The Radical Party

A friendly fire burned in a backyard pit. There was a couple in attendance who had just biked to Oakland from Tennessee via the Canadian Rockies. In the Canadian Rockies, they met a man pushing a shopping cart over the Continental Divide.

The bikers marveled at the kindness of strangers and mentioned the importance of keeping one’s unmentionables clean and dry. When I said that to me, life on the road always entailed a pleasant surrender to dirt, they looked at me solemnly.

“With biking,” one began, “if anything bad happens down there–,”

“You’re done,” finished the other.

On the fireside couch, an ever-shifting pile of people crawled over one another like puppies, passing joints and cigarettes and discussing recent events in their activist community.

“I’m gonna have a hard time taking a white woman who calls herself Starhawk seriously,” someone said.

“Her eco-feminist magic-with-a-k politics just have no place in anything that’s going on in the real world,” another voice agreed.

“She wrote about me on her blog, but she exaggerated,” said a third. “She was at the RNC with some other Wiccans, and they were trying to stop the police horses by linking their arms. They kept getting knocked down, but I said, ‘Hey, that’s cool how you’re doing that.’ But when she wrote about it on her blog, she said that a kid from the Black Bloc came over and told her how what she was doing was amazing and changed his life. I never said she changed my life.”

The next thing they were planning to do was protest the arrests of the protestors who had been arrested the last time they had protested.

An older man sat down next to me. Without introduction, he said,

“There are some forums next week I think you should know about. There is a forum on South Africa and a forum on COINTELPRO. Do you know about COINTELPRO?”

“Sure,” I said. “The FBI’s counter-intelligence program to infiltrate the left. Hoover’s idea. Is that still going on?”

“Not in that form,” said the man, “but in other forms. But we can’t let that stop us. We have to overcome.”

I took the birthday girl up on her offer to tour the house. It was decorated with signs from recent Occupy actions. There was a bound thesis on the shelf in the living room. Instinctively, I picked it up. It had been submitted for honors in history at Wesleyan University in 2009 and was called, On the Edge of All Dichotomies: Anarch@-Feminist Thought, Process and Action, 1970-1983.

Though the date was recent and the binding still squeaky, the object had the feeling of an artifact. I took out my iPhone to photograph it, then momentarily worried. What if the other partygoers thought I was from COINTELPRO?

The night was as young as the Class of 2009, but I was feeling the old party narcolepsy, my sometimes powerful mid-party urge to dive under a pile of coats on an uninhabited bed, waking several hours later when a drunk, half-undressed couple might fall on me.

The signs and the arguments and upcoming forums were exhausting me. I had not made or carried the signs, only looked at them. I had not engaged in the arguments, only listened to them. And I was not even planning to attend the forums, but just knowing about them was tiring.

She was a new friend and it was her thirtieth birthday, but I hadn’t slept in my own bed in three nights. I expressed my regrets, birthday wishes, goodbyes.

“Oh, that’s too bad,” said the birthday girl. “You’ll miss the flag-burning.”

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