lovers and artists we were reminded of A.J. Muste, Paul Goodman, Malcolm X, spirits of peace and righteousness and common sense.
Few names passed in silence. With most, someone would rise, and often more than one, to identify the dead and the nature of their work, or remember some vivid scene, something learned, something given. And as the list ran on, its randomness became a systematic chronicle of fifty years of struggle, an index to the many streams of progressive movement in America; and a guide to the many ways in which these spirits of the past have shaped us, nourish us still, and make us the bearers of a proud tradition.
Of course there were tears galore, and more, those gasps when someone heard what happened to a former lover, or when fifty people got the news all at once. By the time that one happened I had cried enough to come clear inside and to remember something simple and astounding, luminous in our litany. There had once been people who committed themselves to the task of taking on the whole system and turning it around. They had lived in our past and in other lands. And in the Sixties, quite early, quite mad, a few scattered groups of young people, SDS included, had thought it possible to begin to organize a movement that could do it; and actually began to try.
What colossal arrogance! How history had its revenge! Yet we shook the State; and in our circle there the dead spoke again to remind us of each holocaust, nuclear, fascistic, that threatens ever more despite our efforts.
"Too much!" I cried out, as someone added yet another to the load. By then we had spoken for twice as many dead as were present alive, and the walls of the room and my head were throbbing with the pressure. "Don't interrupt," she said; and then gently finished saying that it was time to remember the future, and spoke for us the names of her children and their ages. As the healing impulse ran around our circle, we spoke our children's names, in voices raw with feeling, until their young spirits danced in the circle's center. Most, like my son, were named after the dead, many after the dead we had named. Their names, their spirits, stood beside us, flanking us fore and aft in history, in the purpose of generations. It was a holy moment, and it made us whole, leaving us free at some deep level to begin again.
During the next two days, still somewhat dazed, we began again. Looking over the Seventies, we discussed the current political situation, the state of the Left, prospects for radical change, how to go about it, some efforts in progress, what they might have to do with our lives. We began timidly to explore the differences we had soft-pedaled for the sake of harmony there, and wondered how to help knit together the many networks of people now working for a great variety of fundamental changes. We asked what the hardest question we face now is; our answers ran from love through Marx to quantum physics, and all of them rang true.
We reached no conclusions, formed no new organization -- though we did undertake one belated last action in SDS's name, a Freedom of Information Act suit to uncover the grim details of what our own government did to us. We agreed to meet again in a year. And then it was time to go, to slip back into our anonymous lives and works across the land, and begin again the slow conversations we had interrupted for this one which deepened them.
What stays with me is what I saw being born through us, in a process slow as life itself, as we met in Hell to bury SDS. For we are still in movement; and who we were with each other there, and how we worked together, had changed in many ways since we went at social action in the Sixties.
Nearly as many women as men were involved, and they took equal share in organizing, leading and enriching our reunion. At the end one feminist spoke for many, to say what a rare joy it had been to work with the men, opening new potentials of cooperation. Gay men in turn called it the first time they'd found, within a political community, straight men with whom they could feel in sympathy, who had learned somewhat to engage the softness in themselves.
All this was not from inner changes alone, but because we had designed a way to work together which honored our feelings as much as it honored our minds, all the political thought unreported here. This in turn was because we are learning to value the quality of our process together, as much as the content it produces -- again a striking change from the politics of the past. Or rather, an evolution: for in the reunion's careful planning, in the week's spontaneous creativity and in our own persons there, we brought together the hard political learnings of the Sixties and since, with the softer "psychological" learnings of the Seventies.
In such ways and more, our affair was indeed a re-union -- not only of people who had been divided, but of the ideas and impulses which helped tear us apart long ago, and which led us then into divergent ways, our isolated communities of survival, work and growth. Now we found ourselves able to bring the intellectual, political, therapeutic, artistic and spiritual learnings we have slowly been accumulating together to make something whole, for one brief time, one particular purpose. It was an early wedding, temporary, clumsy despite its grace, more strained than I have said; but it worked.
No problem had been solved, no contradiction resolved; every tension between our perspectives asked urgently to be addressed. Yet we were clearly met upon changed ground, more able and willing to address them together, wanting to begin again. Something was being born through us, in pain and joy, something more whole than what we were burying. Our collective ritual itself was the signal I think we came seeking -- a symbol, a transient living promise that we may yet find some way to put it all together, this wondrous and terrifying complexity, to govern our lives justly in the whole.
If I call this a re-birth, it's because one thing seemed unchanged to me since the earliest days of SDS, or rather reaffirmed. In the way the reunion's organizing collective worked together and with us all, in the circles and ways in which we met together, I saw us still trying to incarnate the spirit of participatory democracy -- yet now with a somewhat more mature vision, taking its mandate to mean that not only each person and group, but each basic perspective and each aspect of our being, should have a fair share of participation and power in the decisions and actions which determine who we are together.
This was the spirit which animated us once, the gift we sought to offer America as patriotic children, seeking the forms of a more perfect union. Rebuked, our lives much changed, it animates us still. Perhaps it is one name for what is still being born.
Heading homeward, I wondered what our re-union meant, beyond its place in our few private lives. Granted, it was a special occasion, and we were a special crew. But also we are ordinary people, who have shared with the Movement's other survivors, and with millions more younger and older, this past decade's diverse tides of experience and learning; and our meeting was just something we took time in our lives to do seriously together. The integrity we realized so briefly there now broods in them all as it does in us, potential, each time we turn to purposeful action -- though I have been taught by a hard decade how slowly anything comes to pass, and against what inner odds.
As the Bicentennial faded, an empty symbol, we began organizing our re-union. While we were planning it, coal miners and textile workers went on the move, gays rallied against Anita's crusade, the handicapped sat in at the capitol, the "human potential" movement geared to enter politics, Nader's Raiders plugged away, the farm-workers began a new support drive, and the Clamshell Alliance took on nuclear industry as anti-apartheid protests flared on California campuses and rural ecologists organized regional stands. While we met in Michigan, SNCC veterans were holding their own reunion, the first conference of feminist songwriters began, and the western chapters of Progressive Labor were breaking free to go independent.
Many people were beginning again, in many ways. This was not new, it had been happening ever since the Movement died, howevermuch the media said it was all over; but this year it was happening more, in a quiet surge of energy across the land. Nothing had been solved, nothing resolved; almost every predicament seemed worse. There was still nothing to belong to that one could name, no perspective, group, or movement that could honor all that needed to be honored -- only the partial, temporary shelters we had made for our survival and our work, plus some deep, inchoate images of what might be possible to guide us.