And I saw no video program tell about him, though both the NYTimes and Washington Post published obituaries. The first is short and tells little; the second includes many words and qualifications intended to trivialize and cast Mr McReynolds in a negative life (such as he was not a communist, but a socialist -- the implication is to equate him with a communist). Both use the same photo from decades ago. There is more information and a list of books and essays on McReynolds at wikipedia.
It's the aim of this blog to help circulate however meagrely (that is, I don't have a mass readership to say the least) important essays and public media that might not come to the attention of many people.
So for my first blog in this vein for nearly a month, here is the story of David McReynolds in a series of video clips, which include him talking at a younger age and more recently:
As far as I can tell the above relatively recent photo appeared in The Guardian
First, the opening summary:
Longtime pacifist and socialist David McReynolds died Friday at the age of 88. Known to historian Howard Zinn and many others as a “hero of the antiwar movement,” McReynolds was a staff member with the War Resisters League from 1960 to 1999. There, he focused on counter-recruitment and helped organize one of the first draft card burnings. He went on to play a key role in some of major demonstrations against the Vietnam War and campaign for nuclear disarmament. McReynolds ran for president in 1980 and 2000 as an openly gay man. For more, we speak with two of his close friends. Ed Hedemann worked with McReynolds for decades at the War Resisters League. Jeremy Scahill is an investigative journalist and co-founder of The Intercept.
Then transcripts of just McReynolds talking in 2000 while he was running for President of the US.
Here, many years later, he tells of how he first joined the socialist party and after saw first hand the devastation war causes:
I joined the Socialist Party at UCLA in 1951. I joined the War Resisters League about the same time. I was arrested for refusing induction during the Korean War, not the Vietnam War—won that case on a technicality. Went to work for Liberation magazine in 1957 under A.J. Muste and Bayard Rustin, Dave Dellinger, Roy Finch, Sid Lens. I went on the staff of the War Resisters League in 1960 and worked for that until January of 1999, when I retired. And I’m now running as the Socialist Party’s candidate.
My history, I’m afraid, does not include any dramatic military service, but a number of arrests over the years and, in the course of the Vietnam War, a visit to Hanoi and Saigon, and, in the course of the Gulf War, a visit to Iraq, shortly before the main assault there, and other visits to other parts of the world, the Soviet Union during the period when it was about to break up. I was in Prague, by sheer good luck, during the invasion. You don’t often get a chance to be there during that kind of thing. So, that’s the summation of my history.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Dave, How do you respond to those who would say that your quest for the presidency is even more quixotic and irrelevant than Ralph Nader’s or Pat Buchanan’s? And what do you hope to gain by running?
DAVID McREYNOLDS: Yeah, and let me add one thing to that record, so I’m not accused of avoiding it. I came out as a homosexual in 1969, so I think that was one of the first open statements.
Look, the presidential election is a referendum on ideas. That’s really all it is. I’m trying to present the concept of socialism, put it back in the American dialogue. I think it has a right to be in. I’m tired of hearing we’re anti-imperialist, anti-racist and so on, and not know what we’re for. And I am for democratic socialism, an idea as old as 1901, when the party was founded, goes back to the last century. It’s not rooted in Moscow or Lenin. …
The real struggle is at the congressional level, at the legislative level, and it’s in the streets. We’re not—I don’t think people really are aware. Many of those who are backing Nader, for example, I don’t think are aware of the power of the structure they oppose and the cost it will take to change that structure. If you look at any really serious social change, from India under Gandhi, which I take as my example and my methodology, there were large numbers of people killed, and there were massive arrests. And Gandhi spent a large part of his adult life in British prisons. If you look at the Southern movement, you’re looking at a trail of blood and horror, and children killed in their schools, and beatings and brutality, that only if you were in the South during that time can you understand the slogan that said that many atheists went to the South, but none returned as atheists, because of the impact of the Black Baptist Church. But those struggles were not won in the courts. They were not won simply by votes. That was part of a dialectical thing. But they are won on the streets.
I came into the Socialist Party partly because of poets like Kenneth Patchen, who had—who were very powerful in their poems: “No man can own what belongs to all. No man can lie when all are lied to.” I also became a socialist from my economics class, which as a good professor explained that 3 percent unemployment was the lowest you could expect under capitalism, and that was necessary. And I thought 3 percent unemployment was too high. But I became a socialist because it struck me that capitalism is a lousy system.Among other things, it made my father work as an advertising man, when he would have been much better off doing something else. He would have preferred to be a minister. He was a devout Christian. He was a salesman because he had to put bread on the table for the family. And it didn’t do good things for him. To see what the system had done to him, what it had done to so many people—most of the work that people do is pointless work, and they do it because they must earn a living to provide food. And I want a society where the people are more able to work—and work hard—but at jobs that they enjoy and that make a contribution to the world around them. And we don’t live in that kind of society.
In high school, at George Washington High, as a student, I was fascinated by current events. And I followed the war with enthusiasm, with fascination, the map showing the Russian retreat or advance, where the Allied forces were. And I remember two headlines. One of them was “1,000 Bombers Make Hamburger of Hamburg.” And another was “800 Bombers Blast Bremen.” Germany had been so devastated that they couldn’t cover all the damage.
So then, in 1951, I’m walking through Germany. And at first my reactions are entirely politically correct. I’m looking at the destruction and realizing this was the result of the capitalist drive for power, that the working class suffered the most, which is true, that the large business corporate structure was back in business. But it was seeing Bremen, seeing the damage, realizing I was the kid who had been so enthusiastic about the bombs falling, and then seeing the chaos the bombs had caused, I really had a profound, genuine religious experience. And I went up to an old lady, and then I pointed at the ruins, and I said, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” And I broke down.
The nature of violence and war embraces both sides. It embraces both the Nazis and what we did during World War II. And it was the point at which I really had an insight into war: I was the one who had dropped the bombs.
This third transcript comes from a PBS documentary called The Draft:
And then fourth, an interview about his life as an openly gay activist: where it begun, who influenced him: Alvin Ailey and Bayard Rustin:
They were saying it is illegal to burn your draft card. They made it a federal offense if you burn your draft card. And basically, we said, “[Bleep] that. The war is a profoundly evil thing going on day after day.”
COUNTERPROTESTER 1: Why do you let those people over there picket in front of the United States recruiting office? Why don’t they go to Vietnam and fight? It’s a disgrace to the United [inaudible] scum picketing over there.
NARRATOR: Hundreds of protesters face off in one city block
COUNTERPROTESTER 1: Aren’t they pro-the United States? Are they a punk or what?COUNTERPROTESTER 2: [inaudible] over to Vietnam.
DAVID McREYNOLDS: Yeah, of course, we were tense. You have counterdemonstrators everywhere screaming, “Burn yourselves, not your cards!”
NARRATOR: As the cards ignite…
REPORTER: There goes the first one. They’re burning the draft card, first, of Thomas Cornell
NARRATOR: …fear flares up.
TOM CORNELL: Someone had infiltrated the crowd, carrying a pressurized cylinder
REPORTER: And now from the crowd comes—ooh!
TOM CORNELL: We didn’t know what was happening after this. A jet of fluid comes, and we don’t know: Is this volatile?
DAVID McREYNOLDS: Is it gasoline?
TOM CORNELL: Are we going to be just going up in flames with our draft cards?
REPORTER: As the pacifist audience breaks into freedom songs, the fires get bigger and bigger. Five men are smiling.
NARRATOR: A few pieces of burning paper spark resistance to the draft.
DAVID McREYNOLDS: We weren’t shooting anybody. We were not breaking any windows. We were burning a card, which was being used by the government to send young men to Vietnam by the tens of thousands.
1949 was a very significant year for me, partly because that was the year that I had met Alvin Ailey in the men’s room at UCLA and decided that I was homosexual. I was 19, and Alvin Ailey was 18. He was not famous. He was not yet a dancer. We met in a bathroom, which was a gay meeting place at UCLA. And I became involved with Alvin. I wish I could say we had had a long love affair, but we did not. But I got to know Alvin very well. I would go over to his house in—about once a week and talk about poetry. He introduced me to the poetry of E.E. Cummings, of William Carlos Williams, of Kenneth Patchen. I certainly was very much in love with Alvin. And Alvin then went on, of course, to become a major choreographer, founded the Ailey dance company.
But I owe him an enormous debt. Alvin helped me accept being homosexual, because he was not guilty, he was not nervous, he was not ashamed. And I had viewed the whole business of homosexuality as very deeply shameful and very, very wrong. And Alvin was the first person I met who was sweet, charming, good-looking, but absolutely seemed free of guilt, and that was very liberating to me. That in itself was remarkably liberating to me.
I think my real commitment to pacifism occurred when I heard Bayard Rustin speak in 1949. He was, in many ways, an essential part of the civil rights struggle, along with A. Philip Randolph and Martin Luther King Jr. He worked with them both very closely. Bayard was an absolutely essential figure of the two people in my own life that I owe my thinking and my analysis to, and A.J. Muste was the other. And my relationship with A.J. was that of one of his lieutenants. He was an adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. He was the figure around whom the Vietnam movement coalesced. But these were the two men who meant the most to me personally and did in fact change my life and direct it.
A clip of a video made for his 80th birthday by his friend, Anthony Giacchino.
He loved animals and especially for companions cats. A beloved long time friend, companion cat, Shaman, he kept alive by two shots of insulin a day died when David collapsed and was not found for two days.
He loved and enjoyed life and wanted others to enjoy life to the full too: that was and is the purpose of socialism and pacificism: to make a world where all can live in peace and know happiness.