Tuesday, September 1, 2009


1, Jackson in San Francisco for 1984 Democratic Convention. I attended that convention as student observer. Photo by Lloyd Francis; 2, July 15, 1984 at Moscone Center, Democratic Convention rally for Marijuana rights, Photo by Howard Ford.


Published news stories by Lurene Helzer, The Chabot College Spectator, May 10, 1984. “ASCC Seeks New Liaison,” “Gwilliam Turns Down Stipends,” “Meet Chabot’s Ronald Graham”.


Published news stories by Lurene Helzer, The Chabot College Spectator, March 9, 1984. “Up, Up and Away…”. Story is about Chabot’s forensics team.


Published news stories by Lurene Helzer, The Chabot College Spectator, March 16, 1984. “Marketing Team Wins Awards,” “ Aguiar For The Defense”.


Published news stories by Lurene Helzer, The Chabot College Spectator, April 26, 1984. “Polls Close Tonight For ASCC Election,” “It’s Official: Escobar’s Eligible”. It was an average newspaper for a community college, but in 2009, I can recognize the outlines of future news events.

You had three students running for 1984 student government. Ray Gwilliam, Eddie Escobar and Michael Faryabi. Even then, you were scratching your head when candidate/incumbent Michael Faryabi kept calling actions of the student government “illegal.”

Illegal? Nobody quite knew what Faryabi was ranting about. Today, you very easily do: maybe the governments of Iran and/or Afghanistan.

You recognize in these old speeches a clear rehearsal for Mideast/Islamic diplomatic rhetoric that is common today for diplomats out of Iran, Afghanistan and Israel’s West Bank/Gaza Strip. This style of activism – assuming a minor political position in the U.S. simply to gain a podium and promote an unrelated cause -- became more pronounced by Palestinian sympathizers on many U.S. campuses by 1988.

It’s now used all the time in 2009. You’ll see a group promoting pediatric health, but they’re always stuck on Palestinian kids’ health, somehow, and since they’re on that subject, how about Palestinian rights in general....

But the observer needs to step back, consider the general background of the activist. I doubt this obfuscatory style of political activism was invented by Islamic immigrants. I think it’s probably a style used by people coming from non-democratic, authoritarian countries in general. I could be wrong from one case to another, but I can’t help putting it together this way while revisiting this 1984 story in 2009. I think it was the public speaking style of the era for many Afghans in the East Bay. They were thinking still of the Soviet invasion.

In Iran, for example, one would have a hard time starting a club advancing women’s rights, per se. Let’s face it: makes more sense to start a knitting club in Tehran and spend the entire afternoon – yarn openly displayed – discussing rights in Islam relating to….knitting. The women return home in safety. Nobody gets jailed the next day.


Published news stories by Lurene Helzer, The Chabot College Spectator, May 17, 1984. “Marketing Team Walks Away With Medals”. What stands out about this issue of the campus newspaper is not my story, but that Jesse Jackson was on the front page, preparing to make a run for the U.S. presidency.

Student Journalist Catherine Kellam wrote a story about Jackson’s speech at SF State. Jackson is quoted in her story promoting friendlier relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Ronald Reagan was then U.S. president.

Jackson was one of many in those late years of the Cold War who favored a friendlier stance toward Soviet Russia. The Soviet Union was in 1984 led by Konstantin Chernenko. With this leader, the Soviets, in retaliation for earlier U.S. actions, boycotted the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, encouraged increased KGB oppression on political dissidents in the Soviet sphere, and forged ahead with a useless conflict inside Afghanistan. (We are in Afghanistan today, by the way, having about as hard a time in that tribal society, so....)

Jackson, like so many with the left in those years, had major blind spots when it came to recognizing the Soviets as they truly were inside Eastern Europe and Russia. After the fall of The Berlin Wall and the crumbling of the Soviet-led dictatorships, critics like Jackson seemed a bit reluctant to revisit their earlier positions regarding the Soviets.

This is a key point today because there are as many or more nuclear weapons now as there were then. Activists like Jackson seem far less vocal about nuclear weapons today than they were in the 1980s. The holders of nuclear weaponry today seem far less politically stable, rational, than were the dictatorial Soviets of 1984.


News stories for Chabot College Spectator between May, 1984 and June, 1985. Or, these are the copies I still have. I was editor of the campus newspaper by June of 1985.

In that 1985 issue, I wrote a longer story about journalism, and about the 1978 Jonestown murders by Jim Jones. San Francisco Photojournalist Greg Robinson, working for The San Francisco Examiner, was killed, as were many others.....to be continued.