Jerry Rubin, born 14 July, 1938
Self-described “orphan of Amerika,” outside agitator, leader of the Youth International Party, indicted co-conspirator in the trial against free speech in the streets and parks of Chicago, sports writer, mayoral candidate, and revolutionary, Jerry Rubin once “liberated” the last few copies of the Declaration of Independence from a John Birch Society Bookstore in order to distribute them to members of Congress.

Rubin wrote:
A dying culture destroys everything it touches.
Language is one of the first things to go.
Nobody really communicates with words anymore. Words have lost their emotional impact, intimacy, ability to shock and make love.
Language prevents communication.
The visual impact of television and photography was Rubin’s artistic medium; he understood the ways in which images could sway the hearts and minds of viewers, and he assisted in the staging of demonstrations which thrived upon non-verbal messages. Attempting to exorcise the demons from within its walls, he and his cohorts strove to levitate the five-sided symbol of evil know as the Pentagon.
A practitioner of street theatre and a deeply poetic guerilla, Jerry Rubin led a group of pall-bearers who presented Democratic Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy with a coffin that read “Electoral Politics.” In outrageous times, Rubin dared to be outrageous, and he didn’t care whether he was upsetting the anti-war candidate or the war machine. Dissent was not a tone reserved for only the most obvious tools of the corrupted society. In Rubin’s book, everyone got a pie in the face.

Originally Published: July 14th, 2008

Born in Albany, Georgia, D. A. Powell earned an MA at Sonoma State University and an MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His first three collections of poetry, Tea, (1998), Lunch (2000), and Cocktails (2004), are considered by some to be a trilogy on the AIDS epidemic. Lunch was a...

  1. July 14, 2008

    Happy birthday, Jerry and Woody (Guthrie) wherever y'all are.

  2. July 14, 2008
     Lydia Olidea

    I wish Jerry Rubin didn't also stand for, and underwrite the logic of, abandoning "youthful idealism" for the mature pragmatism of becoming a shitheel businessman who saw that community was just a practice run for corporate networking nights at Limelight, and announced that "wealth creation is the real American revolution." With heroes like these...

  3. July 14, 2008
     D. A. Powell

    Yes, Lydia, lots of idealists eventually sell out. But one can admire a period in someone's life without having to like the whole life. Some people get better as they age (I wouldn't want to have known Senator Robert Byrd back in his KKK days) and some get worse. But to have tried to change the world for even a brief moment is an admirable thing. Most never think beyond their own myopic concerns; even fewer act through any kind of nobleness.

  4. July 14, 2008
     Lydia Olidea

    I agree with every word of that. I simply wished to grasp the truth of Jerry Rubin, which requires the noble and less noble parts together. And I guess my concern is not that there was a "bad part" along with a "good part," but that the naturalizing narrative (his, not yours) of "youthful idealism..." as part of a conventional bildung en route to the wisdom of the markets just sort of sucks.
    I am not asking for anyone to be a paragon in every moment; that would be stupid, and painful, and hypocritical. But I am just hopeful enough to think that it's not necessary that one's youthful radicalisms become adult cynicisms, even if it happens all the time – and thus that the project of naming such betrayals as betrayals still has some value.

  5. July 15, 2008

    Since I don't know much about Rubin beyond his Chicago Seven days (beyond that fact that he became a businessman and argued that wealth creation is the real revolution) I'd be interested to know why this represents a betrayal on Rubin's part. If they were sincerely held beliefs, I don't see why a change has to be viewed as hypocritical. His policy shift might not have been the right one (insofar as "wealth creation" wasn't as successful as Rubin would have believed or didn't work), but that doesn't make him hypocritical.
    It's interesting that we often discount what our future selves believe or might think, when it's those future selves who have more experiences and more information. And although I don't think Rubin had quite the same policy ideas in mind (or maybe he did), Amartya Sen's Development as Freedom argues that the idea of wealth creation isn't so crazy (for someone concerned with the welfare all people), though Sen's argument goes beyond merely arguing for creating wealth.

  6. July 15, 2008
     Sam Kuraishi

    J.R was one of the thousands of the Vietnam war activists. Most of them have convictions and were rejected or ignored by the media. But J.R. knew how to reach the media. His rise to celebrity status
    was limelighted by the media, But his downfall, as others see it or interpret it , war his own choice.
    But ...........
    Ease off and bear the blame,
    because nothing stays the same.
    The past will be forgotten,
    and the future can be so rotten.
    The week will sink
    under the burden of power.
    The victor will toss his drink
    on top of his ivory tower.
    Two legged, horses and mules,
    must obey the victor's rules.
    The tyrant will decide,
    who must go for the ride.
    On that demand,
    the were led to the promise land.
    With the villains over their back,
    the creatures tumbled over their back
    A shepherd who takes the sheep
    into the wrong direction,
    might ends up in a field
    of hopelessness and destruction.