WILD IN THE STREETS (Memory Lane: 1973)

I was in junior high in 1973. We had a touchy-feely curricula that included courses like “Worthy Use of Leisure Time” (where, among other things, we learned to play tennis with hard-to-break wooden paddles, easy-to-break stringed racquets being way too expensive) and “World of Work.”

I find that my memories of the latter have now been boiled down to two gentlemen:

The first was an “Agriculture” teacher who frequently snorted at the ridiculousness of the former, once showed us an egg he had plucked from his hen-house that morning with a half-formed chick still inside, and had his smart aleck assistant answer the question “What is the longest war in history?” after the rest of us had shot our bolt. (I had opined The Hundred Years War….after which virtually every other kid named virtually every other war you ever heard of, each of them apparently convinced that every war ever fought had lasted longer than a century–it wasn’t one of the classes that gathered up the smart kids).

Answer: “The war between man and bugs.”

Ah, the seventies.

I honestly don’t recall the name of the course the second gentleman taught (I’ll call him Mr. J.). It probably had “social” in the title, though. He was a youngish, cool, hip black guy. I think every junior high was required to have one back then. But, actually, as he liked to remind us, he was mixed race, which he assured us meant that, in the coming revolution, he would be shot by both sides.

Another thing he told us was that, in that same revolution–which he wasn’t advocating, just predicting–black people would have a distinct advantage. As I recall, his rap went something like: “Brother goes down to the mall and starts shooting, he’s gonna get fifty white people before the police shoot him. Probably take a few officers with him, too. Fifty to one. I like those odds.”

Honestly, we didn’t even think it was weird. Mr. J., he had it going on! Speaking the truth to the hopelessly square little seventh graders! We could dig it. We weren’t that hopelessly square.

I haven’t thought about him all that often over the years. Hadn’t thought about him in more than a decade I reckon.

Until I started hearing the reports from Dallas tonight, that is.

What, you thought the long hot summer I’ve been telling you about was going to be limited to Donald Trump rallies and art-house showings of Medium Cool?

I bet not.

And, hey, Mr. J, I can’t believe you didn’t play this for us!

9 thoughts on “WILD IN THE STREETS (Memory Lane: 1973)

  1. NDJ

    If you’re in the mood for politics and our historically racist FBI look into COINTELPRO and the Black Panthers. You’ll never know what to believe again about “violent” groups in the US . . .


    PS: The Black Panthers for Self-Defense were formed as a neighborhood watch group to stop white cops in Oakland from beating the bejeezus out of black teenagers.

  2. Well, one of the things Mr. J did was intensify my interest in all you mention so I’ve read a lot. (All depressing..how easy it was for idealists of any sort to start out with, and even execute the best of intentions for a while…and how easy it was for them to be torn apart from within and without. I think Jo Durden-Smith, when he came to do the research for his film/book on George Jackson, said the L.A. Panthers were infiltrated by sixteen different law enforcement groups. Before I read that, I didn’t even know there were sixteen different levels of law enforcement in existence.)

    And yes, I could imagine at least sixteen different plausible interpretations of what happened last night. But i have no idea whether that means I’m paranoid. I think that’s somebody’s object, too. I just don’t know who! (insert maniacal laughter here).


  3. It wasn’t just the Panthers that COINTELPRO infiltrated: SDS and any other anti-war groups were also “subjects of interest,” although Commies were their original target. We will never know how many acts of violence—especially the many haphazard bombings—of the 60s and 70s were instigated by undercover feds.

    Oooh, I got an idea: howzabout a television series on the FBI teaching young previously non-violent college students how to blow other people up, getting them busted, then moving on to the next campus to begin anew. Fox could do it and Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner could be the head agents in charge of making sure that the young federal agents’ feelings don’t get in the way their doing their jobs.

  4. PS: Notice I politely didn’t mention the feds introducing hard drugs into these groups way back when most of them were just smoking pot and drinking Boone’s Farm . . .

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