Hi, I’m Ron Brandstetter, and this is my website. I see myself as a historian, I was most “famous” as a political activist in Northern California and Oregon in the 90’s and 00’s — and now am most famous for this website! — and I am best known to the widest number of people as a hard worker and honest communicator from my business career in wholesale and retail sales, since marrying Danusia and joining her feathercrafts company in 1984, and our transitions to new fields since 2001.
Some more not-very-brief biographical notes.
Whittier California, 1950-68
I was a very bright kid, and was raised in the “science is great” atmosphere of America in the Eisenhower administration. I have been a news junkie since American Marines stormed the beaches of Lebanon in 1958, and when my parents bought an encyclopedia set, I read big chunks of it straight through.
My first encounters with political ideology left me deeply infected with the true-believers’ virus. Some John Birch Society pamphlets supplied by a family friend, and an obscure right-wing TV talk show in Los Angeles in 1960 which presented the theory that the Soviet Union was going to dam the Bering Straits to manipulate negative climate changes for the US, turned me into quite a little reactionary for six months or so; then other family friends from the local Unitarian church turned me into a gung-ho generalized socialist. Before my twelfth birthday, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 when they presumably had more important things to do, I was being investigated and interviewed by the FBI for subscribing to a socialist newspaper!
Nevertheless my views were mellowing and becoming more skeptical of all over-arching theories by the time of the Kennedy assassination, my friends and I in high school could make sophisticated jokes on comparative ideologies, and to jump ahead a bit I’m very proud that I made it through my college life, in the turmoil of the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, as an advocate of radical democracy without ever succumbing to any variety of Marxism (even while finding the campus Marxists among the more fun people to hang out with).
Culturally, my rebellion had started much earlier, for instance being one of two high school sophmores and a junior who organized a relatively very early demonstration against the war in Vietnam, it must have been on a Saturday in December 1965, about 75 folks marched down Painter Ave., from uptown to Whittier Blvd., it was reported in the Whittier Daily News and attracted at least three police undercover agents. I was also the first person to wear non-blue jeans and desert boots in Whittier in 1965 — people would stop their cars in the street and shout at me! Getting elected Student Body President of my high school on a “protest the administration” platform, and the subsequent battles, only confirmed and accelerated my cultural revolutions.
Santa Cruz, 1968-74
There were many positive incidents and great adventures with my social set in the first years of Merrill College of UCSC, and someday all those stories can be told. My interests were often but not always focused on the the very personal, yet for example I was the guy who didn’t go the the Rolling Stones free concert at Altamont, as everyone else did, because I needed to devour the first volume of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago I had just gotten (I probably got the better deal for that night). I won’t claim that I was a happy or well-adjusted person in these years, indeed I’m sure I was very confused, foolish and near-sociopathic in many respects, and I’m sure people who knew me then can come up with many instances of stupid, hurtful and self-defeating behavior on my part.
I was so confused about myself and my future that I dropped out of college when they insisted I had to declare a major field of study, even though I knew that made me draft fodder for the Vietnam war. While my thoughts on that were not clear or stable either, I knew that I’d rather be in a civilian court than a military court, so I refused the draft (another interesting story in itself) and found myself a convicted felon, for draft refusal, before my 21st birthday. The day before sentencing, my lawyer told me to expect a 3-year prison sentence, but luckily I got probation with the stipulation of work in the national interest.
I worked for Goodwill Industries, moving up from truck helper to truck driver for $1.85 an hour — the minimum wage was $1.45 at this time — and then all the way up to $3/hour as a janitor in the local hospital. I thought I was trying hard there, yet my supervisor could tell I was a dangerous rebel at heart and fired me at the end of the probationary period. It was in that winter, looking for a job and accepting that I would probably be a blue-collar worker all my life, that I found myself going to the University library and checking out thick books on Russian history, just to keep boredom at bay, and suddenly realized that the field of Human History was the academic vocation I could love and pursue. The University would take me back as a History major, my father did agree to pay my school fees and give me a $200/month allowance despite our political and cultural disagreements, and I was able to get a volunteer job at a local psychological counseling center to satisfy my probation. Looking back, this was a crucial decision in making me who I’ve become.
I did apply myself to my studies, my attempts to patiently puzzle out the material must have impressed some professors, since even though I wasn’t aiming for it and others were, the department gave me Highest Honors on graduation.
Bay Area, 1975-84
That graduation occurred in the era of the first Oil Crisis recession and “Whip Inflation Now,” I knew my language skills were weak for History graduate school and my first-choice grad school sent back a letter instead of an application, essentially saying “you know, there’re 3000 History post-grads coming out each year and jobs for only 600 of them, are you sure you want to do this?” So I took a laboring job at first, yet within a year I had lucked into a situation as a free-lance researcher-writer, essentially being able to get into the UC Berkeley libraries, research the problem and write it up to the client’s specifications, as fast and accurately as anyone.
I considered this a great “grad study in generalism,” and it was in this era that I refined my position as an academic skeptic of all ideologies, developed the first version of my “Ron’s omelet” re-definitions of the social sciences, and self-published my book “The Get-Ready Man” — actually the fourth book I’d started and the second I’d finished since my college times.
It was also at this time that I got involved with the radical experimental spiritual group Safe Space, who helped me greatly in accepting and loving myself and accepting and loving others and finding techniques for a more stable and positive personal life.
Sonoma County, 1984-96
It was late 1983 when I met my future wife Danusia at a Safe Space group event, and 1984 when we married and I joined her feathercrafts business as an assistant manager, salesman and grunt-work laborer. I further settled into a modicum of adult stability as we hustled to make a living selling beautiful feathers around the country, and our son was born in 1990.
It was Danusia’s idea a couple of years later to answer the ad of a lesbian couple in the area who were seeking a father for their child. Although they had me sign papers giving up all formal rights of fathership, bonds were already being formed when our daughter came out two months prematurely to share the same birthday as my son, and over the years the two mothers and our daughter have maintained visits back and forth and have become our closest “extended family” relationship.
In civic life, my relatively conservative political phase (which never got more than an inch or two further right than Jimmy Carter) was ending by 1982, and in 1990 I made a conscious decision to join and work with the Green Party for 10 years, to try to bring political changes that would be to the left of the Democratic Party. An op-ed column I wrote in 1995, scorching the right for the climate that led to the Oklahoma City bombing, brought me some local prominence, and I was recruited into an effort to stop a Wal-Mart from being built in our Northern California small city, maintaining a coalition of environmentalists, the existing retail shopping center, and real estate interests wanting a higher-class community.
Portland Oregon, 1996-present
Moving to Oregon in 1996, I threw myself even more deeply into Green Party work, and we actually enjoyed some success in local organizing through the late ’90’s.
The accomplishments that I am most proud of, are that in the three civic organizations where I really gave of myself in the 1980’s and 1990’s (the Safe Space spiritual group, the anti-Wal-Mart campaign and the Oregon Green Party), others selected me as a President or Chairperson, based on my work without my seeking it, and in each case I did my best to lead in an inclusive manner, listening and compromising with other’s ideas much more than imposing my own ideas, and in each case I arguably left the organization in better shape than I found it.
So as we move together into the future of the 21st Century, I’m not sure or dogmatic (though I have lot of ideas!) about what kind of organizations we’ll have to build to change the dysfunctional, self-defeating aspects of our modern civilization. If I’m just another worker and cheerleader in the cause, that will be a fine outcome — as long as we can create a world our children and grandchildren can be happy in. That’s what I’m about these days — now the question is, what are you about? And what are we going to do about it?