But know that it is litter that has been sanctified by the very blood in the footprints of the snows of Valley Forge!" At least that's what I meant to say. What I actually said was "No way dude - it's free speech."
I was next to the Pasadena Freeway, snapping pictures of signs, when someone appeared on a motorcycle and took down my "Save the Humans." sign. "Damn Martians..." I thought to myself.
"Hey Asshole! I'm tired of picking up your fucking litter!" (my apologies for some of the language here...)
This was the point at which I'd meant to bring up the business about Valley Forge, but he'd gotten off his bike and was coming at me in a somewhat threatening manner. "It's fucking bullshit's what it is!"
Now, to be fair, this was a particularly fertile section of freeway for me, and I'd been posting signs all along it since about Abu Ghraib, so when he said he was tired of it he was probably telling the truth. Although he looked mad as hell, I'm a pretty big guy, and when he got to me, he gave me one of those schoolyard shoves that said "I'm not afraid to push you not-very-hard." I shrugged and tried to let him know that I was perfectly willing to be pushed not-very-hard.
"Save the Humans..." I said, "What's your fucking problem with that?"
"It's bullshit. Global warming is just bullshit. It's just more Big Government!"
To be honest, that threw me for a bit of a loop - I hadn't really considered global warming as a result of "Big Government," although I suppose in a way it is. Nevertheless, I didn't feel much like quizzing him further about his theory. Although I was pretty sure he'd given up on throwing any punches, he didn't seem very interested in dialogue, so I said "Whatever dude." and got into my car.
If I'd wanted to pursue a dialogue though, this is what I would've said: "Okay, let's say you're right. Global Warming is just some massive hoax being perpetrated by scientists and the government and the media... If that's the case, can you really blame me for wanting to speak out about it? Surely if you thought the planet was somehow being threatened, you'd try to do something about it, right?"
Instead, I rolled down my window and said this, pretty much verbatim. "Listen, you might not believe it, but as far as I'm concerned, you're one of the good guys. I don't know how many thousands of people just pass by these signs and don't do shit. At least you care enough to do something about it. At least you get it. Every time you take down one of my signs you're using your rights as a citizen, and God Bless You for it. I've got a lot more in common with you than all those people who just drive by."
It's a speech I've practiced to myself for years now, and something I truly believe.
I'm pretty sure my words got through to him too, as I detected a hint of reverence when he replied "Oh yeah, well Fuck You, Hippie!"
I drove off and he got back on his bike and started following me. I made a point of checking my odometer to see how long he'd last. Since I was driving to San Francisco, I was pretty sure I'd outlast him. To his credit, he made it about twenty-five miles before realizing this was a game he was not going to win. Even after he was gone though, his final words kept reverberating in my head: "Fuck You, Hippie!"
Just because a guy has long hair and goes around putting up signs about saving the planet, that shouldn't automatically make him a hippie. Yeah, there were a couple of months when I was living out of a VW Van and canvassing for Greenpeace, but seriously, who didn't? And sure, maybe back in the day I smoked a little pot, hitched around the country a bit, caught some Dead shows and Hot Tuna when they were in town... but that doesn't make me a hippie...
No. What makes me a hippie is that despite loving most everything she did with the Airplane, and even some early Starship, I still think Grace Slick's best work was back when she was with The Great Society. That's what makes me a hippie. And all the way up to San Francisco I kept wondering... how did he know?