ethel’s words

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As the Sixties and Seventies were tumbling into history, we saw, felt, observed publications falling into that same twilight chasm.

During those decades of bright hope, “undergrounds”, most on newsprint, tabloids, proliferated. They provided an astonishing mode of communication, thrust into the wide circles of readers by a healthy U.S. Postal Service. Those tabloids were so successful the Big They--the ones who mess up our lives--managed to increase postal rates that applied to them. I cannot declare, but I suspect, the increased price of freedom messages battered them to silence and history.

We subscribed to 26 publications. We barely believe memory. Most were newsprint undergrounds, but the stack was crowned by the amazing Ramparts magazine, surely the gem of historical journalism.

After serving dramatically as the focal kernel of Viet Nam protest, Ramparts agonized into a slow death, first gestating an insert, name forgotten, but the name of its outstanding writer, Frances Lang, not forgotten. Then Ramparts metamorphosed into Scanlons, one stunning issue remembered, declared plans were underway to get rid of elections. Now, one can believe that article was reasonable journalism, just early.

The New York Review of Books exemplified scholarly politics. (Is that possible?) Dear to heart as much as to mind, El Grito del Norte carried a spirit of Earth, and I can’t remember if the Tijerinistas (Reis Tijerina) had a publication or appeared in El Grito. We subscribed to Akwesasne Notes from the Mohawk Nation, and more locally, we had the privilege of getting to know Diné Baa Hani, the voice of the Navajos (in English).

The Black Panthers, those courageous makers of a better life, stood dignified and unwavering, Black and Beautiful, against a flood of slander and derision, and assassination. Their paper did not flinch, nor did they. (Did they coin “Tell it like it is”? A profound motto we should revive.) Some survived the sneaky bullets--even those fired into sleeping bodies in gangland style by the FBI. When governments tried to silence them, they shouted. When the courts injustice demanded obeisance, they resisted. Ropes were required to quell resistance.

Salt Lake City, our base, had its Electric News, Utah Coordinator, Street Paper (and that included the Anniversary Edition of The Nauvoo Expositor--the famous Mormon newspaper of Nauvoo, Illinois, colony.

There were countless more publications, in a multitude of formats, Some may have been broadsides that were repeated.

We managed to read some significant parts of each--of all those “graffiti of the underground”. The street graffiti--a graffito has, by definition, a message--we saw in Chicago reached those who mattered most, but that art did not develop in Salt Lake City. Radio suddenly loomed over paper, as Pacifica Radio became a Pirate of the airwaves inspiring other community radios across the nation. Today, radio limps along following the papers and the Pirate.

Now, there is a world-wide lacing of wires, but it is not yet a net for catching anything.

Ethel C. Hale