by Mitch P.
It was just a few months after we had driven Dow Chemical off the U of Manitoba campus that the school administration decided to try and defuse the student movement. Some liberal jerk on the Student Council had raised the idea that students should be represented on the Senate of the University. The school administration had bought into this idea wholeheartedly; they were desperate enough to agree to anything that might calm things down. At first glance, student representation on the Senate must have seemed as a little price to pay for peace. The Dow Chemical struggle had been bloody and the University Admin had been forced to back down. We had won the skirmish and perceptually we had the upper hand.
Joe Flexer and I discussed this proposition at great length. We both were clear that this was a diversionary tactic on the part of the Admin but rather than denounce the process we decided to participate in the election. We knew that the University Senate was a collection of retired old waspish fogies who had little else left to do other than “community service,” we also knew that the Senate had no power at all in the running of the University. We simply decided that the election provided us a platform to talk about any thing we wanted.
Flexer was an orator of great skill while I was just getting used to speaking in public. We decided that our candidate would be Joe Flexer. It was a democratic nomination, Joe had a vote and I had a vote and Flexer won the nomination two votes to none. I was elected campaign manager by the same margin.
The first and only job was to put out an election poster. I wandered around the lounge at UC and garnered money from every lefty I could, and within a few hours I had enough to pay the printing bill. Following Lenin’s dictates concerning slogans, the Russian Revolution after all had been won with three simple words, “Bread, Land & Peace,” we decided to keep it simple. At the time a popular colloquialism was the term “dig it.” It was a form of sixties “new speak.” We needed to be relevant but both of us were unwilling to give into the liberal use of language and so, in the spirit of the sixties, we changed the term to “take it.”
The poster was simple, a bent elbow and a raised clenched fist with the following words: This University is Yours, Take It. Vote Flexer. It wasn’t exactly a transitional demand. The poster was uncomplicated, to the point and certainly not in the prevailing liberal spirit of University politics. We printed three hundred copies.
We decided to mobilize the entire campaign organization to distribute the poster around the University. Flexer and I agreed to meet after lunch to do the job. It was while we were postering the Student Union building that I learned a fundamental lesson in politics from Joe that has helped me throughout my entire life in politics and later in the arts. Lessons of a fundamental nature are few and far between and this was a dandy.
As we were postering a young man approached us, watched what we were doing and then asked, “Are you guys working for that asshole Joe Flexer.”
In those days I visualized myself as a red necked red and with clenched fist I quickly began to consider whether I would punch him in the mouth or in the gut. Joe prevented this by speaking up and saying “Ya, we’re working for Flexer, as a matter of fact I happen to think that Joe Flexer is a really nice guy.” I could feel the laughter rising in my insides. Joe then said to the guy, “Tell me, who are you supporting in this election?” The guy immediately responded with, “I’m supporting Johnny Larson.”
“Johnny Larson” exclaimed Flexer, “JOHNNY LARSON.” “Listen to me my young friend,” said Joe, “Just the other day I heard Johnny Larson say that Hitler wasn’t a bad guy.” “You should consider more carefully whom you support”, Joe continued.
I had to turn away to hide my glee at this turn of events. It was entirely outrageous but I entirely approved of the line about Larson. Joe could not have found a better foil than Larson who from some childhood disease was entirely bald and looked exactly like Colonel Klink minus the monocle. The young man bought the reality of this assertion immediately. Bewildered he walked away.
Flexer turned to me laughter in his eyes, his index finger pointed skyward and said “That,” and he shook his finger in the air with emphasis, “that was an art form.” “What art form was that?” I enquired, “why Mitch,” he said with mischief in his eyes, “that was the art of Revolutionary Slander.”
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