[sixties-l] Re: Gitlin on the War

From: aehunt@watarts.uwaterloo.ca
Date: Sun Nov 04 2001 - 00:06:19 EST

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    There are a lot of questions that Todd Gitlin left unanswered
    in his column titled "Liberal Activists Finding Themselves
    Caught Between a Flag and a Hard Place." Here were a few that
    struck me as I read his column:

    --Who on the Left has ever said, or even implied, that Al
    Qaida should be counted, in Gitlin's words, among the "noble
    white hats in the 'Third World' at war with imperial black
    hats"? We do not need Gitlin to tell us that Al Qaida and
    the Taliban are not the Viet Cong or the Sandinistas.

    --Why does he need to broadcast to the world that he draped
    an American flag on the balcony of his apartment in
    Greenwich village? If patriotism is so sacrosanct to him,
    then he should have enough respect for it to observe it in
    humble silence rather than publicize his support of it.

    --Why, in his effort to trivialize the antiwar movement,
    does he mention an antiwar rally with only a few
    hundred people that attended in "traditionally anti-war
    Madison, Wis.", but not the much larger rally of
    15,000--which about rivaled in size the rally his own
    beloved SDS organized in April 1965?

    --Why doesn't he have the courage of his convictions to
    just come out and say: "I support the war in Afghanistan
    and everybody else on the left should too"? I would
    respect him more for taking the more direct approach
    rather than the touchy-feely one he adheres to in his

    --Does he really think that anybody--ANYBODY--on the
    Left who is committed to peace and ending this awful
    war unfolding in Afghanistan is going to burn the
    American flag??? How many peace rallies in the United
    States have featured activists burning the flag? Does
    he think this is a tactic that any serious Leftist
    has even considered?

    I swear by Gitlin's work. His book "The Sixties" is
    still one of the finest volumes out there, and I was
    heavily influenced by his "Twilight of Common Dreams,"
    which I recommend to my students. But I have to
    respectfully part ways with Gitlin on this matter.
    This war in Afghanistan will probably drag on, and
    if it does, Marc Cooper and Todd Gitlin are either
    going to regret the position they have taken,
    or they're going to sink into that sad tar pit of
    ex-radicals-turned-neo-liberals, which includes
    Norman Thomas (who Gitlin fondly quoted), Bayard
    Rustin and the leaders of SANE, who, incidentally,
    tried to obstruct the very movement Gitlin was so
    instrumental in building.

    --Andrew Hunt

    Andrew Hunt
    Associate Professor
    Department of History
    University of Waterloo
    Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1
    519.888.4567, ex. 2767

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