|Chicago Police vs. Demonstrators 1968|
On this election day, my thoughts turn to the days of old school political tomfoolery. Some things never change. The day to day political process in Chicago during the late 1960's was a mine field of toxic emotional response fueled by the unending Viet Nam War. There was the police riot just outside the doors of the Democratic National Convention in 1968, followed by the mayhem so freely sewed by Jerry Rubin's YIPPIES.
Richard Nixon's election and subsequent inability to bring the war in Viet Nam to a conclusion, incited a renewed rift of student demonstrations. SDS or Students for a Democratic Society was the mover and shaker on college campuses and had divided over the issue of violence as a means to end the war.
In the fall of 1969, the Weathermen contingent of the SDS staged the Chicago Days of Rage. Stores were ransacked and police cars overturned. Lengths of chain, slinging case hardened padlocks were one of the weapons of choice. The police countered with batons and tear gas, bringing many of their more seriously injured customers to the ER. Some of the victims arrived at the ER strapped to the back of Harley-Davidson Servicars which were unique 3 wheeled motorcycles. A rough ride on the back of one of these contraptions was one of the social engineering experiments by law enforcement. A ride on these bucking broncos was enough to deter further bad behavior.
I was a 19 year old student nurse at the time and often came in contact with some of the hapless student demonstrators as they were triaged. These well intentioned youngsters sometimes asked me if I was going to attend the next demonstration on Halsted Street in the morning. "No, I have clinical all day on 3B tomorrow. There is no time for any of that if you are a student nurse."
Nursing was a wonderful shield from the political tumult of the day. Being present to my patients in their time of need felt so good compared to the emotional cauldron stewing within the tear gassed and beaten demonstrators. Diploma nursing schools, with instructors like Miss Bruiser on your back all the time, could be trying, but the monastic life did have it's peaceful moments-some of which I would like to call to mind on this strained election day.