Monday, 20 July 2009

1968: The Year That Rocked the World

by Mark Kurlansky

Another event that they did intend to carry out was the nomination of the Yippie candidate for president, Mr. Pigasus, who happened to be a pig on a leash. "The concept of pig as our leader was truer than reality," Hoffman wrote in an essay titled "Creating a Perfect Mess." Pig was the common pejorative for police at the time, but Hoffman insisted that in the case of Chicago, the "pigs" actually looked like pigs, "with their big beer bellies, triple chins, red faces, and little squinty eyes." It was a kind of silliness that was infectious. He pointed out the resemblance of both Hubert Humphrey and Daley to pigs, and the more he explained, the more it seemed that everyone was starting to look like a pig.

But there was a problem: There were two pigs. Abbie Hoffman had gotten one and Jerry Rubin had gotten one, and a conflict arose over which one to nominate. Typical of their differences in style, Rubin had picked a very ugly pig and Hoffman a cute one. The argument between them over the pig selection almost became physically violent. Rubin accused Hoffman of trying to make the Yippies his own personality cult. Hoffman said that Rubin always wanted to show a fist, whereas "I want to show the clenched fist and the smile."

The arguing continued for some time before it was decided that the official candidate of the Youth International Party would be Rubin's very ugly pig. Hoffman, still angry from the dispute, stood in the Chicago Civic Center as Jerry Rubin said, "We are proud to announce the declaration of candidacy for president of the United States by a pig." The police then arrested Rubin, Hoffman, the pig, and singer Phil Ochs for disorderly conduct but held them only briefly. The next day another pig was loose in Lincoln Park, apparently a female, supposedly Mrs. Pigasus, the candidate's wife. As the police pursued the animal, Yippies shouted, "Pig! Pig!" for the fun of it, because it was unclear whether they were shouting at the pursuers or the pursued. When the police finally grabbed the pig, someone shouted, "Be careful how you treat the next First Lady." Some of the police laughed; others glared. They threw the little pig into the back of a paddy wagon and threateningly asked if anyone wanted to go with the pig. A few Yippies said yes and jumped into the wagon. They closed the door and drove off. Some journalists took the bait and started interviewing Yippies. The Yippies said that they were unstoppable because they had a whole farm full of pigs just outside Chicago. A journalist wanted to know how they felt about losing their pig, and one of the Yippies demanded Secret Service protection for both their candidate and his First Lady. A radio reporter asked with great earnestness just what the pig symbolized. Answers were hurled back: Food! Ham! Parks belong to pigs.

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