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May 12, 1989 - Image 28

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-05-12

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Abbie Hoffman

Continued from preceding page

Morris & Helen Weiss

upon receiving

The Chesed Award

Abbie Hoffman is arrested in 1968 and charged with mutilating the
American flag.

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Hoffman had gone on the
lam seven years before when
he jumped bail after being ar-
rested on charges of selling
cocaine. But even while
underground, Hoffman did
not take the judicious route
and become something that
no one would expect he -ever
would be, such as a stock-
broker or a Republican. His
instincts had held true. Lam
or not, fugitive or not, he was
still out there, railing against
what he thought were wrongs
and injustices. Considering
the consequences of a legal
system that doesn't take kind-
ly to bail jumpers, what Hoff-
man did was either darned
brave or amazingly stupid —
or a bit of both.
To those of a certain age
and political inclination,
Hoffman's death didn't have
the sort of sledgehammer
blow that, say, John Lennon's
had in 1980. Lennon and his
fellow Liverpudlians who call-
ed themselves The Beatles
gave the 60s era its tonal
poems, its aural rhythms, its
rock 'n rolling cantos and
chapters and verses. They
were pop bards in a day when
pop was everything. But even
as Lennon was killed a full
decade after the era had ex-
pired, the Beatles and their
music seemed immortal. "I
Wanna Hold Your Hand,"
"Lucy In The Sky With
Diamonds," "Penny Lane" —
all were frozen in time, a time
when anything seemed possi-
ble because people didn't
know the meaning of limits.
Or maybe they just didn't
know the meaning of common
Hoffman was different. Like
The Beatles at their fabled
press conferences, he thought
the best offense was humor.
And like them, he sniped
joyfully at pretense and stuf-
finess and selfishness. But his
goals, from the very beginn-
ing, were political. And the

Beatles, from theirs, was
sheer entertainment.
Not, of course, that there is
anything wrong with diver-
sion. Hoffman used it
throughout what could loose-
ly be called his "career?'
Throwing dollar bills in 1967
from the gallery of the New
York Stock Exchange onto the
exchange floor nearly caused
a riot among traders. Chan-
ting to levitate the Pentagon
during an anti-war march
later that year caused as
much pleasure as it did con-
sternation that maybe the
crackpots just might do it and
then where would the
military-industrial complex
go? And nominating a pig for
president in 1968 made even
more of a shambles of the De-
mocratic Convention in
Hoffman may have reached
the apex of his notoriety, a
notoriety premised on anar-
chy and put-on, when he was
tried before before Judge
Julius Hoffman with other
members of the "Chicago
Seven" for allegedly conspir-
ing to disrupt the convention.
Hoffman and his sidekick,
Jerry Rubin, taunted the
judge (who was not related to
Abbie) with jeers that he was
"a shanda (shame) to the
The judge may or may not
have been, but not one of the
defendants ever served time.
Their convictions were even-
tually overturned. The inci-
dent, though, illustrated that
while Hoffman didn't have
much to do with proper, of-
ficial Judaism, he had absorb-
ed much more of Jewish
culture than perhaps he or
anyone else had suspected.
Calling a judge a shanda may
have been impolite (especial-
ly in an open courtroom), but
it was Hoffma.n's way of say-
ing they were both blood
brothers. The major difference
was that the Hoffman with


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