Author's Name: George Hickenlooper
Title: "Five Stories from the Home Front"
In 1970, when I began teaching at San Jose State, I was surprised to learn that professors in the California state system were required to take a loyalty oath and swear that they would not conspire to overthrow the government by force or violence -- not the U.S. government, mind you, but California's! Then Governor Ronald Reagan's attitude at the time seemed to be that professors were a seditious bunch egging students on to increasingly violent protests. I took the oath because I needed the job, as did all but one of the faculty, Jessica Mitford, but I told myself she could probably live well enough on the royalties from her best seller, "The American Way of Death." I still don't feel good about what I did.
I later joined a group of peaceful protesters in the Palo Alto Peace Union. One time some of us invested in FMC, the Food and Machinery Corporation, at two shares a person, which gave us the right to attend a stockholder's meeting, Rumor had it that FMC was secretly producing an horrific anti-personnel weapon, something between a hand grenade and a barrel bomb, for use in Vietnam. I don't know if there was a mole in our group, but when we arrived at the meeting, we were immediately surrounded by men in dark suits taking our pictures with large flash cameras. I asked the question about the weapon that was on all our minds and was answered with a moment of stony silence, some inaudible muttering up on the podium, and finally denial that FMC manufactured any such product.
Another time I went out with some Quakers in a small sailboat in San Francisco Bay to picket the U.S.S. Enterprise, the huge aircraft carrier that was heading out, we were told, for the purpose of carpet bombing Hanoi. We took up our position, along with some other boats, close enough to be seen from the carrier but not close enough to be swamped in its powerful wake. Swamping was attempted, however, by a helicopter that soon appeared, flying low directly above us and showering us with leaflets to inform us we were in violation of the Espionage Act of 1918.
Many in our group protested the war by refusing to pay the telephone tax that helped pay for the war. One afternoon I opened the front door of my house to a young man from the local IRS office. Barging right in, he told me I was at risk of losing my home, my car, and any other property I had because of my refusal to pay the tax. After he then stormed out, I called the IRS, told them what had just transpired, received fulsome apologies, and was finally informed that they would simply take the money from my bank account.
My final story is of a young man I had never met who was on the run from the draft, We had nothing in common but our last name. which suggested some sort of kinship. We sheltered him for a couple of nights, making us both law law breakers, and then he moved on. I have often wondered what finally happened to him.