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’60s Activist/Hippie Mark Valencia This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     What was your family
like? Did they think differently from you?


I grew up in a mostly white
town but my family was pretty liberal, especially about racial matters. My brother was best friends
with a black boy down the street. When someone decided to put a burning cross in their front yard,
my family, especially my mom, took it upon themselves to support this family and take care of them
despite the prejudice aimed at them.


Did you always accept
and practice “hippie”ideals and philosophies?


When
I went to college I was a hard-nosed redneck and thought guys with long hair who opposed the war were
a bunch of cowards. Then one challenged me to read some material by Bernard Fall, a photographer
killed in Vietnam, which changed me completely. I concluded that the government was lying, that the
war was wrong, and I didn’t want any part of it. And that’s what triggered my
rejection of current norms and standards of society. I figured if the government could lie about
this, they could lie about other things.


Where did you attend
college? How did it influence your ideologies?


First in Massachusetts
but then I transferred to New Mexico because I was majoring in geology and New Mexico seemed perfect.
It was different since the people were incredibly conservative. I became alienated from that
society. As a result I really began to question a lot of values I had been raised with and assumed
to be true.

There is a philosopher who said “Nothing is true until you
experience it. ” This period in my life was dominated by this type of thinking and also
tempered with a certain survival instinct. Then I moved out of the fraternity and began my
“hippie era. ”


Did you have any further
education? Did your opinions become stronger during this period of intellectual growth or did they
change?


I went to graduate school at the University of Texas in Austin
to receive a Master’s in petroleum geology. Texas was a different world, too. It really
strengthened my conviction that something was wrong with the government and society in general. I
mean, at the University of Texas there were 30, 000 students, but only six were black. The fact was
that it was 1968 and the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. Texas was really my time of
radicalization and hippieization.


Despite the obvious
opposition you faced because of your opinions, what were some of the effects of vocalizing your
ideas?


Well, Texas was an extremely hostile environment. I had people
come to my laboratory and say “I understand you’re a Yankee, do you really think
blacks are equal to whites?” People who had a problem with you wouldn’t talk
to you rationally or fight, they would go home and get their pistol to deal with you.



So Texas was a prejudiced, harsh area at
that time?


Extremely. It was so repressive; they even fired a professor
because he publicly opposed the war in Vietnam. I was so happy to leave. I moved to California and
after crossing the border into New Mexico, I got out of my car and kissed the ground.



Where did you go from
there?


After driving to California I went to Hawaii in 1969. It turned
out I arrived during the belly of the beast, so to speak. There were huge
war-supporting establishments and the university had ROTC training on campus preparing young men to
go off and die. But the month I arrived there was a huge outbreak of protest; the student population
was beginning to speak out.


Was there much support for the
war in Hawaii, at least in the academic world? Were there many protests? Rallies of
support?


Yes, both. During the time I was in Hawaii, the islands were
amain spot of R&R for many soldiers. I remember a group of 30soldiers who went to the
Church of the Crossroads and asked for asylum so they wouldn’t have to return to Vietnam
and be forced to kill. Many of us supported these men and requested the church help them. We camped
out there to keep these men from going back.

One day when I wasn’t
there, military police stormed the church and arrested them. They could have been sentenced to 25
years of hard labor but in the end, because the tide was changing, they were released with a medical
discharge.

Formal protests happened around the university, too. One huge protest
was organized by Oliver Lee, the president of Students for a Democratic Society, and people
chained themselves to one of the halls. These protests culminated with the firing of the university
president for unlawful dismissal of a protesting professor.



Did you go to Vietnam? If not, were you ever close to
going?


I didn’t go but I did come close. I received my 1A,
the notification that told me I could be drafted. I burnt it. It said that I could file an appeal,
so I did. I had to appear in Boston, though, so I drove my piece of junk car from Texas to Boston for
the appeal before the draft board. Well, the board happened to be one crusty old lady. I told her,
“I oppose the war. I think it is morally wrong and I refuse to go. ”


She replied, “You know what, I don’t agree with this stupid
war and I think you would do better to help the country by getting your graduate degree.
Here’s your student deferment. ” I was stunned and grateful, except when I
realized that some other poor guy off the street would have to go in my place. It was crazy. Most
people were talking about Canada, but I was talking about Cuba. I didn’tend up going but I
knew fellow graduate students who were drafted right out of school and sent to the front lines. By
the time I graduated the draft was over.


What did you do
after college?


I specialized in Asian foreign relations and
after graduate school I was so disgusted that Richard Nixon was elected and the war was continuing
that I exiled myself and went to Malaysia. I worked for the United Nations Development Program. I
met my wife there and we returned to Hawaii. Once you live in Hawaii, you never forget about it and
have to come back. I worked for the East-West Center until my retirement last year.



What were the sentiments of American youth and citizens at
that time?


It was like the world was on fire. Everywhere seemed
anti-war, anti-American, kind of like today. The government was lying, and everything was a mess.
During this time I figured out what the hippie culture was all about - trying to find out for
yourself which of the truisms were true. Seeing all the changes that the war brought and what it was
doing, I vowed never to work for the government.


Besides the
protest in Hawaii, did you take part in demonstrations?


I became
active in Texas. I taught in a small town that was all black during the Civil Rights Movement. That
made a lot of people angry.

I remember there was a gas station near the
university whose owner would not give gas to blacks. A few guys and I got our cars and brought a
black guy with us and waited to get gas. The man wouldn’t serve us so we got a picnic lunch
and music and sat there all day. When he continued to refuse, we came back the next day until he
started losing so much business that he caved. I also participated in a march with 100 of us and 200
screaming white racists, throwing stones and spitting.


Who
were your role models?


I admired Ramsey Clark, who was the attorney
general at this time and resigned in disgust over Vietnam. Also, the Barringer brothers and Dave
Dillinger, who all put their lives on the line for the war. Definitely Martin Luther King. Also
Stockley Carmichael who was in between King and the Black Panthers, not as all-loving as King but
not as drastic as the Black Panthers.


Did you adopt any
characteristic“hippie” attributes?


In Texas I had
a beard six or seven inches below my chin and hair down to my shoulders. I did some of the things
that were quintessentially “hippie” but this was a time of great intellectual
smorgasbords and experiencing the world was just part of it.



What kind of car did you have?

I
had a VW bug and spray painted each panel a different color. I had that car forever. I drove it from
Texas to California and then shipped it to Hawaii where I had it for many more years until the engine
fell out.


What books were you a fan
of?


In the commune I was part of, we read Marx and thought that while
the solution didn’t work, the idea was great. Another favorite was Voltaire, the French
philosopher. He was a real gadfly on society and criticized each and every thing of his day. He even
took on the Catholic Church. Also The Diary of Che Guevara and, of course,
Mao’s Little Red Book.


What
music did you listen to?


I was a folk music fan: Pete Seeger, Kingston
Trio, Phil Oakes, Ramblin’Jack Elliot, mostly protest music, definitely Bob Dylan. We
also listened to a lot of acid rock like Led Zeppelin, Vanilla Fudge, Purple Haze and Richie Havens.
We listened to The Beatles, of course, particularly their spacey renditions. I think I was one of
the first to get “The White Album. ”

We also liked a lot
of underground films by people like Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan. Things about the Vietnam war that
the government didn’t want you to see. It was a whole counter culture.



Have you read Thoreau’s Civil
Disobedience?


Of course. Thoreau was my hero, and
Civil Disobedience
was mandatory reading for all us New England kids. I really took what
he said to heart, that there were certain things about freedom and that no one can force me to
do anything. I can do whatever I want as long as I am willing to accept the consequences. I guess the
anarchist part really appealed to me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

SantiagoLee said...
Sept. 23, 2012 at 10:02 pm:
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Hehheh said...
Nov. 14, 2009 at 9:31 pm:
Excellent interview and survey of Mark's life and views. I read with interest his always-provocative and rational letters to the editor in The Japan Times, deftly tearing apart columns by neocolonial commentators Ralph Cossa and Brad Glosserman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Honolulu. You go, Mark!
 
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