In case you don’t know about the Rainbow Family, they are a loosley organized group that gathers every year over the 4th of July holiday to pray for peace. The gathering history goes back to the early 70s with roots clearly in the counterculture movement of the 60s. In other words, it’s big ole hippie camping fiesta and this year I’m going.
A Little Background….
If you know me, you know I’m really not much of a hippie, though I did smoke a bit more of the ganga then was good for me when I was in high school. I attended one small regional gathering in California in the early 90s and also had the opportunity to work as a member of the Please Patrol for the Woodstock #2 in 1994. That concludes my hippie credentials.
One of my dearest friends Karin, however, is a long time Rainbow gatherer and could probably be classified as a hippie. She pretty much embodies so many of the ideals associated with that culture: commitment to engaging in community, questioning authority and working for positive change, recycling, love of the evironment, organics… I’m sure you get my drift. One of the things I love most about Karin is the fact that she lives her beliefs to the best of her abilities.
Karin tried to get me to a Rainbow Gathering (circa 1992) once before… and I chickened out at the last minute. It was all Fred’s fault, but that is another story all together.
This year The Gathering will be in New Mexico, in a town called Cuba which is not too far from Albuquerque. It is a great opportunity because it is so close– and Karin is coming, and so is The Other Karen. And so, after all these years of hearing about gatherings, I’m going to go and check it out for myself. Maybe write an essay or two about my experiences.
One of the things that fascinates me is the fact that there are so many misconceptions about Rainbow family members and what kind of people they are. From the lens of mainsteam society, Rainbow family members look like a bunch of tie-dye wearing wingnuts. In terms of mainstream society, many of these people don’t fit in. They are marginalized for a variety of reasons. But the fact is that many many more of these Rainbow family members do particpate (sometimes more fully than others) and succeed in mainstream society. Karin has a good paying computer job, owns a home, pays taxes and takes care of her disabled mother. The other Karen is a theater manager turned stay at home mom (and doing a remarkable job with 3 toddlers) married to a doctor. Through Karin I met one long time gatherer who is a business owner in Santa Fe. Other Rainbow family members are lawyers, computer geeks, artists, musicians, therapists, yoga instructors, and even former military. They come from all walks of life, and as is true in any other society most are good, but a few are bad.
The other thing that fascinates me about The Gathering is the fact that there are serious civil rights issues involved, most notably the right to peaceable assembly and the freedom of religion. If the governement can restrict the rights of the Rainbow Family, who’s next?
I will be going way WAY outside my comfort zone. I don’t like strangers saying “I love you sister.” I don’t like strangers hugging me. And I’m nervous about the potential run ins with the forest service law enforcement officers– they have a history of harassment, most notably last year firing rubber bullets at the crowd in kid village which has been documented by the ACLU.
I don’t expect to be hassled personally, but you never know. Like I said, it’s an opportunity and will be at the very least, an interesting experience.