Re: [sixties-l] Vietnam War Memorials

From: William Mandel (
Date: Wed Jun 21 2000 - 03:46:13 CUT

  • Next message: Craig M. Kind: "Re: [sixties-l] Re: sixties-l-Vietnam War Memorials"

       The military service question is the easy one. When Pearl
    Harbor was bombed I inquired about what a guy who was essentially
    blind without glasses would do in the service. In those days
    there were no unbreakable glasses. I was told I'd wind up behind
    a desk. I figured I'd be of more use to the war with my knowledge
    of our totally unexpected ally, the Soviet Union, as a civilian
    than at a desk. That proved to be correct. I write in SAYING NO
    TO POWER: "I still have a file of letters from government
    officials involved with USSR relations thanking me for digging up
    information essential to their work." For example, to what degree
    ships with supplies for Russia could enter the port of
    Vladivostok in midwinter, and what was the carrying capacity of
    the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
       I actually wrote that autobiography, in part, as answer to
    your main question, although of course I had no idea that you or
    anyone else would ask it. I want the kids of the Seattle
    generation to be able to spend whole lives of idealism and
    courage in the most useful way possible, wasting as little time
    and energy as possible in blind alleys, avoiding the
    discouragement that occurs when you find you've been barking up
    the wrong tree, not burning out. [Just a word on that last.
    Retain the ability to relax. I was a downhill skier for sixty
    years, swim daily, climb the East Bay hills, see a lot of plays,
    some concerts, movies. I'm still a good dancer. I used to sing
    well enough that Malvina Reynolds asked me to perform with her.]
       I guess part of the answer is that I always took a very long
    view of history. Whether it's Horatio at the bridge, or Joan of
    Arc, or John Brown, or Martin Luther King, that's the kind of
    person looked back on with gratitude. So what's the point to
    being corrupt? Those who sell out aren't remembered, except as
    Judases. I want my children, and my grandchildren, and my
    greatgranddaughter, and the people who know me, to respect me,
    and they do.
       I urged people not to oversimplify: events, and motivations,
    and human beings, are complicated as hell, and if you ignore that
    you're going to be wrong in your course and your judgments.
       I tried to keep an independent mind. I got dumped from
    leadership in the Young Communist League and Communist Party for
    voting against policy on a clause in the YCL Constitution barring
    even personal contact with Trotskyists. Fifteen years later I got
    read out of the Party for having told a fellow-member that the
    failure of the Soviet CP to hold a convention for thirteen years,
    ditto the Soviet labor unions, was wrong, and that the
    deification of Joe Stalin in every column of every Soviet paper
    every day was contrary to my belief that our movement had a
    democratic objective.
       I'm just as capable of being physically scared as anybody
    else, but I'm not capable of thinking that any human being has to
    be kowtowed to because he has higher status, official or
    otherwise. That's why I was able to cut Joe McCarthy's balls off
    and stuff them down his throat in his own hearing room (a much
    more difficult and gutsy act in 1953 than doing the same to HUAC
    in 1960, for which your generation adopted me into its ranks).
        I didn't hang out with them, as you put it. I saw a
    generation on the move, as mine had been in the '30s, and that's
    where activists belong: where things good for the people are
    happening. That's why, a month ago, I went up to the "End
    Corporate Dominance" conference of a thousand students of the
    Northwest in Portland. I'm goddam proud that what they heard from
    me in panels there caused some of the leaders to say they want me
    as a featured speaker next year. (And that a young Black woman,
    total stranger, who bought my book at the Telegraph Avenue
    Christmas Fair, has had me invited as the speaker at next year's
    Martin Luther King Day event in San Luis Obispo.)
        I feel great that an Indian elder in attendance at Portland,
    who is also a board member of KBOO, that city's KPFA-like
    station, wrote me later that I "teach humbly." It reminded me of
    my reaction when, at the Executive Committee of the Free Speech
    Movement, of which I was a member although I did not yet have any
    connection with UC Berkeley, Mario Savio [I quote my book again];
    "snapped at me at a meeting: 'That's stupid.' Far from being
    insulted, I relished that moment because it meant I was being
    treated as an equal, a participant, not some queer old
    duck....But on another occasion, when Mario and I were on the
    same side, and my motion won, he beamed at me and announced: 'The
    voice of reason triumphs again.'"
        I also value the old-fashioned virtue of fairness very
    highly. That's why there are very few people toward whom I have
    ever developed feelings of total contempt and disgust as I have
    toward Roy Cohn and David Horowitz.
                                            William Mandel
    P.S. I am really honored by this post of yours.
       I do have to add that I think, as hard as I can, and as deeply
    as I can, about everything that happens. And although I am no
    longer a Marxist, and hold to no dogma whatever, I take whatever
    makes sense from the thinkers who have gone before, including
    Marx and those of his followers, including Communist leaders, who
    contributed to understanding contemporary problems, such as that
    of race in America.

    Joe McDonald wrote:
    > Well William Mandel since you are an older guy who hung out with the younger
    > kids and seem to still be doing that, maybe you would do us a favor: please
    > explain just how you managed to lead such a politically correct life
    > surrounded by all this corruption. How does one make the "right" decision.
    > You seem to have managed this quite well and i would hate to see you pass on
    > without letting us have clue as to your wisdom so that we may also be
    > politically correct.
    > When faced with military service how did you handle it?
    > Many of us find it hard to make the right decision and must live with our
    > mistakes.
    > cheers, country joe mcdonald
    > William Mandel wrote:
    > > And you are right, but people are responsible for their own heads
    > > and their own souls.
    > > William Mandel
    > >
    > >
    > -- "Ira Furor Brevis Est " - Anger is a brief madness
    > country joe Home Pg <>
    > country joe's tribute to Florence Nightingale
    > <>
    > Berkeley Vietnam Veterans Memorial
    > <>
    > Rag Baby Online Magazine <>

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