Pharaohs of a Late Dynasty, Mayor Daley and Governor Connally, behind the podium, rock-strong in their desert, brooding, grunting, and nudging. Sometimes a finger was lifted to direct the hapless felaheen of the Illinois delegation, a band of folk sunk in apathetic unanimity. Or glumly a sign exacted a cheer from the citizen-guests of the Mayor’s own Chicago hectares. Their hymns, rising up, spoke not of Right or Necessity, but, simply, of Love. We Love Mayor Daley!
Everyone in Chicago, in the lobbies, in the bars, at the Amphitheater, had his story, bore his witness to horrors in the park, shoving and fraud at the convention, the menace of powers. There was even a certain amount of competition to have large Experiences, since experience could not be avoided altogether. At the beginning of the week, even the squares for Humphrey clung to the Yippies, gulping, “Did you hear they have arrested Pigasus?” Heavy, sheepish smiles. “Platform of garbage, a pig you see….No pay toilets….” Ha, ha.
No pleasure or irony or pop humor attended the world debut of Mayor Daley. He was visible and comprehensible instantly and as a whole: a figure to fear. Who would willingly have dealings with him? Affection and good deeds would no doubt be attributed to him, as an explanation, but if he fell it would be like the fall of King Farouk or Nkrumah. Goodbye, goodbye, forever; the same banners would suddenly say on the other side. Even as he began his plans to gather the flocks in Chicago, vanity and folly and cruelty trailed him like glowering bodyguards. Johnson, of course, deferred, as to the military, confident that Himself could handle it. The end was five days of pain and suffering, of lawless squalor and idiocy in the name of the State. Try as you would to remain fixed on the local and to be faithful to the particular, to the American root, images of Stalin and Hitler refused to fade away. The obvious was the most accurate.
Wednesday night, during the siege of the Hilton, when the police mercilessly beat young men before the eyes of everyone, you could hear the timid but determined voices of “concerned” women calling out, “What are the charges against that young man?” Or, “Stop, please, Sir, you are killing him!” The mention of the instruments of law and order sent the police into a wild rage and for a moment they stopped beating demonstrators and turned to threaten the frightened suburbans. During the raid on the McCarthy Headquarters, a girl in tears asked, “What are the grounds?” The police answered, “Coffee grounds.” With this lawlessness of the Law, misery fell from the sky. Suppose, you found yourself wondering, they should take over! “I have been a lifelong Democrat,” people kept whispering in bewilderment. Few had realized until Chicago how great a ruin Johnson and his war in Vietnam had brought down upon our country.
Hysterical supervision and repressiveness edged every important arrangement and decision of the…
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.