Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nothing Left To Lose

Back in the mid-1970s a lover and I hitchhiked from Maryland's D.C. suburbs to Orange County, California. We lasted a week in that Republican purgatory, then hitched up to Berkeley. Within a couple weeks, my friend and I were collecting unemployment, living in Oakland and familiarizing ourselves with the street scene along Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue and San Francisco's Haight Street. Although I had been quite involved with various anarchist and communist radicals in the DC area, I was primarily interested in participating in what remained of the counterculture by the time I moved to Berkeley. Politics had both worn me out and disillusioned me.
Yet, politics wouldn't leave me alone. I ran into former Black Panthers, White Panthers and leftover Weather Underground types while I did bong hits. One of my friends was a communist organizer who knew lots of radicals from all over the Bay Area. Soon, several other friends from the suburban tracts we had left behind had joined us. We got an apartment. My lover and I eventually went our own ways while remaining housemates.
A couple close friends of mine who were quite political asked me if I was interested in joining their cell. What, I asked, would this entail? I was told that I would have to share everything with them and be willing to undertake "armed" activities. We had several long and deep discussions. I seriously considered their offer, but declined for political and philosophical reasons. We remained good friends and they decided not to engage in so-called armed actions. I was relieved for a number of reasons.
The people I met and hung out with on Telegraph Ave. were some of the most colorful and free individuals I have ever known. Some paid for their freedom with their lives. Some traded it in for something else. Some lost it to the law. Nonetheless, they did have some freedom to lose. Maybe, because (let me refer to a rock tune) they had nothing else left to lose.
The Co-Conspirator's Tale is motivated partially by these experiences. It is something of a speculation about what might have happened if my friends and I had decided to create that cell and engage in bombings, etc. Simultaneously, it is a contemplation on the nature of a system where (as Mick Jagger sings) "every cop is a criminal," and a sanctioned one at that.
My previous novel Short Order Frame Up examines similar aspects of our society, although it is the racism of the system and the cops who work for it that are called into question. The corruption in The Co-Conspirator's Tale does not even have the tawdry principles of a racist pair of cops to dignify it. In fact, the only motivation is to protect and preserve a system built on lies and maintained by deceit and power.

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