It’s déjà vu all over again again. Years and years ago, back in the early seventies when subjects that were once taboo, were taboo no more. It was the age of Norman Lear, Phil Donahue, Watergate Hearings, the Equal Rights Amendment, and John and Yoko cohosting a whole week on Mike Douglas. That’s pretty fucked up, isn’t it? But in such a good way. There was the first Earth Day. Somebody developed a spanking new icon-to-be, the ecology emblem. (I had stickers of it on my fifth grade notebook.) These were the “good old days.”
The emblem never took. (Hey, those kids who lived through the gas crisis are the ones buying the biggest, fattest gas-guzzling SUVs and whining when the price of gas goes up. Americans can’t seem to think past their own nose. Fran, you commie prevert you!)
Yesterday, a good friend of mine posted a recent poll result from Gallup that roughly four out of every ten Americans believe in strict creationism. Say what!?! Four out of ten, you’ve got to be kidding me. No wonder science in this country is in the toilet. Science is getting kicked into the gutter, and only I and another friend of ours bothered to be disgusted and frightened by these numbers. Call me crazy, but this just can’t be good. Could it?
What happened from those heady early seventies?
My brother told me about the anti-war march (Spring of 1970: post covert bombing of Cambodia and post Kent State) which started at Paul D. Schreiber High School (of the Union Free Port Washington School District) and ended in a park opposite the A&S way down on Northern Blvd- Manhasset Valley Park for a rally. That’s one fucking long hike!
I think somewhere along the line the student marchers walked past the local draft board somewhere on Northern Blvd. Eventually these Schreiber kids hooked up with a sizable contingent from Great Neck. This was one fucking big deal. Doug recalls (he was in eigth grade, so he was still at Carrie Palmer Weber Junior High School of the Union Free Port Washington School District) that the Weber students were threatened with suspension if they did not appear at school the day of the march. No complaining about napalm and bombing innocent civilians for you.
Well, Doug did march along with our mother (as did my eldest brother) and Mrs. Cohen (she needs no explaining) and her daughter Beth who was also a student at Weber. In our house, it was pretty much impossible to be radical when our parents were as or more radical than we. We just hadn’t caught up yet. C’mon, I had just reached double digits. (I turned 10.) I still had much to learn. So please cut me a break.) But I do understand Doug’s sheepishness marching with “his Mommy.” The rest of Weber stayed put.
Déjà vu. Did I say something about déjà vu? Back in the early days of Midday Live. Before Bill Boggs. It was hosted by Lee Leonard who must have had the activist Bill Baird as a guest. And I remember so vividly, a black and white photo of a naked woman, her butt high in the air. Her head and torso front down on the floor. She was dead. From an illegal abortion. I ask anyone, could that photo ever appear on television today?
Abortion is taboo in Hollywood. Look at Knocked Up, Juno. Where the “family- planning clinic” was made to look like it was staffed with a bunch of insensitive, uncaring people. If the vignette of the receptionist snapping gum, on personal phone call with her feet crossed on the desk appeared to epitomize incompetence, the director succeeded.
Could Maude get her abortion today? Walter his vasectomy? Could they even venture to speak of them now? And in the same episode no less? (After the discovery of Maude's pregnancy, Walter was going "to get a vasectomy after golf." To which Maude replies, "Vasectomy after golf? It sounds like a new play by Noel Coward.") I don’t think so.
That photograph. It was obscene. Here was some young woman forever immortalized for the audacity of getting pregnant. In The Pianist, a woman was shot in the back. Dead. She ended up lying dead in that very same position as that poor woman in my Midday Live photo. No swooning graceful death allowed. It was obscene.
Cut to 1991. There is a pro-choice rally at twenty-third and Broadway? I could be wrong, but where the thing was is irrelevant. I went with Doug, his girlfriend, and her brother, a priest (not in garb) who was also pro-choice, That’s one helluva priest. As I look around, what do I see? A placard of that black and white photo of the naked dead woman. Butt still in the air. As horrific as when I first saw it. My jaw dropped to the pavement. My god, how far have we come from all that hope and belief that we could actually make a difference like we had in those early seventies?
Why this now? I’d been thinking of the power of seeing that photograph some twenty-odd years after I innocently bumped into it on Midday Live. Can you believe this would be an appropriate topic on television today?
Today, a Facebook member referred to the Nixon Senate Hearings as bleak. Rather I found them kind of refreshing. Exhilarating even. So I write and write…
In the Schreiber of the early 1970s, the school organized an assembly with Bill Baird and a person representing the belief that abortion is murder. Could this have happened at our Schreiber? No fucking way. The goddamned 1980 Yearbook advisor couldn’t admit that a smoke bomb spoiled “Holiday Cookie Day” and refused to allow it to be mentioned. It’s thinking like that that landed us all in the land of “Morning in America.”
Everybody, please open your eyes.