Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by
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The sunflower with the words “War is not healthy for children or other living things” was created in 1967 for the anti-Vietnam-War movement. It appeared as a poster first, and then was made into a necklace and a button. My mother bought the necklace for me, because she was in sympathy with my antiwar activism. I liked it because it was a pretty piece of jewelry as well as a political statement, and nobody at my high school could object to my wearing a necklace the way they might have to the button.

Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow was Bill Clinton's campaign song.

 

This was probably the first political button that I ever owned. In 1965 LBJ had gall bladder surgery, and afterwards pulled up his shirt to show reporters and photographers the scar on his abdomen. This caused quite a stir. He claimed he did it in order to dispel rumors that he had been operated on for cancer. In 1966 a political cartoonist named David Levine drew this caricature of the President which became very popular, and was made into a button. I don’t remember who gave it to me, but my 15-year-old self thought it was the greatest thing ever, although I never actually wore it because it was huge – about six inches in diameter. I didn’t realize at the time that the scar in the drawing was in the shape of Vietnam.

 

During the summer of 1968, when I had a job with the McCarthy presidential campaign, I amassed a large collection of campaign buttons. This picture is from the internet, because I couldn’t find the piece of felt with all my buttons pinned to it, although I am fairly certain it is somewhere in my house. I did have all the ones pictured except “Republicans for McCarthy” and I also had many others. They were in every imaginable color, so that during the summer, and also that entire fall until Election Day, I wore a button every day and had it color coordinated with my outfit. It later occurred to me that maybe the reason the Harvard SDSers didn’t pay much attention to me when I showed up at meetings that fall was because I was always wearing a McCarthy button, which probably made me seem not radical enough.

I also got some decals like this in various sizes to stick on cars, notebooks, guitar cases, or anything with a flat surface. I still have the one on my guitar case, but it has been decades since I played my guitar. I occasionally still see them on old cars, usually Volkswagen beetles, and it makes me happy.

 

 

I acquired this McCarthy scarf that summer as well, because I was basically collecting every bit of paraphernalia I could find. (I also have McCarthy matches, which could have been useful since I smoked both cigarettes and joints back then, but of course I wouldn’t use them because they were too precious.) I wore the scarf occasionally then and later, but not nearly as often as the buttons. I loved the idea of it, but I am just not much of a scarf person.

 

 

I treasure this Yippie button because it was given to me by Phil Ochs at the Amphitheatre in Chicago, the week before the 1968 Democratic Convention. You can read about how I met him and got the button from him in my story I’ve Got A Crush on You which I wrote for The Crush prompt.

 

This is an assortment of buttons I acquired in fall 1969, my sophomore year of college. Three are from the October 15th (in Boston) and November 15th (in Washington) marches against the war. The buttons that say November 13th and 14th are from the vigil and strike preceding the November 15th march. The two Lindsay buttons are from my trips to New York with a bunch of other Harvard-Radcliffe students on a couple of weekends to work in John Lindsay’s campaign for re-election as mayor. I love the slogan on the white button, “It’s the 2nd toughest job in America.” Lindsay won the race, even though he was running on the Liberal Party ticket and there was a Democrat and a Republican running against him. I always thought it had less to do with all the college students like me who joined his campaign and more to do with the fact that New Yorkers were happy with the status quo because the Mets won the World Series that year.

 

During the Clinton-Gore campaign of 1992 I was proud and excited to be a precinct leader. This involved a lot of precinct walking, knocking on doors, often with my seven-year-old beside me and my almost-four-year-old in a stroller. The campaign didn’t give us buttons, but they did give us these t-shirts. Both of the California Senate seats were up that year, because Dianne Feinstein was running against the appointed incumbent to fill out the last two years of Pete Wilson’s term (Wilson had been elected Governor), and Barbara Boxer was running for a full term in the seat vacated by retiring Senator Alan Cranston. There had never been a woman Senator from California before, so the possibility of electing two was very exciting! And everybody won!

 

Remember when we wore safety pins to tell people we were allies? In November 2016, after the appalling election results, suddenly we saw that harassment of women, immigrants, LGBTQ people, Muslims, and, of course, Jews became shockingly common. (Four years later it is still common, but we are no longer shocked.) At that time, we were advised to wear a safety pin on our clothing to show that we were “safe” to talk to, and that we would help any member of these groups if someone else started attacking them.

 

I bought this Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissent necklace a year or so ago, and loved the subtlety of wearing it around people who had no idea that it represented the collar she wore when she was delivering one of her stinging dissents. Now that she is gone, it is a poignant reminder of a time when we could still believe our Supreme Court might do the right thing.

 

 

 

 

Finally, the current campaign, which is exhausting, and now almost over. I haven’t acquired any buttons, because I don’t go anywhere these days, and nobody would see me, so what’s the point. But looking at what is available online, if I were going to get a button, this is the one I would get.

Let’s hope that “tomorrow,” which is to say ten days from now, the election results will give us something wonderful to think about.

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy


Characterizations: funny, moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Amen to your last sentiment, Suzy! And wow, what a collection, but knowing you as I do, I knew you’d have a terrific one. I love your RBG collar; poignant indeed.

    Did you ever run into Gene Pokorny or Pat Caddell in your McCarthy days? They were his pollsters. Gene and his wife became very close friends of mine when I lived around the corner from them in Boston, some 36 years ago. And Pat dated my friend Christie when they were both in Boston in 1975. He just died this year, having gone from being super-Liberal to being a rabid Conservative. How does that happen?

    Thanks for sharing all your goodies.

    • Suzy says:

      I don’t know Gene, but Pat was a college classmate of mine. Interestingly, in our last reunion book, in 2017, he wrote “having grandchildren has helped me see the light, so I have spent the last decade trying to tear down the system I helped build in order to leave things in a better place for my three sweet progeny.”

      • Betsy Pfau says:

        Oh dear! By the way, after writing the above, I googled Pat (to check my memory). I was off by a year; he passed away in 2019 in the aftermath of a stroke. But he had become a rabid Conservative, talking head on FOX, speaker at CPAC, etc. He was from South Carolina (which I didn’t realize), moved back, and thought he was returning to his idealogical roots as well.

  2. Brava Suzy for your wonderfully well-written narrative, your activism, and for sharing the things you collect that reflect your political passion.

    I went in a non-political direction with this prompt, but rest assured I’ve been writing postcards to swing state voters, writing checks, and dare I say praying!

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks for your comment, Dana. Prompts are meant to inspire you to write a story, so I’m glad it did that. No requirement to be political, although right now it’s hard not to be!

  3. John Shutkin says:

    Great story and pictures, Suzy, especially since — unlike some of us — you have been a loyal button collector/wearer over the years. The scarf with the distinctive blue McCarthy buttons really brought back memories from 1968; it seemed like almost everyone on campus had one.

    I particularly liked your memory of John Lindsay’s campaign. My grandmother lived on lower Fifth Avenue near Washington Square, which was Lindsay’s original district when he was a Congressman, and she had been touting him for years. That said, I think you are right: the Mets’ really had a lot to do with his own victory.

    And, yes, I can’t wait to start believing again — even though your title song, now an earworm, was never a favorite of mine. (Just not a big Journey/Steve Perry fan.)

    • Suzy says:

      Wow, John, you made me realize I had the wrong song! I knew it was Fleetwood Mac, not Journey, that sang Clinton’s campaign song, and I misremembered the title. So now you can have a new earworm. Btw, my other choice for the title was High Hopes, which was JFK’s campaign song.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Amen, Suzy! I can’t believe how many causes we have shared. I love your necklace in the featured image and would probably still wear it now on occasion if I had one. The safety pin thing was something I wore for a long time. I had quite a collection. Sure hope I don’t have to dig it out again. I’ve been wearing my RBG dissent collar pin every day, and this nasty woman already voted. Right on, sister.

    • Suzy says:

      I know you do have quite a collection, because those are the buttons and pins that are in the image for this prompt. I was glad to see your McCarthy button and your RBG pin there. I haven’t voted yet, but in California they make it very easy, so nobody has to wait in any lines.

  5. Marian says:

    Lots of great memories came up while reading your story, Suzy. I’m so glad you kept all the buttons. And those necklaces and scarves are terrific. I didn’t know about the safety pin and wish I had in 2016. I would have worn it proudly. Let’s hope all our efforts this year pay off on November 3.

    • Suzy says:

      Marian, I wrote about the safety pin in November 2016, in a story called “Which Side Are You On?” on the prompt The American Dream. That was a scary time, right after that horrifying election. Only three people wrote that week, maybe everyone else was still in shock!

  6. Such a superb collection of buttons and corresponding memories, Suzy! I love the featured image, and the story behind it. For some reason I always thought it was by Sister Corita, but it was created by Lorraine Schneider, a wife and mother. Also love the RBG necklace. I am in awe of your level of commitment and thank you for it, you nasty woman, you!

    • Suzy says:

      I’ve never heard of Sister Corita, but I knew the design was by a “doctor’s wife and mother of four.” The story about how she designed it for a miniature print show and it couldn’t be larger than four square inches is so amazing. I guess I could have included that, but didn’t. I was more focused on the memories. Thanks for appreciating my level of commitment!

      • Suzy did you ever drive down Morrissey Blvd south of Boston, or for that matter, the Southeast Expressway, Route 3, heading south past Dorchester? You must have seen the colorful painting on the huge Boston Gas Tank that sits just off shore? Many people thought it looked like a sketch of Ho Chi Minh with his long beard. Anyway, that’s a famous piece of art by Sister Corita. I’m not sure if she ever confirmed that she was artistically suggesting an homage to Uncle Ho, but I don’t think she ever denied it either. She definitely was a pacifist and an activist/artist.

        • Suzy says:

          Dale, I’m not sure I have ever driven south of Boston, and I’ve definitely never seen that gas tank. I’ll have to make a point of seeing it the next time I’m in Boston with a car, if that ever happens.

  7. I am especially enamored of your McCarthy paraphernalia. There was such a sense of hope around that campaign. My mother got involved a few months after I did, and coordinated volunteers in central Indiana.
    As a result of this dialogue, I am remembering what I thought was the most powerful and poetic of the promos for McCarthy, although it was too long to fit on a button. Do you remember the poster with him standing somewhere on cobblestones, and the words: “He stood up alone and something happened.”

    • Suzy says:

      Dale, not only do I remember that poster, I have it framed and hanging in my house! In fact, I included it as one of my favorite possessions in my story called “My Favorite Things” on the prompt Memorabilia. There probably isn’t anything about McCarthy that I don’t remember, he was a major force in my life!

  8. wllmejia says:

    Suzy, you are a gifted writer. I’m sure you know that already but it’s still good to hear, right.

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