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Abbie Hoffman

In: Historical Events

Submitted By masonpowers
Words 3923
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PROJECT ABBIE HOFFMAN:
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A True American Revolutionist Mason Powers
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Professor Buckley
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RSCC-104
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Sacred Heart University

Mason Powers
Prof. Buckley
RSCC-104
Final Essay

Abbie Hoffman: A True American Revolutionist

Abbot Howard “Abbie” Hoffman was born on November 30, 1936 in Worcester, Massachusetts from the parents of John Hoffman and Florence Schanberg. Both his parents were of Jewish decent but at a young age Abbie decided to reject religion and take an atheist approach on life. He was arrested for his first time in 1954 at the age of 17 for driving without a license, but this is only the first of many to come but for a good cause. During his teenage years he was known as your stereotypical “troublemaker” as he continuously started fights, played pranks, vandalized school property and addressed teachers by their first names. Although he was a troublemaker, he indeed was one of the smartest students too. Abbie formerly attended Classical High School, a prestigious private high school in Worcester, until he was expelled for a paper he wrote. The paper concerned the existence of God, and Abbie took an atheist approach and explained “God could not exist, for if he did, there wouldn’t be any suffering in the world.” His teacher took this the wrong way, ripped up Abbie’s essay in his face calling him “a Communist punk”; this triggered Abbie to leap across his desk and fight he teacher ultimately resulting in expulsion from high school. In my opinion this was the starting point for his rebellious human journey, which may be considered radical by some, but for the rest his motives were what America needed in the 60’s and 70’s during a time of war and governmental struggles.

Abbie Hoffman went on to college prior to graduating Worcester Academy. Abbie attended Brandeis University in Louisville, Kentucky where he embraced the opportunity to study under professor Abraham Maslow; whom is considered the father of humanistic psychology. In addition to Maslow, Hoffman was a student of Herbert Marcuse, a professor who has a communist political approach and was a Marxist. Marcuse has an influential impact on Abbie’s life because his political outlook profoundly generated Hoffman’s position for American equality. Abbie graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1959, but he continued his education at the University of California-Berkeley. In 1961 he finished his college days with a master degree in psychology which I believe plays a very big role for what was to come in his future days as a leader, an activist, a protester, a journalist, a politician, and foremost a father and a husband.

The 1960’s to 1970’s was a time of sex, drugs, rock and roll…. and WAR! As noted before, Abbie Hoffman was your typical troublemaker; he wore leather jackets, rode a motorcycle, had his hair in a ponytail. He became was we consider today to be a hippie. Although Hoffman embraced the hippie lifestyle he rejected the title “hippie” because it gave people a reason to stereotype them. He did not want a name for what type of person he was because he believe he was an American born with given rights and freedoms just like every other human in the United States. Abbie Hoffman threw out the name “hippie” by calling him and his people (friends/followers) Flower Power. This was a name which he believed represented peace and he exhibited peace by selling items and cloths to support the homeless and civil right movements. With Flower Power he assembled and became involved with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). This organization raised money with respect to anti-war activist constructing rally, assemblies and protests against the Vietnam War. Just a few years later in 1967 Hoffman co-founded the Youth International Party (known as the “Yippies”) with his colleague Jerry Rubin. Both of these men were American political and social activist whom were willing to dedicate their lives to the youth of America fighting for our constitutional rights. The goals for this organization was to raise awareness, and fight for their given rights as American’s by highlighting the flaws of American society, government, and most importantly our culture. Those that made up the Yippies were the youth of America ranging from 16 all the way to 30, most of which were students, hippies, soldiers; a diverse group of people fighting for the same cause.

At a meeting on August 21, 1967, Abbie Hoffman preached to his Yippies, “The only way to support a revolution is to make your own”. His followers were fired up with hope for a change in America, they all wanted to be a part of this movement or rather yet revolution in one-way or the other. Just 3 days later on August 24, Hoffman along with a handful of other members stormed into the New York Stock Exchange after protesting down Wall Street. He stood above the trading floor, symbolically to demonstrate his triumph of power and then deliberately began to throw dollar bills and watch the stockbrokers frantically pick up the money. Him and the Yippies were making it rain money but it only totaled to about $300 in just single dollar bills. This event was a demonstration by Abbie and his people to show America that these people of Wall Street, our businessmen as just men who scramble to take as much money as they can. As a result, the next day out of embarrassment the New York Stock Exchange spent $20,000 to enclose the trading floor with glass to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

Two months later in October of 1967, Hoffman and Rubin gathered the Yippie movement for a protest this country was not ready for. The Yippies teamed up with the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, led by David Dellinger in Washington, DC. This event was known as the March on the Pentagon where these two parties assembled at the Lincoln Memorial where Dellinger and former Vietnam Soldiers gave speeches and outcries in front of over 75,000 people. At this moment in history, Hoffman became an idol to these people who yearned for freedom and equality. Abbie was very convincing with his politics and his speeches. He took these people and encompassed them in his words, touching their hearts and bringing out their best fight. This moment in history was touched upon in the movie Forest Gump when he makes a speech at the Washington Monument. Abbie led out chants and led this mass of people to the pentagon where he stood up to the American government for the first time on a large stage. The 75,000 people surrounded the pentagon protesting the war, until a soldier struck Abbie Hoffman, the leader. Silence surrounded the atmosphere, but Abbie’s radical response was, “Me and these people you consider hippies, are going to gather our psychedelic energy and levitate the pentagon until it would turn orange and begin to vibrate, at which time the war in Vietnam would end.” Tibetan chants followed Hoffman’s crazy response, but hey this was who Abbie was. This political event showed how Abbie was crazy with his words, and yet some didn’t understand him, but they did understand that this man was geared for peace. Abbie was able to reach out to these people and show them that the government did not have enough power to stop a bunch of teenagers fighting for a cause fueled by the love, which we embodied within our hearts. Abbie Hoffman became a symbol of hope, a symbol of freedom and an icon to those who were hopeless.

Abbie was a rather odd man who put a twist on everything he did. For example, prior to the March on the Pentagon, Abbie published a book titled “Steal this Book”. This is a funny name for the book because most places who sold the books noticed people were actually stealing the books but this was what Abbie wanted to test because the average American will do what they have to do to get by in this life. I actually went on to purchase a copy of “Steal this Book” and if I were around in the 60’s/70’s this would have been a great manuscript to help live my life. “Steal this Book” isn’t so much a book but rather a manual to help every American live their life with freedom. The book is divided into three sections; Survive!, Fight!, Liberate!. Abbie Hoffman included the craziest of topics, helpful hints, and information such as how to write to a Congressman, and he included every Congressman’s contact information. Also, Hoffman included other things like how to demonstrate without violence. Overall this book was much of help to American’s and was evident as he sold over 3 million copies in just one year (note: this doesn’t account for the rest that were stolen from stores too). In response to the success of his book sales, Abbie the wise-guy he is responded humorously, “its embarrassing when you try to overthrow the government and you wind up on the Best Sellers List”. All of the money from his book went back to America, but in his own ways. He used the money for protests, rallies, and meetings but he also had a special place in his heart for the homeless because he believes no one in America should be homeless because we are one of the richest countries in the world. With all said Abbie Hoffman still had more planned against the United States.

One of Abbie’s most famous events in history was the Chicago Eight trial. This happened during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago when the Yippies led by Abbie Hoffman along with Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner and Bobby Seal. The group of 500 Yippies assembled in Lincoln Park Chicago, where they partied, danced and cheered for their own candidate for president. The symbolisms in this event was that their candidate was a pig name Pigasus which they claimed ruled the Pig Empire. The pig was direct reflection for how these people felt our own president was. This demonstration did not last very long as the Mayor of Chicago ordered the assembly to be destroyed event though they had a permit to assemble. The Yippies were cleared out with tear gas and violence imposed by the Chicago police force. The eight leaders were charged with conspiracy and inciting to a riot and were on trial in Chicago. Bobby Seal, who was a Co-Founder of the Black Panther Party argued his constitutional rights so much and so well that the judge ordered that he was no allowed to talk in court but this did not stop him therefore they ruled his case a mistrial. As for the seven others, they made a joke of this arrest attempt because they knew they did nothing wrong so they made a mockery of the judicial system but the courts had to make an example of the rebellious youth. In 1970, they found the seven guilty of intent to incite a riot while crossing state lines but threw out the conspiracy charge. They were sentenced five years in prison but this was overturned by the Court of Appeals because it was later found out that it was in fact a police riot.

Hoffman was successful with his protest as he was able to show all of America that the law system was corrupted and trying to protect their own mistakes. He became famous because of this trial to all of America. The citizens loved him, he would make appearances on TV, at concerts, talk on the radio. At the same time the media loved him because they would love to hear his perspective on the war, peace, and life in general. While many love him, others grew to hate him, as the press would make him look like a terrorist, a communist, and a threat to America. As for the United States Government, Hoffman had a target on his back because he is controlling the future for American, the youth. The government was out to make Abbie look like a bad person, a person that no one should follow or believe. An event that was controversial to Abbie’s ego was at Woodstock in 1969 when Abbie interrupted The Who’s performance by grabbing the microphone from Pete Townshend’s hand. Abbie cried into the microphone ”I this this is a pile of shit while John Sinclair rots in prison…” John Sinclair was a member of the White Panther Party and Abbie was referring to the jailing of John Sinclair because he was in prison for receiving two joints from an undercover officer. Townshend took this the wrong way and smashed Abbie over the back with his guitar telling him to get off his stage. Woodstock was a major event in American history, and this stirred up controversy because Abbie was fighting for a cause while people were embracing a bigger cause. Abbie was looking at the little things because these little things make up what we need to fix, and he was pissed off because people thought a concert can provide peace, but peace was only for the moment, there were other things going on outside of this concert which needed to be address.

In years to come, the heat from the government got to Abbie as he posed a major threat to America. He was forced to go underground in 1973, when the government set up Abbie on drug charges for intent to sell cocaine, which in fact the government knew was not true. Abbie felt betrayed by the government even though he tried to overthrow it, because he knew he was not guilty and they knew so too so he make a life changing decision to go on the run. He skipped bail and underwent surgery to change his appearance. Abbie dropped his name and adopted his new alter ego Berry Freed. Even though he was underground Abbie Hoffman still lived on as he published 2 more books underground, as well as working for 17 different press companies across the country publishing over 200 articles in the newspapers still keeping the movement alive. As time when on, Abbie began to get caught up in his own life, entrapped by his mind feeling defeated by the government. He developed bi-polar disorder which is ironic as a man of a psychology education but it took over his life and he lost his way along the human journey by committing suicide. Rumors have it that Abbie was buried under Giant Stadium but his is not the impact he left on America. The government will always hate him and never give him credit for his accomplishments, especially after his remark at the Pentagon, 1967, “In this state, dig it, you get twenty years for sale of dope to a minor. You only get five to ten for manslaughter. So like, the thing is, if you're selling to a kid and cops come, shoot the kid real quick!” and then he finished off his speech with “lay off the needle drugs. The only dope worth shooting is Richard Nixon.” The government did not take this very lightly but there was nothing they could do about it because they could not take away the freedom of speech. Abbie stabbed at the government every way he could come up with which is what steered their hate for him. As for today’s society our parents would most likely say Abbie was a dope because he had a history for affiliation with drugs, but hell who doesn’t in the media today that we look up too. Abbie was a typical human being who had his own problems too. People will read his books and watch his movie (Steal this Movie which I recommend to watch), and they will formulate opinions and feelings which cannot connect to the same opinions and feelings they had in the 70’s. Now a days people would say this man is high on drugs because of the things he used to say, even if they were true and had meaning. As for us, the youth, the students of society today we look at this as a learning opportunity because we do not know how to stand up for ourselves nor do we have the dignity to stand up in our beliefs because we are told we can’t. Abbie still to this day will give hope to those who are young because we are easily convinced and we want a better future for ourselves, so we look at Abbie’s life as something that had meaning and opportunity.

Abbie was a free spirit and he did not hold back what he had to say. A quote that will stick with him forever is before he was found guilty at the Chicago Trials, "We are here to make a better world. No amount of rationalization or blaming can preempt the moment of choice each of us brings to our situation here on this planet. The lesson of the '60s is that people who cared enough to do right could change history. We didn't end racism but we ended legal segregation. We ended the idea that you could send half-a-million soldiers around the world to fight a war that people do not support. We ended the idea that women are second-class citizens. We made the environment an issue that couldn't be avoided. The big battles that we won cannot be reversed. We were young, self-righteous, reckless, hypocritical, brave, silly, and headstrong and scared half to death….And we were right." I believe that this can determine his place in history because he did change the human journey for millions of Americans. He brought together whites and blacks, and they protested together which is nothing this country has ever seen. He did help America fight the Vietnam War, not in Vietnam but at the home front battling the government we though protected us. The most important part of Abbie’s journey was that he gave people a voice by instilling hope into their very core and showing them it is instinctive to stand up for your own rights and to live your life the way you want it rather than living in fear of dictation from high authorities. Abbie Hoffman can and will be criticized through out history for his behavior, actions, speeches and what not, but is this because he was out of the norm…against the conformity of society? Maybe so but every person who has ever changed this world will be criticized such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorthy Day, and so on. As much as they are scrutinized they will also be honored and in my deepest beliefs I feel like Abbie Hoffman should be categorized amongst these heroes for a better human journey.

I can go on and on about Abbie Hoffman because he is one of my heroes in life. His story inspires me to go out and fight for a cause or make change in society but I need more people on the same page. Abbie Hoffman lived a life of meaning and purpose and I would like to do the same with my human journey. I do not doubt my power, but I doubt my stance in society as I am drowned by the authority, which our government imposes upon us. I do not believe I can make the same impact as Abbie Hoffman, lifting up this nation and bringing it to a more peaceful place. It just is not possible because so many people have so many opinions. My goal in life though is to indeed impact the human journey by creating a new voice. People say that social media is such a efficient tool, and yes it is, I can use it to my advantage by mass broadcasting my motives, opinions and feelings but they can easily be destroyed by social media too. My goal in life is to get people away from these evils such as social media because it takes over our lives; America is becoming obese as a result, we are becoming stupider because we can only think in 140 characters like a tweet, and we are becoming controlled because the government wants us to use this so they can control our thoughts and oversee our every move. With this said, we need a person like Abbie Hoffman today because he wouldn’t have allowed for this. People cannot make a change through a computer screen because you cannot feel, or see the emotions embedded in your true beliefs/opinions. The only way to do it is by getting out there and showing how you feel to society. I had an opportunity to do this though out this semester; my community service project entailed me going to NYC and holding my own demonstration to change the world. I simply just held up a sign stating people notice a difference, and on the other side, change the world today. The outcome was beneficial because I felt like a came in contact with some strangers I met and helped change their day, their opinions, and perhaps their human journey but ultimately this was to small for me. In my human journey I see myself taking this opportunity I had and evolving it. I want to have not just me and my girlfriend holding signs, but rather a whole city block, all of central park, I want thousands of people by my side to not fight for a cause but rather fight for our voice. We don’t all have to have the same views or opinions but if we have a voice we become intimidating to the public and the government and people will respect you for that because they do not have the pride to do the same as us. I cannot tell you when this will happen, and it will not be overnight but one day you will see NYC surrounded by signs expressing how we really feel. If I fail doing so, I am going to fail hard because I will not go down without a fight. My human journey will have some purpose because I have a voice that is screaming on the inside, for instance I would like to change Obamacare, I would like to reform our taxes, I would like for our soldiers to come home but I cannot change this by myself nor with a thousand people. These issues are out of our hands but I can change the smaller things such as peace within our own communities, caring for each other, and raising awareness to the poverty we have creating in our own country. This will take years, dedication and a long shot to accomplish this, money is not of concern, but rather the emotions that will drive this movement. Overall, if I cannot succeed on the streets or even if I do, I want to go on with my human journey by attaining a Doctorate degree from a university and finish off my journey with a book/manuscript such as Abbie Hoffman left us with. I am not going to tell people how to live, but rather provide guidance to led them to success, accomplish and protect them from the evils our society bears. It is not hard to see this evil around us but it is hard to address it.

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