Madison: Glossing Over the 60s
When you think of Saturdays in Madison, you think of fall and football and beer gardens and tailgating under the deep blue skies of September and October. However, there are two Madison Saturday events that are almost as well known: Crazylegs & the Mifflin Street Block Party. These Saturdays are like a football game in spring and this year, they're both happening on the same day, April 30th. While the adults will gather in the Camp Randall-area beer gardens for an afternoon of drinking uninterupted by a pesky football game, their college counterparts will pack the decks, lawns and sidewalks of Mifflin Street drinking, smoking, listening to music and looking to hook up. While I have a storied personal history at both events, I'm firmly in the beer garden age group now.
The Mifflin Street Block Party started as a political event in 1969. The Wisconsin State Journal's Susan Lampert Smith has an article in today's paper that gently mocks how it's turned from that into a party thrown with the cooperation of the Madison Police Dept. She writes:
Hippie: "500 block Mifflin, be there."
Neo-hippie: "Love to, dude, let me check my BlackBerry.
Hippie: "Dig it!"
Neo-hippie: "Naw, sorry, the 7th's no good, got a calculus exam on the 8th. Can't be loaded for logarithms."
Hippie: "The revolution will not be televised."
Neo-hippie: "Oh, good point. Don't want to miss "The O.C." either. How's the 30th? Does that work for you?
Hippie: "Off the pig."
However, Lampert's article ignores the dark side of the 60s. She quotes a man named Karl Armstrong and portrays him as a "1969 partier". While Armstrong was at the '69 block party, he's better known as the mastermind of the 1970 bombing of Sterling Hall on the UW-Madison campus. This bombing killed a 33-year old physics researcher (and father of two) Robert Fassnacht and injured four others. Armstrong, after fleeing to Canada, was eventually brought to justice and served his time.
The bombing of Sterling Hall was almost 35 years ago. Many Madisonians would read this article and have no idea who Karl Armstrong is, and, by not mentioning it, Lampert Smith paints him as nothing more than a partying hippie. While some may say that Armstrong has already paid the price for his actions and we shouldn't dwell on them, I'd point those people to last week's articles on Pope Benedict XVI. Nearly every one of them made a point to include the fact that the Pope was a member of the Hitler Youth: when he was 14, when it was mandatory and over 64 years ago. There are some facts you can't (and shouldn't) be able to escape.
Madison has a way of glorifying its radical past while glossing over some of the more undesirable aspects of it. It's still a city that hasn't yet embraced reality.
Posted by at April 26, 2005 09:44 AM
The trackback entry for this page is : http://www.inthehat.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/856
|# April 27th, 2005 7:22 AM marcus|
|I never made it to the Miflin St. party. Though I did make it to a Haloween on State Street. I will not go into it as I have political ambitions!
My father talks about those days as a young national guardsman keeping things in line. He talks about going into the bars and smelling the reefer. He talks about sitting in on an astronomy class, he talks about watching a woman's swim class from an underwater viewing portal.
Nope, the 60s were not all peace and love.
|# April 28th, 2005 1:58 PM david|
|Yeah, i had no idea who Karl was or even that the bombing took place. Hard to say I should know as much about him as the pope though. The pope has influence, this guy is just dumb.
The WI State journal clearly screwed up by not knowing this about him though.
|# April 28th, 2005 2:42 PM kris|
The WSJ and Susan Lampert Smith know damn well who Karl Armstrong is--they just chose to whitewash it.