Thursday, January 04, 2007


Today is my dad's yarzheit. He's been gone twenty years--rather incredible. I was missing him tonight. I lit my memorial candle and said Kaddish, and I thought maybe I would blog something of his to close out the night. So here are some long excerpts from an even longer letter he wrote my sister when she was in college. It's dated November 1967 and is responding in large part to her increasing political activism.

He writes:

Some people feel one is not worth his salt unless he is a radical at 20 and a conservative at 40. This is a vile canard propagated by the pusillanimous. One need not become a fat cat at forty. See, e.g., Norman Thomas whose big many voice, turning again to childish treble, pipes and whistles in his sounds, to quote the Bard, but who preaches the same revolt against oppression that he sounded with stentorian speeches at the turn of the century. See also Bertrand Russell, William Douglas, and Jake Podofsky. (Jake runs the delicatessen at 14th and Irving Sts.)

I do not hold with those who attack all our institutions. I am not blind to the virtues of other ways of life but I personally feel that what we have in this country is the best way of life thus far evolved by man as a functioning society. I am 100% American. But I am not like those Southerners who loved the Confederacy so much they would not even wear a Union suit. I want my country to present a favorable image, to maintain a posture that I find admirable, and will not yield my right to criticize it when I think it is wrong. I want America always to be the land of the three "P's" -- Peace, Prosperity, and Pfreedom, for myself and my pfosterity. I want America to stay healthy because I know that when the United States sneezes much of the rest of the world catches pneumonia.

Finally, let me only remind you that you ought not get yourself so involved that you jeopardize yourself in your studies. It is essential that you get decent grades, continue your education, and work assiduously toward your career. Sorenson in the Saturday Review last week did not say anything much different from what many other pacifists have said in the past few weeks bu this article was read by millions because he achieved such eminence in his field that his voice was effective. At the big peace march we listened intently to what Dr. Spock said largely because more than half the people there had taken castor oil when Spock told their mothers to administer it. On the other hand, I'll bet you didn't hear one word Tillie Gockenheimer said, did you? And Tillie has been marching in protest demonstrations since Kemal Pasha besieged the poor Armenians in 1916 or whenever the hell it was. But that is because Tillie Gockenheimer dropped out of high school in Pottstown, Pa. when she was 16 and has been working in a brassiere factory in High Point, N. Car. ever since.

There's more, but those are the best parts. Except there is one place where there's a line something like this "7 883347xc (Travis' interjections)" because I must have been sitting in his lap while he was typing the letter. I was two at the time.

That my dad, who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, could write such a letter, is real patriotism. I'm not much of a nationalist really, but I was, once upon a time a Constitutional scholar and I too love America from Ben Franklin to X. And at the same time, I'm proud as hell to have a dad who was a blacklisted labor lawyer.

It's all so complicated isn't it--our feelings for family and country.

Anyway, it's past my bedtime, maybe I will try to resurrect my blogging spirit for the new year. I can't promise anything though. I've made enough of those that didn't come to fruition in terms of my poor neglected blog.

No comments: