|Journeying the Sixties: A Counterculture Tarot|
EIGHT OF CUPS
“We are building a park on the land. We will take care of it and guard it, in the spirit of the Costanoan Indians. When the University comes with its land title we will tell them: ‘Your land title is covered with blood. We won’t touch it. Your people ripped off the land from the Indians a long time ago. If you want it back now, you will have to fight for it again.”
--Berkeley People’s Park activist Frank Bardacke on a leaflet featuring a photo of Geronimo holding a rifle across his chest May, 1969
“If they leave us alone, we have a park. If they try to take it back we have a riot.”
--Park supporter speaking to 60s historian Todd Gitlin days before the early morning seizure of the land occupied as People’s Park May, 1969
Eventually illusion may grow into the disenchanting and motionless quality of disillusion. Motion is a consistent challenge for the tender, sometimes constrained Cups. Five of its cards dwell on this problem of inaction caused by feelings. The Eight of Cups addresses those steps taken only in the desolate imagination as it loses hope and abandons plans. If as Todd Gitlin said about 1969 that “Rage was becoming the common coin of American culture,” then disillusion wasn’t far behind.
Nowhere was this more evident than in the People’s Park March on May 30 in Berkeley when some 25,000 walked through the streets to simultaneously protest the re-taking of the Park by police and to remember the Park’s single martyr, a bystander shot by cops during a bloody May 15 confrontation. Police snipers occupied the roofs above the streets as demonstrators walked like desolation angels, not in solidarity, but scattered and alone in their singular bereavements. They mourned not just the loss of a life, but also the loss of a belief that putting feet on the ground could topple power and change the world. James Rector was an awkward martyr for Park supporters. An unemployed 25-year-old carpenter, he had no connection to the Park struggle until he was blasted by police buckshot. Yet his death, and the shotgun wounds taken by more than 120 others, announced a newly aggressive police counter-insurgency against those putting their feet on the ground. Alameda County Sheriff Frank Madigan admitted later that his deputies had gone after protestors “as though they were Viet Cong.” And while this outraged Park sympathizers, it played well with a hard line public weary of demonstrations and dissent.
The Eight of Cups signals the end of attachment, and an unavoidable regret about leaving something behind. Despite turning out thousands, the Peoples’ Park March was a snapshot of the Movement hitting a wall and confronting the disillusioning realization of how many stood opposed on the other side. The operative illusion of People’s Park was contained within Frank Bardacke’s historic leaflet, a dreamy invocation of the warrior chief Geronimo that identified the Park’s supporters with “real” Native Americans in both a feeling of natural entitlement and the folly of reckless resistance. A mythic vision of the American Indian was a popular Counterculture metaphor of struggle against power. But these marchers now snaked in their disorder through Berkeley streets as if in a Ghost Dance of defeated acceptance. Once the threshold of violence was crossed, violence controlled the outcome, finding spaces of weakness among the “people” while scattering them back into their feckless, subcultural factions. If power emerged from the barrel of a gun, then more power emerged from more guns. And while starry-eyed acidheads and angry Berkeley activists immediately entertained the idea of taking up arms, there was in the end no collective stomach for it.
During the trauma of 1969, UC-Berkeley Chancellor Roger Heyns described his dilemma with Peoples Park to a meeting of the UC Academic Senate as “feeling like a business manager working for a conservative landlord and confronted by an unauthorized tenant.” In his pivotal (and pivoting) position, Heyns must have felt from each of his two passionate constituents a tenacious thrall that, despite the end of the Movement, only rehearsed the passionate cultural conflicts still ahead. Still, emotions are reflections of the soul, and not the soul itself. As Tarot writer F.D. Graves says of the desolation of the Eight of Cups, “it is the only feeling for which the only effective response is acceptance.”