January'93: Voeux de bonne annee:
Sister, you've asked for my thoughts on being an underground rev., being a woman's partner and having baby girls. My pen has been stayed for a variety of reasons. First, I've had difficulty determining whether this is one question or three questions, interrelated with a common bond. Second, there are significant aspects of clandestinity which I cannot reveal, at least not at this time. Third, since my break-up with Pat, I've put my prior relationship with her into a steamer and stored it in an attic. What was once A Love Supreme is now something I rarely think about. When I do, it risks being tainted. Fourth, I've been on an end -of- year sabbatical. I've thought of you and all those I love and care about, but I've not wanted to do anything. Fifth, a comprehensive response to your question(s) would be no less than book length. So, I will just ramble a bit and touch a few bases.
When I walked out of Brushy Mountain prison in May 1971, I was already on a collision course. Locked and cocked, with a hair trigger. No one was there to meet me coming out and I'd had to send home for money to cover the bus trip to Maine (Massachusetts had denied my initial parole request). My whole life I have hovered around the subsistence level. Meg had split to the west coast when her appeal was denied and bail revoked. For me, it was a deep emotional loss. I could have followed, but stayed the course instead. I knew we'd never be together again as we had in the past.
My basic values were the same but Viet Nam and prison had left their stamp on my personality. I no longer fit in well with the kind of people I'd previously run with. I felt alone in a room full of people. I felt like I had a hideous burn mark that ran the length of my body. I worked jobs fit for a mule. A relationship developed with a woman from Boston I'd had a brief but white-hot affair with after returning from Viet Nam. The renewed relationship lasted about 8 months. She became my nurse as well as lover. Then one day I simply walked out the door.
At the university I studied, worked and became politically engaged People thought I was extremely radical. In fact, I was more radical ban they thought. I loved and worked hard, and poor. I became involved with a lot of women. Most, but not all, were feminists to one degree or another. The question would always become - what are you prepared to do? Then I'd move on, if not physically, then emotionally. At some point I took up with Bernice - the most radical and articulate feminist I'd ever met. The chemistry was right for this particular relationship. Intellectually, politically, sexually, it was one of the most intense relationships I've ever had with another person. I was still seeing her when I went underground.
(Perhaps you are now saying to yourself when will this dude rise above his male ego, and incipient sexism? I've no defense other than to say I had to begin somewhere, and I'm writing in a stream of consciousness).
I first met Pat in, I think, very late 1972 or early 1973, at a meeting of two political groups that would ultimately merge. We were living in different cities at the time. My first impression- of her was not a good one. She struck me as being too laid back and acquiescent. For the next 6 months I saw her infrequently and briefly.
The summer of '73 - i.e. from May to mid-July I took a traveling sabbatical before the big merger of SCAR in Portland. On the highways and byways, alone, I pondered my future. While committed to SCAR's expanding agenda - and being one of it's architects - what I really wanted was to go underground. I wanted to fight on a different terrain. I wanted to make this system bleed. If only I could hook up.
I returned to Portland in July with 10 cents in my pocket. I stayed with Bernice a couple of days, then took my sleeping bag and crashed at the partially destroyed storefront that would be renovated and become SCAR's base of operations. That same night Pat showed up with her sleeping bag, having just returned from a couple months of farm work in Virginia. We zipped our bags together and made love on the floor. The first time.
As SCAR's crew reassembled from various points, we hustled, and stole what we needed to open the store front, give our programs a and obtain a couple of apartments. Pat, 2 other SCAR members, and I shared one of these apartments along with a host of others that stayed with us on a temporary basis. Other SCAR members lived above us.
I didn't give any thought to sleeping with Pat again and we settled into a working & friendship relationship. Our personalities were about as different as two people can get. We hung out with different people. My life experiences had been considerably different than hers. I was also promiscuous to the point of irresponsibility. But eventually our circle of friends began to overlap more and more - primarily SCAR members and those on the periphery of SCAR. We spent more an more time working on SCAR projects together. My respect for her grew as I saw her dedication and efforts. So, we started sleeping together sporadically and socializing more.
The pace of our lives was very, fast at the time. I live, breathe, and eat political commitment, and I play just as hard. It can be both exhausting and dangerous. Sometimes it was as if we loved each day as if it might be our last. Full throttle. The intimacy and closeness that grew between Pat and I was something unexpected by me, especially in that environment and knowing full well that I had an ultimate agenda of going underground with the right opportunity. The winter of '74 our feelings about each other grew stronger and we spent more time together. This is when we really got inside of each other. By spring I was in love with her, which was a surprise to me though not to her, as she felt we were destined to be together. But there were problems as well. For one thing I was sleeping with numerous women (including some of her friends and acquaintances). I wouldn't accept a monogamous relationship. Secondly, I held myself accountable on only 2 fronts - to myself and the organization. Thirdly, it was just a matter of time before I moved on.
Significant events happened in the summer of 1974, particularly towards summers end. Pat and I took a trip to Tennessee together to visit some old friends of mine. It was like a honeymoon of sorts and I was astounded by how much I loved her. (Give you an idea how close to the edge we lived - the junkpile we used for a car broke down in Tennessee, so we just ditched it and continued on with our backpacks and bedrolls, sleeping out amid some lush flora, especially in the Smokies). After returning I opened the Red Star North. Shortly after that I made my first contact with people underground (had I known that contact was going to take place -when it did I probably wouldn't have opened the bookstore).
That contact proved to be a mistake, though I didn't see it that way at the time. One thing that swelled my head was that we planned and executed a successful action. By then I was sold on the idea that we could build at least one clandestine cell, -maybe more, with some recruiting. When Pat's name came up as a possibility, she was unanimously rejected.
During this transition period I had the opportunity to get a small apartment of my own, which I did (it was only a few blocks from the SCAR cribs). Pat knew I was into something, but she didn't know the specifics. I continued to see her though not as often. I knew that I was leaving eventually and that she wasn't coming. I'm now 27. 1 see myself as being far more likely to expire in a gun battle than to settle down somewhat and raise a family. I turn 28 amid the police heat on the bookstore and the growing problem of dealing with fugitives. Another unexpected problem developed and the group was forced to leave Portland, me with them.
During very late '74, very early '75 I snuck back into Portland a couple of times to see Pat. I missed her right away and didn't want to completely let go.
Incredible demands were placed on the group and me at the time. I saw serious problems immediately but couldn't back out from the commitment I'd made to others. We got swept up in a force that seemed beyond our control. To make a long story short, Lance Waters and I were busted in CT., March '75. Lance was extradited to Arizona to face bombing charges from 1969. I got stuck in jail until I was finally able to post bail in April. When I walked out of jail, Pat was waiting for me in the back of a convertible. Two SCAR members were in the front. They had a six-pack. Pat and I spent the next 2 or 3 nights together (this is when Carmen was conceived). Then, I had a meeting with a couple of 'rades still under. Then, I got the message that I was needed immediately in Phoenix to form up a defense team. The last thing I wanted to do was to go to Phoenix but they remained insistent, and I was told it was crucial. I said good-bye to Pat thinking that I'd never see her again, though I figured that I'd return to the East Coast (I had absolutely no intention of going on trial in CT.). With me on the trip to Phoenix (we drove) was a woman named JoAnne Meyers. My relationship with JoAnne could be the subject of another book (the last time I saw her was on the witness stand in Boston). Ultimately, Phoenix turned out to be chaotic and dangerous - another story. The police were attacking Mexicans, La Raza was on the hot seat, bombs going off, people were dying and the surveillance and stops were intense - and I was in the middle of it. Friction developed between Lance's wife and myself When Lance was bailed she made it clear that my services were no longer needed. I split in July.
Arriving in N.Y., I needed to re-establish contact and went to see a woman I knew that acted as a go-between. I got the information I needed and was about to leave when she asked me if I was going to see Pat (Pat had moved to N.Y. while I was in Phoenix). I replied that I had no intention of seeing her. She says -I think you should. Why? Because she's pregnant. The news blew me away. I sat down - got up - sat down got up. Something like the father instinct took over, a pilot light went on, and I practically flew out the door, hotfooting it to Pat's. We stayed up most of the night, drank a little wine and listened to old records. Tried to get a 3-month-old fetus to make a signal that all would be well. Yes, we would be mother and father to this child and no matter what the dangers and hardships, I would find some way to return. The next morning I was gone.
I had one long- and one short-term problem. The long-term problem was the case in CT. I asked the lawyer to delay as long as he could. The short-term problem was pressing very, very hard. That problem consisted of the survival of the remainder of the group. Our situation was desperate and they were depending on me to work out a solution. From that point on I made my bones as a guerilla. There could be no more stupid mistakes of the magnitude demonstrated in the first phase. Survival has never been enough for me - You have to be active or find another line of work.
I felt that living with Pat or taking her with me were out of the question. it was both a matter of security and the fact that she was - so we thought at the time - unsuited to various operations. She remained in N.Y.C. while I bounced around several states. Some new recruits came on board. We laid plans. Acquired supplies and equipment. Then we went operational.
We're talking mid 1975 now. I cannot comment on Pat's role. We're also talkin' n very pregnant. From time to time I would slip into N.Y.C. to be with her. When we were together all the other hardships and danger receded into the distance. Nothing could take away from the moment - not even the possibility of getting blown away the next day. Having your first child feels like you're being given a special blessing for doing whatever good you've done in life. I think we were sitting on a park bench in Washington Square Park when we settled on the name 'Carmen.' We went for walks often. Once we went to Brownie's Place - a Blues club. It hardly mattered where we were. Being together was all we cared about.
At some point I knew a fugitive warrant had been issued for me out of CT. Probably late '75 or early '76. The baby was due in January. By late December another problem surfaced of a most serious nature - a major falling out between me and some of the 'rades. What set it off was a demand on me to take part in an action that I felt would be totally wrong and unprincipled. Eventually I won the argument and we changed our course of action, but it left a residue of tension and bitterness. Eventually a similar problem surfaced - this time it involved my opposition to getting involved in an action that I felt would be over our heads at the time. I pressed for another course of action. Irreconcilable differences emerged that threatened to destroy everything. After a long agonizing Xmas and New Year's I decided to split from Fat City and let the comrade stew in his own juices. I headed for an area near the Canadian border the farthest distance Id been from Pat since I'd learned she was pregnant. One of the other people made the move with me and I maintained contact with various others.
It was decided it would not be safe for me to be with Pat when she gave birth. We set up secure phone communications so that I would know what was happening from day to day. The plan was for her to have the baby at a city hospital, getting in and out as quickly as possible. Upon receiving word of the birth I would set out to be with her and the baby (her living situation, including those she lived with, prevented a home birth. Then there's the cost, exposure, the added ramifications if something goes wrong, etc.).
Carmen was born on January 12, 1976, in the midst of a North-Easter. I received word the next day and set out for N.Y. I remember walking through the apartment doorway and into the living room where everyone was gathered. Pat and I hugged and kissed, then she stepped back Taking my hand she said 'Come see your new daughter.' We walked through the kitchen with the others trailing behind us, then into the bedroom. That was the first time I saw her - lying on the mattress which served as Pat's bed, wrapped in baby blankets
She was awake, quiet, eyes open and making those slow motion quirks that newborns make. Absolutely flushed with happiness and pride is as close as I can come to describing how I felt. Actually, words are insufficient, inadequate - the emotional experience defies my meager powers of description. I laid down next to her. First I kissed her on the head then on the lips. I shit you not she looked at me with an expression that seemed to say, 'Papa, where the hell have you been!' (which would be typically Carmen). I picked her up in my arms for a different kind of closeness and so we could get a nice long look at each other. Then someone busted out the Instamatic and began snapping. There are 3 favorites of Carmen and I from these moments, in that bedroom. One shows me standing and holding her in my arms - me looking proud and her looking me right in the mug, with one of her eyelids raised slightly higher than the other. She can only be expressing wonder at how much alike we look.
Another photo shows me holding Carmen in front of a large wall poster showing Lolita Lebron and the other Puerto Rican nationalist prisoners (this was widely posted in N.Y.C. during the '75 campaign to get them released. One of my favorites - I still had it when busted). The third photo shows Carmen and I sleeping on the mattress with her in the crook of my arm.
There came a moment that day when Carmen's fingers were around one of mine and I realized I would not be able to let her go. And I didn't. Pat and I began to make plans for her to move to the frozen north with the baby. It was also understood from the get that she was down with what I/we were about. Don't ask me what I would have done had she said something different.
The move was made. It's now early 1976. Bitter cold. Money running low. I have a new experience - having to feed another mouth (and all the other expenses that implies). I've had to feed other mouths before, but never one so young and helpless. So I pound around an area of high unemployment and finally get on as a construction laborer. Non-union. Barely enough money to get by. Takes a couple of checks before I can replace the disintegrating boots on my feet, which seem terminally cold.
I don't know how two people can have a baby and not be drawn closer together. Now the trust really deepens. We depend on each other. We share everything. Our lovemaking threatens the buildings foundation. We cook together, drink from the same glass, share the picks when we bum the Columbia Record Club. We talk a lot. We waltz to Al Green and Freddie Fender. The baby becomes our pride and joy (I know this has been said a zillion times, but it still fits as I picture us sitting in that small kitchen at a table I made entirely out of 2x4s that a friend purloined from a saw mill; having the time of our lives).
But then there's me. I carry a lot of excess baggage. When I'm up on an I-beam I'm thinking and feeling about Puerto Rico, South Africa, prisons, body counts and being poor. When I'm using a pneumatic drill I'm thinking of war criminals and fascists I'd like to see severely punished.
We reactivate and get down to business. In the Spring we get warning bells - we begin to think that one of our people (now with another cell) may be getting weak. His character flaws are becoming more noticeable. We pack up and split from the state and go further south. He no longer knows where we are (later he is turned by the FBI and brings down his entire cell and puts heat on us, though our location remains unknown).
A baby is small, light and unless she is sick, not so difficult to travel with. Pat breast-fed all three kids, but not for an extended period because she had to have the freedom of movement when needed.
Our next stop was a one-room place over a tavern that had been closed. It was a sweltering summer, in which I worked in a factory. Then, I did some farm work. Then, we moved to a larger city where Pat took a waitressing job and I stayed home with Carmen. We shared most everything to do with bringing up a child from changing her diapers to teaching her to walk. We didn't go anywhere without her unless one of us was taking care of business. For a long time we lived in neighborhoods of workers, working poor and just plain poor folks. We fit right in.
The heat went up considerably when the rat began to provide information - both true and false. We needed more money so for a time we made an arrangement where we both worked. Eventually we did some independent fund-raising to pay for security needs and further 'operations. We remained active and did so until November, 1984.
The next stop was a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood. Pat took a job and I stayed with Carmen. Puerto Ricans love kids, especially girls (at least that's been my experience). Then we both worked for a while. I was working a lowpaying construction job that May. I left for work before Pat. Just after I got to work one morning she called my boss and asked to speak to me. I got on the hom and she says - did you see the morning paper? No. I scooted down to the comer store and saw that I'd been put on the 10 most wanted list. I was a violent revolutionary or some such. There's a time to move and a time to sit still. This latest development and other factors meant we should beat feet.
Two days later we were living in another city over an 80-year-old woman. Two days after that I landed another construction job working long, inadequately paid hours. Still, I was glad to get the job.
Most often the way I got these jobs was to pack a lunch and show up on a job site or the office of a construction company (all non-union of course). The lunch bucket is to show that you're ready to work, pronto. I had a rap about a wife and kid to feed and being a good and steady worker - never tardy, no missed days and always willing to work overtime, no work too dirty or too hard for me. It also helped to be 6' and reasonably solid build, because they like to have mules that they can work half to death. Anyway, it's worked for me to the point of being picked over others wantin the same job.
Carmen was one of those 'good' babies minimal trouble. Not fussy, ate her chow, learned quickly, laughed easily, grew and developed according to all the charts and graphs. Each step was fun. No illness other than the usual childhood scourges. It was at this time that we decided that Carmen should have a sister or brother, and two could be cared for as easy as one (which is not true, but that's the way we rationalized it). Pat became pregnant. In late November my job was going to finish up. I was offered another, but because it involved going into people's houses I turned it down.
We had a serious operation planned but we encountered delays and problems, and before we knew it a bunch of us were living in one slummy apartment to conserve expenses. Nothing like being unable to pay the rent when every cop in the country is gunning for you. A comedy of errors ensued, though potentially deadly serious. Before we knew it, Pat was within a couple of weeks of having the baby. That raised the question - do we move on the operation before or after the baby comes? My instinct tells me to wait until after the baby arrives. I want to be sure I'm alive to see her. I want to hold her once before I go out and possibly get shot. But my head tells me something different.
If I wait those extra weeks and there is another delay, our situation will be perilous and our security more seriously threatened. Desperation may force our hand into something reckless and foolish. Also, if things go bad and we have to move fast, we move faster if the baby is still in the womb. The others deferred to Pat and I. We decide to proceed before the baby is born. Pat and I make all important decisions together. We discussed everything. Decisions pertaining to the group were made collectively.
After going right to the edge we were well rewarded. We made a move from the larger city to a mill town. This is when I attended a Lamaze session with a Kevlar vest and a 9mm. Pat decided on natural childbirth and a midwife. Also, she would use the birth room at the local hospital (we felt a home birth was too risky. If something went wrong we would have to deal with some type of authorities and the exposure that involved).
Carmen and I were both pumped high in anticipation of a new sister or brother. (It was a first for both. For me this meant being around and involved in everything. At least as involved as a man/father can get). A bassinet was refurbished and waiting (I'd found it in a dumpster during the earlier period of abject poverty). Pat went over her due date. One day her water broke natures way of saying its time for being born. At the birthing room we settled in and I tacked something on the wall for Pat to focus on during difficult moments. There is a name for this thing - mandala. I made it based on something I'd read in a book - a circular design of various colors and shapes, with a focal. point and a quote from one of Gil Scott Herons songs. Last time I saw it, it was in an evidence bag at the sedition trial.
Pat had a relatively long labor. The midwife was in and out - helpful and attentive. As the hours wore on I went to the gift shop and picked up a deck of cards which we goofed with (should have brought our scrabble game!). Then came the pain which caused Pat to scream loud and long ear piercing wails that caught me by surprise. All of a sudden she didn't think natural childbirth was such a good idea. Too late says the midwife - you have to go with the flow. Enter yours truly, as we'd planned. I wanted to be part of this glorious event and to assist and help however I could. I comforted her as best I could talking with her, encouraging her, mopping away the sweat, and probably the most important - helping her to get her breathing right. When the baby's head crowned, my eyes must have been like saucers. Then the shoulders came - then swoosh - Simone came out the rest of the way like she was doing the long jump. The midwife had to do a couple of things with eyes and mouth then I got her. Then I laid her on Pat's breast. We called her 'Simone'. In Viet Nam I'd met a woman who'd been given this name by French soldiers. The uniqueness of the situation and the beauty of her name stayed with me. It was passed on to our daughter. We basked in the sunshine. April 2, 1978.
The crib we had was allright. It was on the second floor over a widowed landlady that decided on an extended visit to her native Lebanon shortly after we moved in. There was a grassy backyard in which Carmen could play and we could all lay about. We had a vegetable garden. We also had a very long porch screened by trees. Within a week after the baby was born, Pat had some necessary surgery done on her knee (previously delayed because she had to stay mobile through the action). She was on crutches for at least a month.
As things would have it Simone was colicky. Pray to the goddesses you don't have a colicky baby. Jeez, could that kid wail. I picked up a rocking chair (consider getting one). The bottom line is that Simone had to be held and walked a whole lot, and though the results weren't always immediate, eventually she'd quiet down and drift off to sleep. With Pat on crutches, I did all the walking (I wasn't working at the time). The few neighbors we had knew me as the guy who walked the baby on the porch. We have some great photos of Carmen and Simone together at this time. I especially like the ones of Carmen sitting on the bed holding her newborn sister. The sisterly love seemed almost magical to me. They were tight from jump street and remain so to this day. I saw Bob Marley in concert about this time in the wake of his Exodus and Kaya releases.
We made an important change in our living situation. We decided that the family home had to be a much greater distance removed from the area of our political activity. So we went North and up country, eventually settling in a I 00-year old farmhouse out in the boondocks. We were in the North Country 3 years. It involved a lot more traveling, especially on my part. With two kids it also meant Pat assuming the role of having to deal with certain public contacts (e.g. school, doctors, socializing involving the kids, etc.). The fact remains that when a man is with young children in certain situations it often raises eyebrows (why isn't he working or looking for work? Where is his wife?). A fugitive can't afford to have many eyebrows raised and questions asked. Initially I didn't work. Then I got on construction for a while, then some house painting. My last and longest gig was as a logger - a job I left about a week before Rosa was born March 8, 1980.
I have lots of wonderful memories from that time. I got to spend a lot of time with the kids. The back yard was pasture and forest. I set up a swing set and made a sandbox. I used to love to take the kids along the woodline to gather wildflowers. Show them how to fly a kite, catch a frog by the stream, toboggan down the hill in winter. We had a large vegetable garden. A dog (damn good watchdog and good with the kids, too!). Tapped the surrounding maple trees and made our own syrup. Watched beaucoup episodes of Sesame Street -and Mr. Rogers. Evening story time was a favorite - I began reading stories to them when they were still in cradles. All those good things. Carmen began school with no problem. Forging documents for kids is not so difficult. But as much as we tried to avoid roles according to sex, the larger the family the more we were pressed into those roles to get over society's expectations. As for Pat and I - we were crazy in love. I've never been closer to a person in my entire life.
We did a lot of complicated, demanding and sometimes dangerous things together, but when it came to birth control we were a couple of klutzes. Pat became pregnant with Rosa. We decided to have her - against what common sense would seem to dictate (please don't ask why I didn't get a vasectomy). I would not tell someone who was underground not to have kids. However, I would advise someone in a situation such as we were in against having children. There was no significant network/infastructure underground to assist with raising children. Additionally, we were the hottest fugitives in the entire country - and as was later demonstrated, they would use the kids to get to us. But I always tell the kids that I'm glad they're here and-I've no regrets that they've been given life. It's just that I wouldn't do things the same way if I were to go through that situation again. I suppose this would be a way to curb population growth - if all the people who led difficult hard and sometimes painful lives, didn't have any children.
I suggested the name Rosa. Pat said fine. I was thinking of Rosa Luxemburg. She was thinking of Rosa Parks. I left my logging job about a week before Rosa was born. When Pat went into labor we all piled into the car, dropped the kids off with the wife of an old timer I did my chain saw business with, and proceeded to the hospital where a birthing room and midwife awaited. The labor was shorter than with Simone's delivery, and apparently less painful, as her screams didn't quite raise the hair on the back of my neck this time. After 2 girls we'd preferred a boy but the moment Rosa arrived it didn't make a bit of difference. After a time I went to get the kids and brought them to the hospital to see their new sister. They were really happy and excited. Young kids around a newborn that they've been expecting forever is a very special experience. Home we went where I popped a couple of home brews I'd recently bottled. Rosa's cradle was a wooden apple box I'd converted. She stayed in our bedroom. Carmen and Simone shared a bedroom across from ours.
That summer we made a fateful decision: we would leave the state and move further south to facilitate a working relationship we had with others. For several months we lived in a country dwelling and it looked as if things would work out well. Then the hammer fell - several times. The first time it fell forced us to move abruptly, though not in a total panic. The second time it fell created more heat and problems, but we stayed the course. The third time it fell we barely got out by the skin of our teeth.
When the smoke cleared we were once again slumming it in a larger city with our infastructure 'damaged, I.D.s blown, safe houses compromised, and too many etceteras to get into. It was a long and difficult struggle to recover from such a setback. But we did. Not completely, but enough to reconstitute ourselves, build new infrastructure and go operational again - all of which served to deepen the hatred and determination of our enemies. One of the houses that went down at this time contained photos of children including Carmen, Simone and Rosa (only Rosa's was not of much use to them since it was a baby picture). Also, a situation arose in which Pat saved my life - or at least my ass. She never hesitated in taking the risk to help me when I most needed it.
We did the city thing for a while - Carmen being bussed across city to go to school. Just before Simone started school we moved to a place in rural Pennsylvania. Rural is different than country in that the former means cornfields and hay with city life being not far away. Still it beat our last city stop for comfort and security. Because of the distance from the area of operations, - I must now travel greater distances and be gone longer. Pat must deal with all the domestic duties involving the care of 3 children. Since the fall of the safe houses which contained kids'photos and which yielded other information relating to them, the kids are also targeted in the hunt.
For the first time we change their names. We change the dog's name. I change my name for the hundredth time. Carmen is told that the cops want me. They are told stories of GeorgE Jackson, Lolita Lebron, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X and the Little Engine That Could. We are confronted with constant reminders that we are the government's most wanted fugitives. The day after New Years, 1984, I sat down to watch the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and the feature story is about a band of radicals that has tormented the government from one decade into the next. My photo is displayed, as is that of others. We are terrorists, plain and simple, and extremely dangerous. I don't look at all like the TV photo but I am concerned none the less. I see my picture in bounty hunter magazines (the last assholes I'd be concerned about), in police cruisers, in the post office - everywhere, - in used car dealerships, newspapers, and bank lobbies. We increase our attacks right under their noses.
The last years in Pennsylvania were not so different with the kids - in regards to family life. Love was always in bloom in our home. Something that really warmed my heart was how much the girls loved and cared for each other. And Carmen - she watched over her sisters the way I watched over my younger brother (something that still brings a smile to my mother 'You always took care of your brother'). They always had relationships with other kids, though its different in the country than the city. Simone learned how to ride a bike at the last stop - which was her life's great achievement at that point in time, given the trouble she'd had with anxiety and balance. I liked taking them to the drive-in theater, where we could bring our own popcorn and cooler and take our shoes off (they were in their pj.s). I showed Carmen how to shoot a.22 rifle. We set up a tire swing on an old oak.. They visited their cousins frequently. School projects. Trips to the ice cream store. We danced. Went trick or treating. The County Fair.
Rosa has a small scar on her head, and she still remembers quite well how she got it hitting her head on the jungle gym set in our backyard. It's an important memory for her because at 4 years, 8 months when busted, she remembers the least from these years. She remembers that I was right there when it happened and how I carried her into the house where mama bandaged it and we both kissed the hurt to make it better. Just as I remember - as I see the scar on the palm of my hand - how I tore my hand falling off a fence and ran to my grandmother who gave me great attention and care.
Several weeks before the busts we all went to a big apple orchard where you could pick your own apples for a reasonable price. It was a beautiful autumn day. When we got home we made apple pies and cobbler. When home, I was the chief cook and bottle washer. Kids love to make a mess in the kitchen. I didn't just cook and wash dishes - I did the laundry, cleaned the house (yes I did the bathroom though I seemed to have had a mental block about doing the toilet) and the rest of that stuff. I got to be a pretty good cook and traveled with a seasoned wok and bottles of Tabasco and Tamari in my shaving kit.
There was a long dirt driveway that led to the house. Carmen and Simone would stand at the mailbox at the beginning of the driveway and wait for the big yellow school bus. So as not to be seen close up by the bus driver I usually stood on the back porch or at a window and watched until they left. One day Pat had to take a trip leaving early in the a.m. and returning in the evening. There was a light rain so the kids wore yellow rain slicks - I think Big Bird was on the backs. They carried those little square shaped lunch buckets. As they waited for the bus I watched them and this feeling of dread began to grab hold of me. Carmen was goofing on Simone about something. Innocent child's play. The bus came and they left but the anxiety felt like it was fused to the inside of my eyelids. All day I was apprehensive and clock watching. What if they don't come back? What if one of my kids gets snatched? What to do as they get older? What if I get blown away next week? When the yellow bus returned, they got off smiling and ran down the driveway to show me things they'd done in school that day.
Clandestinity was always difficult and hot. The latter years were the most difficult with the most heat. The guerilla operates on the basis of the War of the Flea. Enough fleas gathered around an elephant for a long enough period of time and under the right conditions will drive the elephant to distraction and ultimately to it's knees. It's called attrition. The problem we eventually encountered was that we became the ones that were being worn down. Our limited numbers and resources against an enemy of great power and vast resources. The more precarious our resources, the harder they came at us. It's nothing short of amazing that we not only survived and eluded them as long as we did but that we remained active the entire time (10 years in my case).
It was about the time that I'd seen the kids off to school that I'd had a serious discussion with Pat about her taking the kids and returning to her family (there was never any question about me. My bridges were burned and I would never return. My only option was to leave the country, which for various reasons I chose not to do). There were no warrants for her - and no evidence. There would be a grand jury action for sure, but I figured she could set the kids up with her family and do grand jury time. One had to weigh all the considerations and think long term. Also, the options - which is what led me to bring it up in the first place.
I was growing increasingly pessimistic about our situation and felt that an unavoidable confrontation was coming sooner or later. I felt this reverse war of attrition was having a serious impact on us, and that we were wearing thin. We weren't growing - our ability to recruit had been all but shut down. Our security was tight, but the cost of maintaining that security and our methods of operation (which included these long distant safehouses, which - when you factor everything in - is very expensive to maintain) placed an incredible burden on us (having kids complicates and dramatically increases the costs of clandestinity. And in terms of your individual and organizational security is a very serious problem). For the first time since going underground I felt the end might be near (in those instances when it had been close, there had not been time to think about it - and after a cooling off period - it was FORWARD!).
Me, I did not fear dying or imprisonment, though I sought to avoid both. Security-wise I would be much better positioned without the kids. And I mean much better. These were not the reasons. I felt this might be the last chance to get the kids out of danger and that horrible things might await us if we didn't act. Just the thought of possibly never seeing Pat and the kids again was a heavy emotional load. Which is probably why I didn't insist that she take the kids and leave. Instead, it was raised as another important matter that we discussed and decided. Her opposition was enough to make me waiver and not continue to press it. I really didn't want them to leave though I thought they should and that it was best for the kids.
Pat knew the situation was serious but felt we could continue to hold our own. She didn't want to leave. Why? Because she didn't want to break up the family. In retrospect I think there were a couple of underlying reasons: 1) In 1984 Pat was part and parcel of the group, however at that time she was not in the field of direct action anywhere near as much as I was. She was my closest confidante, but didn't have the kind of danger right under her nose that I was having to deal with. What she perceived as threatening to the rear base and what I perceived was not always the same. 2) Pat was taken in with the illusion that as a white woman with kids and no record or warrants, she would not be treated too harshly if captured. That bubble got popped pretty quick after November 4, 1984.
I did not repeat the discussion I'd had with Pat to anyone else in the group. I was open and direct with the 'rades, but I decided not to bring it up unless Pat and I both started thinking of her leaving. However, everyone was well aware of MY views and criticisms of our overall situation to the point of being tired of hearing it. Shortly after my discussion with Pat I spoke privately with one of the sisters while we were out on an operation . I didn't bring up the specific conversation I'd had with Pat, but I brought up the same concerns. She dressed me down, saying that my rap would have a negative effect on morale. It was the first busts came down - 5 adults and 6 kids.
When The FBI took Carmen, Simone and Rosa away, Pat says that Carmen put her head out the vehicle's window and yelled to her, "I'll look after my sisters, Mama !"
As the underground years wore on, Pat and my relationship grew even closer. Our personal and political differences narrowed. We rarely argued (our biggest argument in the last years was over zucchinis - which later became a source of amusement as we recalled our time together). You can't have a relationship like this without a lot of love, trust, communication and understanding. Surviving so much adversity together strengthened the relationship. Raising children is a shared experience and blood tie that deepened not only our love for each other and the kids, but for life itself
Because of what it magnifies, I detest the color pink. I was the Pink security patrol, insuring that no clothing, playthings, school supplies, etc. that our kids got contained a shred of pink. Same for dolls, which I think should be banned from the earth. However, a point arrived when Pat thought they should have them after they'd seen other girls with them and wanted their own. I held the line as long as I could, but then Pat ultimately did an end run around me. As soon as they can see and hear and formulate their thoughts, kids become influenced by TV, playmates and school. Most important - they are also keying off the example set by their parents how they interact; the roles each has; their bearing and conversations, etc. And let's not forget attitude-
Yes, I gave them books that countered gender stereotypes; wrestled with them and played at Karate; set up a chin-up bar in the kitchen doorway; almost always had a jungle gym; got them handling worms, caterpillars, spiders and garter snakes (almost as soon as I could walk I used to chase girls with worms and garter snakes in my hand - emulating other boys); went fishing and swimming, underscored women heroes; gave them practical clothing; stressed independent thinking; gave them chores; played ball, etc.
No, we did not hit the kids. Don't believe in it and think it's unnecessary. However I do confess to using my adult size and booming voice to force compliance - Pick up that mess now!!' When I first saw Mister Rogers' neighborhood my first reaction was -jeez, what a wimp, why are they so riveted to this show? Then I checked it out and could see why. It's his emphasis on each child being special, and the self-esteem he nourishes.
How were decisions different while being a fugitive and underground ? In the sphere of family life, Pat and I made every important decision together. We respected and valued each other's views. In the sphere of the organization, the decisions were made collectively. The ramifications on security were weighed and considered with every significant decision.
Within the framework in which we lived and operated, protection of the kids came first. Those who have not experienced clandestinity would refute this, saying that the kids shouldn't have been with us to begin with. But they were with us, and in that context we went to great lengths - at considerable expense and risk - to insulate them from potential fallout. The kids lived quite "normal'' lives in something akin to the nuclear family. However, as they grew older it's clear we would have been confronted with a whole web of other problems (that's the most significant point made in the film 'Running On Empty). That's part of what I sensed that day I watched Carmen and Simone waiting for the school bus. Unlike deep rooted liberation movements, we have other people and resources to turn to, to address these problems. At some point we would have been confronted with the contradiction of bringing the kids up to be all they can be, while living a lifestyle that was a barrier to their potential.
I have been writing most of the day and I've barely scratched the surface of your inquiry. This overview will have to suffice for the time being...
Strange but true: The University of Maine recently had a lecture series exploring the 'neglected dimensions of the Franco-American experience.' In one lecture was presented the theme - Is R.L.L. a 'social bandit' or "revolutionary"? Someone up that way faxed the related newspaper article to someone who faxed it to someone who gave it to me. She said, 'being considered a social bandit is not so bad'.
Ray Luc Levasseur, 10376-016, PO Box 150160, USP Atlanta, Atlanta, GA 30315