Keeping retirement weird.


June, 1967.

One of my favorite sites on Facebook is the Zinn Education Project.

The Zinn Education Project promotes and supports teaching a people’s history. Teachers who need resources for teaching people’s history and social justice can find them here: Coordinated by Rethinking Schools ( and Teaching for Change (

Every day the Zinn Education Project shows up on my Facebook feed with a photograph from The Movement. And since it was a movement I have participated in I feel like I am looking at a personal photo album.

Remember photo albums? Shoe boxes?

Yesterday this picture showed up on the feed:


It was accompanied by this commentary:

On Nov 6, 1965, five men burned their draft cards in solidarity with Catholic pacifist David Miller who became the first U.S. war protester to publicly burn his draft card on 10/15/65 in direct violation of a recently passed federal law forbidding such acts. FBI agents later arrested him; he was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to two years’ in prison. Photo: (l-r) Thomas Cornell, Marc Paul Edelman (now Marco Polo), Roy Lisker, David McReynolds, and James Wilson. On the right is 80-year-old pacifist A.J. Muste, whose work connected the labor, anti-war, and Civil Rights Movements.

This immediately brought back my draft card story.

Two years after this event pictured above I was at a large anti-war protest in Los Angeles. President Lyndon Johnson was speaking a $500-a-plate fundraising dinner at the swank Century Plaza Hotel in posh Century City, nestled between Beverly Hills and wealthy Westwood.

I joined thousands of anti-war protesters who at gathered at nearby Cheviot Hills Park for a march through Century City. The plan was to end up in front of the hotel where Johnson was speaking. The pre-march rally was like a summer festival, vendors selling hot dog and young people flying kites. As my friends and I walked around the park we spotted Movement celebrities like Benjamin Spock and H. Rap Brown.

And Muhammad Ali.

Ali was a personal hero of mine for refusing induction into the army in violation of the Draft laws.

A crowd of young men surrounded Ali with their draft cards waving in one hand and pens in another in order to have him autograph their cards.

And I joined them.

Thanks to the LAPD, however, I never did make it to the front of the hotel.

7 thoughts on “Keeping retirement weird.

  1. Ditto on Muhammad Ali. I still love him and respect him for his courage. I was a young, scared, confused kid at that time. Many of my friends and classmates were coming back from Viet Nam in boxes. I didn’t want to go. My Dad was upset with me for my not wanting to fight for “democracy”. Those were some wild times. Thank God that I’m still here and never had to serve in Viet Nam. I dodged a bullet.

    The corrupt, corporate people who are running the show seemed to have come up with a brilliant (but ugly) solution. Outsource most of the jobs for young people……except for the military. So today if a young person cannot find a job, there is always a hitch in the military that can be used as a last resource. I almost forgot, there is a way out of the military – just sign on the dotted line and take out this high interest loan so that you can go to college. This solution is working so well, that a draft is no longer even needed.

    In an effort to quiet any possible protests, young people are being lulled to sleep by TV Reality Shows, and the corporately owned media peddling gobs of non-news about the Kardashians, Miley Cyrus, and other non-talented celebrities. There are probably quite a few young people who know more about Lamar Odom’s choice of herbal Viagra than they do about GMO’s. America has a lot of house cleaning to do.

  2. Remember that day well. Summer between 10th and 11th grade. We lived in an apartment on Beverly Glen, just north of Olympic, and about a mile from Century City. There was constant (and rather scary) low loud buzz of official helicopters all through the day. (Not as frightening of course as what the Vietnamese people were going through at the same time.) My parents told my brother and me to stay indoors. I was 14 and not yet very political.

  3. We can agree perhaps that Howard Zinn was a great scholar who broke new ground in the teaching of American history. In his later years he might have supported taking from the rich to pay everything that public employees were promised by legislatures which didn’t know what they were doing. I doubt he’d have supported public employee retirement packages valued at $2 million.

    I found a bit of enlightenment at
    “The AFT’s attack on Zinn, like its support for the Common Core Curriculum, demonstrates that the union loyally defends the status quo. [Sam] Wineburg’s attack is in part a preemptive attack, a warning that it will do its best to see that no exposure of the ruling elite is presented in middle- and high school classrooms. Just as it actively assisted the witch-hunt 60 years ago, it will back or organize similar attacks in the future. Many teachers are rightly enraged by American Educator ’s attack on Zinn. They must also see, however, that the AFT’s treachery is part of the role played by the unions as a whole. The defense of public education and historical truth is bound up with the defense of living standards and all basic social rights, and requires a political struggle against the bipartisan attacks of big business and their union accomplices.”

    Not sure if you’re AFT or NEA or whether you and the Loyal Readers would like to reflect on whether the unions have served teachers (and education) well. In a few years we will be in a better position to judge.

    • Teacher unionism has served teachers and students exceptionally well. As for union leadership it has been a mixed bag. I am not able to know what Professor Zinn would say. Unlike you I do not speak for the dead.

  4. Defy the draft laws and observe the pension laws. Who picks what laws to follow? Cognitive dissonance perhaps. We all experience it from time to time. Rahm and Rauner and the shouts of retired public employees who strike in defiance of a different law that they don’t like.

    • At least we have gotten you to agree that our pension is governed by the law. Slow progress. But progress just the same. Those who violated the draft laws went to jail. Can we do the same to pension thieves?

  5. Unfortunately the folks you call pension thieves were themselves “public servants” and as long as they were acting in their official capacity they have “immunity.” That means they can’t be prosecuted or sued for the mess they created. And yes, the pensions were created by a law and are treated as “contracts” and accordingly protected by the constitution. The IL supreme court is the last word on what the constitutional provision means and I respect the decision and its reasoning. “Protected by law” is similar to “insured” or “guaranteed.” The promise is only as good as the ability to pay. An insolvent city or a state whose legislators won’t vote for tax increases or pension appropriations leaves retirees with an uncollectable debt. Bankruptcy is the last resort for those who made promises they are unable to keep. The federal government has been equally profligate, but that sovereign can print money. Illinois has no ability to print money and extracting it from taxpayers (rich or poor) must be accomplished by the legislature and approved by the governor. A graduated income tax requires a constitutional amendment. The promised pensions may have too good to be true. If I had worked for 30+ years relying on that promise or if I had a winning lottery ticket in my pocket, I’d be pissed and angry. Just like you and lots of people are pissed and angry. Probably Rauner and rich people in Winnetka are also pissed and angry. That’s why Trump has Traction. That’s why you have loyal readers. That’s why some people break windows and some cops push good folks around. “Sharks gotta swim and bats gotta fly, and I gotta love one woman ’til I die.” To the barricades or to the ballot boxes or to the bankruptcy bench. Whaddya gonna do?

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