Death of a Toker’s Utopia

Death of a Toker’s Utopia
Posted by CN Staff on July 18, 2006 at 05:57:38 PT
By Steven Wishnia
Source: In These Times
Michigan -- The motto of Rainbow Farm in Vandalia, Mich., could have been “A Working-Class Hippie Is Something to Be.” On Memorial and Labor Day weekends from 1996 to 2000, a few thousand amplifier-factory workers, hippie girls and truckers’ wives-turned-political-activists camped out there to smoke weed, listen to rock ‘n’ roll, hear pro-legalization speeches and commune with the land and each other. A 34-acre campground owned by a gay couple named Tom Crosslin and Rolland Rohm, Rainbow Farm was located in a hardcore Republican part of southwest Michigan.
The county’s prosecutor, Scott Teter, believed he was “guided by the Lord” and crusaded against abortion and drugs. After several attempts to squelch the festivals, Teter succeeded in May 2001, when a police raid, ostensibly for tax evasion, nailed Crosslin and Rohm for growing marijuana in their basement. Then the government kidnapped Rohm’s son out of middle school—Rohm found out when the boy didn’t get off the bus that afternoon—and put him in foster care. Teter filed papers to seize the land as property used in a drug crime. At the end of August, the couple gave away their possessions, torched the farm buildings and holed up on the land with rifles. The FBI shot Crosslin on Labor Day. Michigan state police gunned Rohm down the next morning. Dean Kuipers’ Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went Up in Smoke is a detailed account of the farm’s story, weaving in the couple’s biographies and drug-war history. Kuipers has unearthed an impressive amount of background material—I covered Rainbow Farm for High Times, and I learned a lot—though it’s occasionally marred by minor errors (misspelling Harry Anslinger’s name, garbling what I told him about Rainbow Farm’s ticket prices). Generally, however, he gets the flow of events right and tells the tale well. Tom Crosslin grew up in a brawling hillbilly family in Elkhart, Ind., reaching adolescence as the weed culture of the ’60s was filtering into the factory town. After a stint as a trucker, he built a construction and real-estate business, living as a discreetly out gay man and hard-partying godfather to his crew. Rollie Rohm was a rock-fan stoner and troubled teenage father who joined the crew in 1990.Sixties counterculture was a strong force in the industrial Midwest, from MC5’s rabble-rousing rock to the 1972 strike by longhaired workers at the GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio. Though gone from most cities by the ’80s, hippie culture survived in rural America. By 1990, “hemp festivals”—micro-Woodstocks with a pot-legalization agenda—had sprung up in places like Logansport, Ind., and Black River Falls, Wis. These provided the template for the “Hemp Aid” and “Roach Roast” events at Rainbow Farm. The dominant atmosphere there was, as Kuipers puts it, “a cross between Woodstock and a union picnic”—people with a strong naïve sense of justice, enraged when they had to pee in jars to keep their jobs and wondering why their peaceful party rite brought down such violent repression. I connected to it immediately when I went to Hemp Aid in 1999. Coming from the Lower East Side of Manhattan, I recognized a fellow low-rent counterculture community, a blessed find when my own was being crushed by a ruthless real-estate market and paramilitary evictions. Marijuana was central, but passing the spliff was often more about bonding than intoxication. Being able to burn one openly was liberating (especially coming from Rudy Giuliani’s New York, which led the nation in petty pot busts), but once you left the gates, the descending paranoia was palpable. Some in this rural-stoner world had odd hippie-rightist libertarian politics. Among the characters involved in Rainbow Farm’s early days were an Indiana pot activist who opposed Social Security (while collecting SSI disability payments) and a Michigan Militia leader who claimed Biblical justification for herb. And while urban blacks would cite Amadou Diallo and Rodney King as examples of police violence, Crosslin was one of the many rural whites who would talk about Waco and Ruby Ridge. And his beliefs were strongly motivated by property rights, the idea that people could do whatever they wanted on his land. Rainbow Farm hired the Michigan Militia as unarmed security one year, but rejected their path in favor of nonviolence and electoral activism, trying to get a marijuana-legalization initiative on the state ballot in 2000 and 2001. “We are pacifists,” Crosslin wrote Teter in March 1999, but he also warned that “we are all prepared to die on this land before we allow it to be stolen from us.” The confrontation gradually intensified. In 2000, Crosslin rented an expensive stage setup, enabling him to bring in national acts like Merle Haggard and partial reunions of the Byrds and Big Brother and the Holding Company. (For Kuipers, the Haggard show was totemic, with people waving joints in the air when the singer stretched out the word “marijuana” to twist his 1969 anti-hippie anthem “Okie from Muskogee.”) But police checkpoints on the road in scared off hundreds of people, and the core crew disintegrated in financial acrimony. When the farm was raided the next spring, the die was cast. Kuipers is telling an important story here. There has been a cultural war going on in America since the late ’60s: a war between the spiritual freedom symbolized by hippiedom and open homosexuality and the spiritual lockdown ordained by Mammonite fundamentalism, that rapacious hybrid of imperialist capitalism and dominionist Christianity that has become America’s state church. That war—in which one side controls the violence of state power—put Tom Crosslin and Rollie Rohm in a position where their defiance—mixed with mistakes and rage—would get them slaughtered. It’s a story that should be remembered, not least because it was quickly obscured by another religious war. Rollie Rohm’s funeral took place on September 11, 2001. One wonders how many Rainbow Farms loom in the future, in a country whose rulers denounce critics of their militaristic crusades as traitorous faggots. Or how many Rainbow Farms will find room to be born in a land where every physical and cultural corner is colonized by corporate greed.Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went Up in SmokeBy Dean KuipersBloomsbury USA · $24.95Source: In These Times (US)Author: Steven WishniaPublished: July 18, 2006Copyright: 2006 In These TimesContact: Articles & Web Site:Tom and Rollie Memorial Page At The End of Rainbow Farm Focus on 2001 Rainbow Farm Shooting
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Comment #4 posted by museman on July 18, 2006 at 14:27:20 PT
It does look pretty bad.
All of the factors for a nuclear exchange are set.I believe (unfortunately) that a nuclear exchange is inevitable for several reasons; I had a vision when I was very young man which has played out true to this moment in time, in which this occured. My own experience in the U.S. military during VietNam demonstrated one of the inherent factors and the 'nature' of weaponry, it's use. A weapon is designed to be used. As an unwilling draftee in the Polaris Nuke program I came to understand the serious and sober willingness of the 'soldier' to 'push the button' should the order be given.And of course there is the actual lining up of targets going on, the preparations and justifications which ultimately will result in that order being given.Pretty damn scary. Looks real bleak.But then there are other things to look at.In a 'native american' prophecy there is mention of the 'gourd of ashes.'Ashes. In the Bible and older scriptures, in relation to the Rainbow promise of God to Noah, that the next 'world destruction' would be by fire.Fire purges, it is the ultimate cleanser, mother earths definitive scouring pad.In the fear of imminent destruction that the world players are attempting to create (with much success) there is little one can do except try to hide. However there is another point of view; having to do with belief in a higher power.At the moment of one's death (experienced LSD25 users might relate to this) priorities tend to become quite clear. Up to that moment we all have choice. We can choose to fear the wrath that is upon the earth, or we can choose to believe that faith is a greater power, and prove it by living so. We can be afraid to experience the fullness of our humanity in the power of such faith and belief, following the lighted path of love, we can scream for rocks and caves in which to hide us from inevitability. Or we can choose true freedom and embrace it. There is no sanctuary but faith and belief.When the dust clears on the fall of Babylon, I hope to be standing there to help with rebuilding our world towards a better sane reality, but if my health fails, or radiation sickness gets me, or some desperate chinese invader shoots me, or I just drop dead, I believe that that will be my time. Until then, my choices, actions, words, and song have an active part to play in perhaps other possibilities.Metaphoricly there are two elevators; one going up, and one going down, don't let the despair of the falling drag you down with them, get on the up elevator and see what I mean.Nuclear exchange is inevitable, but nuclear war is only possible with the agreement of the Creator, who has a lot more to say about when His creation is destroyed than some realize. This is not the end, it is the birth pangs of something new aborning, something wonderful. Look for it, seek it out. Make it part of you and you will know that all the chaos of mans making cannot change the will of God and the Universe of Being that has the right design already in place.
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on July 18, 2006 at 13:41:04 PT
I don't know where we are headed but I am concerned about what is happening now. I do believe it all could escalate very fast. 
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Comment #2 posted by SystemGoneDown on July 18, 2006 at 13:09:10 PT
Nuclear War and why we can't stop it...
I say toke up because we're in a ticking time bomb that will lead to a chain reaction of military strikes. No matter if the U.S. has 10 times better military than the enemy, we won't have a chance if just 1, JUST ONE! nuclear bomb reaches U.S. land. Even if that would be the only bomb the enemy could succesfully hit us with, it would inevitebly spark a chain reaction of nuclear attacks. When we bombed Japan, we and Russia were the only ones with the technology to do so. Now, you have North Korea selling it to Iran who is selling it to Terrorists who are selling it to ruined countries like Somalia and Syria. Al-queda is not f-king around when they say they want the holy land back. And that is the U.S. main motive for hating them. Their plan is and always was to give the holy land to the miserable Jews after the holocaust and let the Islamic world get so pissed off that they become radicals. This will consent us to do whatever we need to do and kill whoever we need to kill in order to prevent radicals from occupying crude oil fields.......As time goes on, and WHEN, not if, WHEN the nuke hits the U.S., we will bomb every country like Iran, Syria, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Lebenon, and eventually North Korea, who are just a small little country with the military might to protect the interst of China. East vs. West. It's right back to the same fight. And soon, Bush and his corporate pals will be lighting cigars in a space shuttle launching themselves into the first of many space colonies built above the abandoned planet.
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Comment #1 posted by SystemGoneDown on July 18, 2006 at 12:57:14 PT
Death of the World...
With all the wasted resources on busting pot offenders, no wonder we're in a trillion dollar deficit. We're(the government) expecting to pay it off in the future in the means of military economics. The right-wing plan is to drain the resource-less United States of whatever's left, and look elsewhere for fresh resources. Ironically, they are doing this in the name of good for the country when it's not. With the middle-east, north korea, china's expanding markets, Europe's divided public opinion, who's to say that we will have a world to live in after this apparent World War III..............................P.S. That's not to mention all the oppressed angry tyrants in Africa and South America. Sheesh, we have no chance. God Bless America. I salute you.
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