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Rebellion in a Curious Way | Poem




          It was seven o’clock in the morning, already bright sunshine as Clu and I and the others were in her yard ready to drive down to Fort Clay for Will’s court martial. The seven Vanguarders were there and about ten Committee people. Five of these Committee people also came to Organization meetings. We didn’t have regular meetings of the Organization in the summer, but those of us who were involved in it hung out together so much of the time that it was like one continuous meeting. As for Clu’s Vanguard, the Committee members who were involved in the Organization knew about it. The others were only gradually becoming aware of what it was. 
          A cab drove up with Don and Marge. Clu bit her lip, but smiled again and extended her hand for them to shake - like an old-time southern hostess giving an audience. And right after that, Hope came bounding over the yard with her April-colored hair streaming behind her. I put my notebook down. 
          She grabbed my wrists in her small hands and looked up at me smiling. That strange asymmetrical upper lip looked more fascinating and attractive than ever. 
          "I have to be back home soon before mother has breakfast ready. She’s been going on and on about Zack all morning - how she can’t stand it that he smokes dope and all." Zack was Hope’s older brother who had been in Vietnam and just gotten out of the Army a couple of months before. 
          "Well, wish us luck," I said. 
          "I do!" Hope said. When we kissed, it wasn’t with those delicate, graceful brushing with the lips like you see in the movies. We just found our place and held on. In those days all my friends and I lived on junk food, but I know now that that kiss gave me energy like the taste of fresh green leafy things. 
          We had our arms tight around each other’s waist. We finally undid the kiss and let go of each other and stared smiling, shy and amazed. I picked my notebook up off the ground. 
          "Remember, you’ve got to tell me everything that happens there," Hope said. Then she backed off rapidly, waving at me and then turned away and started running towards home. 
          This time when we got in our cars I felt that I had to ride with Clu and Don and Marge and another Vanguard man and woman. I was the one who kept up most of the conversation going, telling the Vanguarders from New York about how our state had once had a bigger Socialist Party than New York state and how it was crushed during World War I, about the Indians of our state and how they were cheated and despoiled by the oil companies and about the culture of the Indian tribes around Pronghorn, the town just next to Fort Clay, where we were going. 
          Most of the time Clu just said, "Oh, yes," to what I said, but the other Vanguarders made some Marxist analysis comments about what I was telling and Don had some pretty good local history stories of his own. Our state is so recent and anyone whose family has lived there for three generations has some very strange stories that have been kept out of official history by the powers that be. In what other state does so much of its real history exist only in the form of current gossip? 
          Anyway, I kept things going until we were almost at the fort. Clu turned around very quickly and gave me a grateful little smile, then she turned back looking straight ahead and drove up to the MP at the gate and asked directions to Delta Battery, second of the second where we were supposed to go. He pointed and gave some explanations. We had to ask another soldier who was walking along the road, before we found it. The court martial was taking place in a small, stuffy recreation room. There were tables in front with three officers sitting. Beside the tables stood an American flag and on the wall behind them was a large picture of President Lyndon Johnson, looking like a mournful crocodile. 
          As we came into the room, we saw three TV crews with cameras in the hall just outside. There were barely enough chairs for all the spectators. I recognized Pete Yoder and Stan Bennett, the two G.I.’s who had come to the Committee meeting with Will sitting with three other soldiers. Reporters with note pads sat in other seats. I thought - at least I remembered to bring my notebook. We all got seated. 
          The door opened and five MP’s with rifles on their shoulders led Will in. Following him came his lawyer, a sturdy-looking man, still young, with a curly reddish beard and a mop of dark red Beatle-length hair. He was the hairiest person in the whole room. All the Vanguard men and myself and most of the Committee guys were clean-shaven - not to mention the soldiers. A couple of males in the Committee had mustaches and fuzz on their cheeks, but nothing like this lawyer. The eyes of the officers at the table stood out like marbles ready to roll down the aisle. 
All of a sudden I was staring too. Under all that mop and beard was Ben! Ben Markovitz had been my lawyer and gotten me out of jail once during the civil rights movement. The last time I had seen him he had short hair and a shave like the rest of us down there. At the moment he didn’t see me. He sat down with Will at one of the tables. 
          The army’s prosecutor called as his first witness, Lieutenant Henry Hogue, a very plump blond fellow with a pink pear-shaped baby face. The Hog all right. The major, acting as judge, asked him, "Lieutenant Hogue, were you wearing the uniform of an officer when you gave Corporal Orry the order to turn over his literature?" 
"I was." 
          "Dismissed. That is the army’s case," the prosecutor said. 
          The Hog saluted and wheeled around and started to march away when Ben said, "I ask that this witness be recalled." 
          The Hog walked back to the tables. Ben was standing there twirling his beard tip between his thumb and his forefinger. 
          "Lieutenant Hogue, do you think you violated Corporal Orry’s First Amendment rights?" Ben asked. 
          "Lieutenant Hogue, what is the First Amendment?" 
          "I don’t know." 
          "You say you didn’t violate it, but you don’t know what it is. Just take a guess." 
          "Freedom from illegal search and seizure?" 
          "No. That’s the Fourth Amendment. You violated that one too, but we’ll get to that in a moment. The First Amendment is about freedom of speech and press, Lieutenant Hogue. Now do you know what Army Regulation 381-135 is?" 
          "No." The Hog was looking mighty uncomfortable. He was shifting his bulk from one foot to the other. 
          "Regulation 38l-135!" Ben said loudly, startling the Hog and the officers at the table so that they stared at Ben. "I’ll read it to you," Ben went on. "The Unit Commander shall further insure that there is no interference with the US Mails and that any individual in his unit has a right to read and retain commercial publications for his personal use.  Now, Lieutenant Hogue, did you take an officer’s oath when you entered the army? Lieutenant Hogue, did you take an officer’s oath to uphold the Constitution when you entered the army?" 
          "Lieutenant Hogue, do you think that the First and Fourth Amendments are part of the Constitution?" 
          Absolute silence. 
          "Lieutenant Hogue did you give the order to break open Corporal Orry’s locker?" 
          "Lieutenant Hogue, did colonel White have anything to do with this order?" 
          All of a sudden the three officers at the table got their heads together and started whispering. I didn’t know what was going on. 
          "It-it was my order," the Hog barely mumbled. 
          "This witness is dismissed," Ben said. The Hog saluted somewhat more limply than before, wheeled around and walked out. I could see on his face that he was glad to leave. 
          "The defense calls Sergeant Daniel Caldwell," Ben said. A small, lean man came through the door. He looked like he was much stronger than his size. He had a flat-top hair cut and a hatchet face with narrow eyes that looked like they had seen a lot of war. He went to the tables and saluted the officers. 
          After getting his name, rank, etc., Ben asked, "Sergeant Cladwell, did Colonel White know anything about the order to get Corporal Orry’s literature?" 
          Sergeant Caldwell had been outside. He had not heard anything the Hog said. 
          "Did he know?" Sergeant Caldwell started off. "Well, it was his idea. He had a conference with myself and the Hog. I mean, Lieutenant Hogue. Colonel White said, "You’ve got to get that stuff out of Orry’s locker." 
          "This witness is dismissed," Ben said. "Recall Lieutenant Hogue." 
          The Hog came back in with his mouth slightly open in a "what in the hell is going on now" expression. 
          "Lieutenant Hogue," Ben asked, "did Colonel White know anything about the attempt to get Corporal Orry’s literature?" 
          "I told you he didn’t." 
          "But your own first sergeant said he did. So who’s lying?" 
          "You’ve got me all twisted around," the Hog said, sadly puzzled. 
          "I’m just trying to clear this matter up," Ben said. "Who gave the order, you or Colonel White?" 
          "Well, Colonel White. He gave the order. But if he hadn’t done it, I would have." 
          "I move that this case be dismissed," Ben said, "on the grounds that according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the judge is supposed to be of equal rank with the officer bringing the complaint. Major Hansen, as judge, you of course are a major and Colonel White who brought the complaint is a colonel - and Lieutenant Hogue, the only prosecution witness, has committed perjury." 
          Major Hansen said, "Your motions are dismissed. The court martial will continue." The major and the two captains sitting with him buzzed among themselves and then Major Hansen said, "Corporal Will Orry, rise." 
          Will stood up. He looked toward us briefly. His mouth was just a line, but there was gratitude in his eyes. 
          Major Hansen went on, "You are found guilty of disobeying an order. You are sentenced to forty-five days of confined hard labor, forfeiture of twenty day’s pay and you are reduced in rank to private E-1." 
Right then, Clu stood up and started chanting, strong and clear: "END THE WAR IN VIETNAM! BRING THE TROOPS HOME! END THE WAR IN VIETNAM! BRINT THE TROOPS HOME!" 
          Major Hansen shouted, "At ease!" at Clu, but she kept chanting. Soon I was on my feet with all the Committee people and we were chanting with her. The Vanguard people were still in their seats. Don turned around and glared at Clu. 
          I knew what was going on. The Vanguarders were very brave people when anybody attacked them, but at this stage of history, they were not supposed to do anything that might be interpreted as initiating defiance of the law. Not until their Central Committee decided it was time. They were the army of the revolution, and just like the US Army, which we were up against, the Vanguard wanted everything to be as predictable as possible. 
          Suddenly Pete and Stan and the other three G.I.’s in the audience were on their feet chanting: "END THE WAR IN VIETNAM! BRING THE TROOPS HOME!" Don rose to his feet, Marge stood up quickly after him and then the seven other Vanguarders. A couple of them started chanting weakly, but not Don and Marge. But the chanting kept getting louder and louder and finally Don and Marge joined in. 
          Attorney Ben Markovitz cupped his hands to his mouth and hollered at Major Hansen over the noise, "I’m appealing the verdict!" 
Major Hansen turned to a black MP and said, pointing at Clu, "Remove that woman from the courtroom!" but the MP didn’t move. 
          Then Pete Yoder, the small, shy blonde G.I. walked up to Lieutenant Hogue and shouted, "Hog, you’re a liar! We all heard you lie!" 
Major Hansen motioned to two MP’s - white ones this time, and said, "Arrest that man and confine him in his barracks until his court martial! He’s up on charges of insulting an officer!" 
          The MP’s grabbed Pete and took him out the door. 
          We were chanting even louder. Then Don walked up to Clu and whispered to her and she whispered back. She raised her hand and motioned to us and we all went out the door to face the TV cameras. Will and Ben followed along after us. The reporters were pushing against us and jabbering at us all at once. We were all too disoriented, even Don. There was no press conference. We just waded through reporters and hauled ass out of the building. We found ourselves standing on the curb with Will and Ben. All of a sudden Ben recognized me and his eyes lit up and he ran over and threw his arms around my shoulders and swung me around. "Dale! Where the hell have you been?" he shouted three or four times. 
          In the words from Quince Brigada, a Spanish Civil War song, that Ben liked, I answered, "I just left to struggle on other fronts." 
          "Hey, can we leave to struggle over a beer?" Ben said. 
          "That’s exactly what I wanted to do, at a place called the Barrage, if you don’t have to fly back to New York." 
          "Well, I wanted to stay and discuss strategy with Will tonight," Ben said. By now he had one arm around Will’s shoulders and one arm around mine. 
          "I’d like that," I said. "I have a friend of mine named Jim Ed Williams there and some other friends I’d like you and Will to meet tonight." 
          We went over to Clu and Don and Marge and the others. Will said, "I’ve gotta go back and play soldier for a few hours. Before I go...I...I just want to thank everybody here. I didn’t know what it would be like to have people on my side." 
          Clu had tears in her eyes, again, but this time they were tears of happiness and pride. As for Don, he had his head tilted at an angle and his eyes and mouth crinkled in a thoughtful grimace. As he had read in the lives of Lenin and other revolutionaries, so often history takes unforeseen twists and turns.
Back to Jodey  ~  to Moongate

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