In the Belly of the Beast

Don’t go around tonight,
Well it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a bad moon on the rise.

—Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1969

The Beast

In the late sixties, I had a friend who was a card carrying member of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society).  It was through this friend Michael that I became aware of SDS and its founder, Tom Hayden.  Hayden had a flair for generating interesting quotes.

He advised we young people to “get into the belly of the beast”.  I gave that much thought at the time, and I find myself given to thinking about it now.

Only fourteen years after his SDS days had waned, Hayden was elected to the California State Assembly.  Ten years after that, he went on to the California Senate where he served until the year 2000.  There he was…he had made it into the belly, quite admirably, a man who had taken his own advice.

Time passed and in 1996, I was part owner of an advertising agency.  We decided to host a reception for one of our major clients in the Sacramento area where the client was located.  We held it at a beautiful bed and breakfast complete with a bar setup and lots of ice.  I was standing at the bar with several guests when a jogger came through the door, sweat towel around his neck.  He went straight to the area behind the bar and helped himself to a glass of ice, happily crunching the replenishing chips.

I recognized him immediately and interrupted his blissful reverie, so oblivious of our presence was he.  “Excuse me, sir”, I needled. “That is private ice”.  He looked at me quizzically.  “You are in the middle of a private party”, I explained.  “Oh”!  He was suddenly made aware of his surroundings and the party guests were suddenly aware of  Senator Hayden’s presence.  They all came in closer to Tom Hayden and began greeting him.  He did his best to exchange a little light chit chat with the crowd, but was clearly uncomfortable.

I walked up to him and whispered “Tom, I remember SDS” and looked him dead in the eye. I saw shame flicker across his face.   That was all he could bear.  He smiled wanly and begged off to the crowd saying that he needed to change out of his jogging clothes.

Away he went, me having hit a nerve.  It had seemed to me that he had lost some of his fiery passion for truth and justice along the way, but I think that it is hard to be in the belly of the beast all by one’s self.  The man who had led the clarion call for radicalizing the sixties had gone on to become a Senator and to marry Jane Fonda.

A few days after the party, a thank you note arrived from one of the guests.  It complimented the ambiance, the food, the wonderful wine and music,  He ended his note with “And as for the appearance of the Senator, nice touch”.  It felt so natural, as though he needed to be reminded.  Tom had lost his way, as had his friend, Governor Jerry Brown.  They had joined the others, riding the beast. trampling everything in their way.  The belly of the beast is a seduction that few can withstand.  All aboard!

(It’s the hands you need to pay attention to…by their works you shall know them…Bohemian Grove…the belly of the beast)

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