The first campus takeover that began that trend began on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, more often referred to as simply “Berkeley”.
If you have any personal memory of that campus takeover at Berkeley in October 1, 1964, you would have to have been at least 17 years old, which means you were born in 1947, and would be pushing on 74 today. And you would have had to live in the San Francisco Bay area (where Berkeley is located) and heard about it on local radio or television, or in local newspapers. Or California at least. The rest of the country heard about it in 1-minute bytes on CBS or NBC and a below-the-fold story in newspapers in major cities.
I was 18, nearing 19 at the time, and had worked through that summer at a campus bookstore before entering my freshman class at my state university. But I did not hear about “Berkeley” there. In fact, I don’t know how or where I first heard of Berkeley, or what it was about, only I know I did hear about it somewhere during that first semester, for the idea of students taking over a campus administration building…I could see ours about 300 yards away across the street…was a startling event, without knowing anything about what it was about.
But it was not about the Vietnam War, which hadn’t really started then, the famous Gulf of Tonkin event, which I also didn’t know by name at the time, had only just occurred in August, during class registration week. It would be March, 1965 before we’d send out first troops there (Marines) which was a big news event, except probably on college campuses.
Vietnam was not a big news item to my class of college students, but we had heard about it in the nightly news through most of the Kennedy years (who was shot in my senior high school year, actually during a pep rally for our participation the the state high school football tournament.) In those 3+ years of JFK, we’d all seen former school mates come home in uniform, one, a class mate of my older sister, dressed in bloused trousers, boots and a beret, who’d done a tour in Vietnam as an adviser, and a walking recruiting billboard down by the company store, where I saw him.
Every male at 18 had to register with the local draft board, but anyone who planned to go onto college didn’t have to fear it, for active college students were exempt. And guys who wanted to get married and have a family didn’t really worry until 1968, when they lifted the family exemption from the draft. Even guys who just wanted to get a local job didn’t really begin to sweat until the 1966 build-up in Vietnam, which put 200,000 boots on the ground by the end of the year.
Then the draft was everything, and suddenly a lot of guys decided maybe a college education would be nice after all.
But I didn’t pay much attention to any of this on campus. Almost no on campus one did. For one, it was a draft-exempt zone.
So, most of these dates and numbers I’ve had to look up. I only have general memories, as I watched no TV and read only the city newspaper for almost four years. But my 16- and 14-year old brothers, still back home in high school, would have far different memories, and they will be turning 73 and 70 respectively this year. The older of the two, who’d planned on becoming a radio disc jockey, because of the looming draft decided to go to college anyway, only to only make it through a semester before not being able to maintain his grades, so took a job at local factory, and knocked his wife up, on the theory that a kid would keep him out. Then they dropped the “child exemption” and then in 1969, his Lottery number came up #5, so he enlisted in the Navy (which carried a 4-year hitch), just to avoid being drafted into the Army, which carried only a 2-year hitch, but with much higher chances of being shot at.
Then stayed on for 32 years.
If you think Berkeley is central to the little lesson I want to teach here, it’s not.
The central point is that whatever you thought you knew at age 18 was not the same as what you knew at age 40, and again at age 60…unless you were a very shallow, craven, self-involved child at 18 and through family money, connections and the like, were always able to avoid the various corrections nature applies to making you a better and wiser person…including a better American. If that is the case with you, or your children, or grandchildren, then all I can say is “Prayers up”, only not for you, but my country. Anyone who has an ounce of self-reflection, and the ability to acknowledge some of the silly and just plain dumb things he/she had done at 18-21 and has had that “Was I ever that young?” (Niles Crane) when you see a couple dancing cheek-to-cheek to “Sixteen Candles” in an old black and white reel, knows what I’m saying here.
Anyone who doesn’t has a problem.
But there is that type, who I’ve discussed for several years in these pages, who’ve never once allowed themselves to look over their shoulder and flinch. And in my case, cross themselves and whisper a “Forgive me, Lord” for the 30th time any given day.
And what Berkeley did was magnify it nationally, and in hindsight, serve as a prototype for Saul Alinsky, who seven years later, 1971, would publish as his 12 Rules for Radicals, and in that same year Ayn Rand would analyze and publish not only the type of “Hater” that made up this small cadre of student , but the Alinsky-manipulators, appeasers and profiteers, who would grow them for three generations.
Interesting “Berkeley” was not about The War, which had not really begun at the time. Oh, Vietnam was in full swing by the time students took over the Columbia University administration in 1968, but Berkeley was about Free Speech, the same Free Speech it shouted down in 2017 when conservative young guy, Ben Shapiro, attempted to give a speech on the subject. Still, even though only insiders knew about Alinksy’s work, the timing of the Berkeley take-over and the Gulf of Tonkin event, two months, can be seen as suspect.
But what anyone who lived through college 1964-1975 knows, even as rebel students had taken over an administration building, or just a student cafeteria, or a giant protest in front of the basketball arena…all of which they did at my university…requiring state police to cordon off certain areas at least until the students begin to crash…90% or more of the student body and university function continues on its merry way.
At Berkeley, 99% of media attention was poured into the behavior of less than 700 students, on any given day. One of Ayn Rand’s essays analyzes the entire Berkeley event as well as the craven, cowardly behavior of the school’s administrator’s. That’s why I recommend her book, Return of the Primitive, the Anti-Industrial Revolution.
A subject to keep in mind when you consider the ladies assembled here:
They are all from the ranking elements of their city, long before Berkeley. Not the hoi polloi.
They have always been with us.