Sara Jane Moore (I've been unable to source this photo, but it looks like my memory of Moore.)
The death of President Gerald Ford has stirred memories of the two assassination attempts he survived in Northern California in 1975 -- and triggered these pissy comments in the Los Angeles Times.
Come on guys, get over yourselves. Yes, it was a wacky time, but admit you really hated the decade and its excesses because they signaled the end of an oppressively white, male, straight, gray-flannel-corporate United States. We're still fighting over what alternative national myth will describe this diverse country, but the majority who never fit the old picture aren't ever going allow re-imposition of the old ways. And wacky Northern California in the 1970s led the way into our problematic present.
As a 20-something San Franciscan, I had less than six degrees of separation from both women who tried to kill Ford. Squeaky Fromme, who pointed a gun at the president in Sacramento, was a member of the Charles Manson cult whose members carved up actress Sharon Tate. After Manson was jailed, some of them adopted a warped "environmentalism" that prefigured the obsessions of the Unibomber. The father of my partner at that time was a high level state bureaucrat in the Department of Fish and Game; he received bizarre threats from Manson followers who objected to hunting.
That was, happily, a pretty remote connection. But Sara Jane Moore who took a potshot at Ford on Sept. 22, 1975 was actually an acquaintance. She joined a walk from San Francisco to Modesto led by the United Farm Workers Union to denounce anti-union vintner E&J Gallo. I had the privilege of doing the whole week-long trek. The march brought together folks who worked in the wine grape fields with some of their more agile urban allies -- and the usual collection of head cases of the sort that progressive causes attract because we don't exclude them unless they act out spectacularly. One of the head cases was a homeless, brain-injured Vietnam vet who kept threatening to kill Moore because he claimed she was an FBI spy. Moore seemed mildly disturbed, but still a marginally normal, middle-class union supporter. Several of us put a good deal of energy into preventing mayhem. How were we to know that it would come out after Moore shot at Ford that she really had "informed" on radicals for the FBI?
Someone else I know from that time has posted some purported quotations from Moore whose provenance I have no reason to doubt. Moore comes across as paranoid -- and as holding beliefs about government activities that were neither uncommon nor entirely false.
Both Fromme and Moore are still serving life sentences in federal prisons.
Yes, it was a wacky time. But it is far too simple to trash the time's excesses. For good and ill, the foundations of much we live with now took shape then: the Dick (Cheney) and Don (Rumsfeld) show on the one hand, but also women's and gay equality in society and our groping progress toward a society in which no racial group either constitutes a majority or sets the cultural norm.