Troublemaker a Memoir by Bill Zimmerman Bill Zimmerman was born in 1940 to Jewish Immigrants on Chicago’s west side. In his memoir Troublemaker, he tells the story of himself, a man dealing with education, family commitments, and his broad involvement in the anti-Vietnam war movement. Zimmerman witnessed racism in the Mississippi Delta and, and spent an extensive amount of time writing and participating in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Zimmerman helped by undermining the false perception of the Civil Rights movement. (Zimmerman 1-4). Zimmerman was older than many of his peers, and didn’t start a life of activism before attempting to pursue a conventional career track. Zimmerman attended college and received his PHD. In Paris 1960, Zimmerman was first exposed to political protest and witnessed massive street protests. Zimmerman noticed that demonstrations like the ones in Paris were unknown to the United States. Zimmerman being curious joined the protestors.
After running from officials Zimmerman describes how the law made it impossible for protestors to get anywhere, and they were attacked when they tried. While talking to a student Zimmerman learned the whole strategy behind the demonstrations. He learned that the students had reason to fight back with the police. Fighting the police would get the army involved, and that’s what they wanted to achieve. If the Citizens saw their army attacking their citizens it would cause outrage and encourage change in government.
These events influenced Zimmerman to spend the next fifth teen years of his life as a political activist. “It was May 1961. I had been away eight months, and I had changed. For better or worse, I was an American and wanted to remain one. That meant I had to reconcile myself to the culture and values I had previously rejected. ” (Zimmerman 28). Once Zimmerman returned to the United States, he continued his studies and began to volunteer in the Southern civil rights movement. News stories about the Civil Rights Movement captured Zimmerman’s attention.
A friend of his named Danny Lyon, an amateur photographer, showed Zimmerman photos he had taken of blacks marching and protesting in the south gave Zimmerman another point of view, and showed him that blacks were not the only ones in the south protesting whites were involved as well. In 1963, Zimmerman was invited by Danny Lyon to join him on his trip to Mississippi, and Arkansas and accepted the invitation. While in Mississippi, Zimmerman noticed the extreme poverty the blacks were living in and the lack of support and physical security. He wondered what would happen if white vigilantes attacked who would be around to come to their aid.
Zimmerman then received his first assignment which was to pose as reporter for Chicago maroon, a campus newspaper, and interview local leaders to get the information about tax-breaks-for-racism which involved local businesses receiving tax breaks to remain segregated and uphold Jim Crow laws. Zimmerman acquired straightforward information about business coming to Greenwood, MI. “New businesses migrating to Greenwood had to operate the southern way, which meant no labor unions: no black workers supervising whites; separate toilets, drinking fountains, and dressing rooms; and all blacks confined to menial work.
In exchange, compliant businesses got exemptions from taxes and zoning restrictions. ” (Zimmerman 42). Zimmerman soon found that open racism served a deeper purpose. If whites thought their jobs were at constant risk to be taken by blacks they would take any wage to keep their position. Zimmerman discussed that to pursue justice it required risk. He learned from SNCC leaders that there was a bigger picture than just gaining the right to vote and eat where they wanted. Eventually moral outrage would transform American society.
Zimmerman then realized he would have to make a choice whether to live his life taking risks that would provide meaning and purpose or a predictable life of safety and security. The Vietnam War was growing chaotic. Zimmerman began going to teach-ins and learning about Southeast Asian history. Zimmerman was shocked that the United States could be so manipulative in their involvements in Asia. He began learning more about Vietnam and following the work of Bernard Fall, an expert on Vietnam. The use of Napalm, an incendiary weapon being used in the war was the last straw for Zimmerman.
The idea that citizens would stand idle while their government committed awful acts bothered Zimmerman, and he felt at that moment he had no choice but to act. He soon began protesting Napalm plants in Chicago. After the successful SDS demonstrations in Washington, Zimmerman believed that an authentic anti-war movement had been born. In 1965, it was announced that troops leaving the U. S. would increase to 125,000 men. The monthly draft called for 35,000 men a month, causing many men to fight against their will. Zimmerman didn’t feel the war would distort his life still. Science was his main focus, and his draft deferment was in place.
Taking what he learned from the civil rights movement, Zimmerman knew that if people were exposed to injustice they would react morally. The next focus was to get on T. V. with an educational campaign to deliver accurate information about the war. Zimmerman came together with a few other civil rights activists to form a group and use entertainers to bring in profits to raise money for an anti-war film. No efforts would help them get anti-war knowledge out to the public. Indirectly aiding the economic exploitation bothered Zimmerman, and other scientists. Zimmerman then came to the decision that society had to come before science.
Fighting for Justice gave Zimmerman a sense of fulfillment. He then gave up his research career. The hippie life also bored Zimmerman. He decided to move to a Caribbean beach to live the natural life. He traveled around attempting to acquire real estate, when that was no longer working Zimmerman realized his life wasn’t going to be idyllic. Zimmerman and other activists prepared for Mayday. Nixon was not ok with what was going on so he ordered for their park permit to be revoked and the activists woke up to police officers ordering them out of their tents and out of the park.
They eventually get the park back together. Monday morning they were greeted by over 50,000 metro police officers. Zimmerman and thousands of others were arrested during mayday and forced to sit in crammed jail cells without charges. Over the three day Mayday demonstrations over 14,000 people were arrested. It was the largest mass arrest in United States history. Zimmerman had previously wrote an article for Science of the People magazine to encourage American scientists to do research that would aid doctors and scientists in Vietnam.
After joining an organization in Boston, Zimmerman launched A Science for Vietnam campaign. Their greatest concern during this time was Agent Orange. Zimmerman’s goal was to help the Vietnamese survive the American war. “Unlike protests that fell on deaf ears in Washington, we wanted our work to benefit the Vietnamese and strengthen their ability to survive the American war. ” (Zimmerman 218). Zimmerman was then invited by the North Vietnam government to Hanoi in North Vietnam to learn about their medical needs, and shoot film proving that attacks were aimed at Vietnamese civilians and Zimmerman accepted.
Soon he was smuggling medical aid to Vietnam, beginning with a stolen sample of a antibiotic that would help wounded North Vietnamese soldiers recover. He debated whether it was right or wrong and concluded that this was a life-saving expedition, since American soldiers would not be placed in harm’s way as a result. Soon after Zimmerman was under American attack in North Vietnam, and raising funds for medical supplies that went there, around the time when B-52s razed the largest and most dvanced civilian hospital in Hanoi. Once Zimmerman returned to the States, Several reporters and news crew approached him and others. They accused Nixon of intentionally bombing civilians in Vietnam, and other war crimes. Some of Zimmerman’s footage of the war was aired of 60 minutes. Watergate was diminishing the Nixon administration, and soon after many of the POW’s and soldiers were returning to the United States.
The Peace accords was holding well because of Nixon’s failing administration. Whether we were political activists or part of the counterculture, we felt not just intellectually, but viscerally, that the new social order lay just over the horizon and that within it we would find more liberated and meaningful lives. ” (Zimmerman 311). In the plains of South Dakota in 1973, Native Americans protested and seized a historic village called Wounded Knee on an Indian reservation. Protestors demanded that Washington end the corruption taking place on reservations. They also wanted the Sioux treaty rights respected. They were armed and threatened to fire on police officers.
Federal marshals and FBI officials blockaded the town for 71 days. Zimmerman led a three-plane expedition through a storm across government lines and dropped a ton of food for the plagued Indians. Zimmerman soon after moved to California. “To be politically effective, I had to reconnect with my own people and my own country. ” (Zimmerman 403). Zimmerman promoted Congress in the ending years of the Vietnam War, and worked with Tom Hayden to create what they hoped would be a California statewide electoral machine. He went on to become an accomplished progressive public relations and media consultant.