When Jane Fonda arrived in the back yard of Stewart Mott's Capitol Hill house and spied the cluster of friends from the last 10 years, she headed straight for Bob Chenoweth. The embrace was quick, the conversation long, between Chenoweth, a Vietnam war POW, and Fonda.
"Even in prison," Chenoweth said, "I felt a lot of people had taken shots at her. But at least she had taken the time to come and find out what the truth was." Chenoweth was in a Hanoi prison when Fonda made her famous trip to North Vietnam in 1972.
Although not everyone in the garden was an unequivocal supporter of Fonda and her husband, politician Tom Hayden, the animated homecoming offered a respite from the harassement and picketing that have followed the Hayden-Fonda tour. Last night about 50 protesters, including two POWs, peace-movement veterans, and a dozen Vietnamese refugees, carried signs that said, "Tom and Jane Might Be Dangerous to Your Health."
Entering through a back door and avoiding the peaceful pickets, Hayden basked in the spirit of the reunion.
"There's Jeremy Rifkin, fast becoming my spiritual adviser," said Hayden, removing his jacket and loosening his tie. "There's Gar Alperovitz, the economist. You are the people we talk about on the road."
"No wonder we're getting hate mail," Rifkin shouted back. With that, Hayden threw his T-shirt from the Coalition for a New foreign and Military Policy, the financial beneficiaries of last night's wine and cheese reception, into the crowd.
Neither Hayden nor Fonda spoke at length about the Campaign for Economic Democracy, their California-based citizen group, but Fonda turned personal: "I enjoy this continuity. There are people here who were with me on the first tour when I got pregnant and on the second when I was nursing a 2-month-old."
Standing in the crowd (and the old-movement guestimators put the number at 200-250 people) were Isabel Letelier, the wife of the slain Chilean ambassador, former CIA deputy director Paul Scoville and many of the graying New Left, the people who joined energies and ideologies over the Vietnam war and continued through ecology and nuclear energy.
"We still share a longstanding sense of common purpose," said Sam Brown, who made the leap into federal bureaucracy as ACTION director. "Maybe the last time we were all together was the ACLU Washington office opening. No, I guess it was at Tim Hightower's party last week."
Peggy Shaker, who managed the office for the Vietnam Moratorium, worked with the Harrisburg movement when that meant Berrigan, not Three Mile Island, and now directs the Campaign for Political Rights.
"We all keep in touch. Everyone started off involved in peace in someway, and now we are concerned about realistic approach to military spending," said Shaker.
Holding a can of Miller's, Bill Goodfellow of the Center for International Policy was trying to explain how this barnstorming by Hayden and Fonda is reaching beyond the liberal, public-interest sector. "It's more than a reassembling of the old antiwar network, it's more than an anticorporate consensus. It's consumers." And even if public opinion isn't united on the nuclear power issue, he went on, "then the oil companies have presented a tremendous target."
Handing out leaflets outside for a group called the "Committee to Explain the Fonda Syndrome," Kgiet Dang, who left Vietnam by boat in April, 1975, said, "Our argument is that she didn't want to support the boat people. We are here to tell the truth." This axis of the Fonda opposition started when Fonda refused to join singer-activist Joan Baez in a statement supporting the refugees. Since then, Fonda has said she was not against the humanitarian effort, but only against the "unsubstantiated" parts of the Baez statement.
"It's pretty hot out there," said Fonda about the pickets marching in a circle outside the house, "and that's not bad."