Monday, August 10, 2009

Chapter 9: Confronting The Marines, 1967 (vii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (53)

At the end of the Spring 1967 term, Ted decided he wanted to move out of Furnald Hall and into an off-campus apartment during his senior year. I was also tired of having to conform to the anti-feminist restrictions of Columbia dormitory life, its cramped living space, and its sterile, sexist, 1960s all-male barracks-like atmosphere. So when Ted suggested that we rent an apartment together during the 1967-68 academic year, I agreed that it might be fun. A few days later, Ted learned that Dave also needed new living space in September 1967. So we decided to look for an apartment in which Dave would also live.

As Columbia SDS grew during the Spring 1967 term, Dave tended to return to the Columbia campus only to offer a “radical education” counter-course for Columbia SDS freshmen and sophomores in a lounge in Ferris Booth Hall. Most of his activism was centered downtown at the New School for Social Research or at the New York SDS Regional Office. Although Dave had become increasingly friendly with Ted during Spring 1967, I still had not spoken to him much on an individual, personal relationship basis prior to May 1967. So Dave and I agreed to meet briefly in the Furnald Hall lobby a few days before I was going to move out of the dorm for the school year.

I was talking with a freshman in the Furnald Hall lobby when Dave appeared in the dorm. I introduced Dave to the freshman as “The Father of Columbia’s New Left.” After the freshman went on his way, so that Dave and I could speak alone, Dave said with a smile: “It embarrasses me to be called `The Father of Columbia’s New Left.’ It makes me feel like I’m an old man already.”

“Oh, I’m sorry I called you that. But you were the Columbia activist who turned on people like me to New Left radicalism when I was just a freshman. I’m really excited about rooming with you, you know.”

Dave blushed and smiled again. And then we started to talk about Ted, about how hard it was to find an apartment and about SDS politics. It was agreed that he and Ted would be looking around for an apartment during the summer, while I was living out in Queens. If anything was found, Ted would telephone me.

Dave was from the Boston area and spoke with a Boston accent. His father was a liberal Democrat who worked as a manager in a toy company. At Brookline High School, Dave had been involved in civil rights activity in relation to the African-American community’s campaign in Boston for quality education and an end to de facto segregation. But when entering Columbia in Fall 1962, Dave was still just a left-liberal Democrat, politically.

By the time I entered Columbia 3 years later and first heard him speak on the sundial against the war in Viet Nam at ICV rallies, Dave was a revolutionary communist and New Left radical on a political level, somewhat bohemian culturally and very intellectual, morally passionate and earnest. He always seemed to be in a pleasant and enthusiastic mood. Like Harvey, Dave seemed to be one of the New Left activists around campus who knew the most about any politically relevant subject; and, like Harvey, Dave was a philosophy major as an undergraduate. As an orator and agitator, Dave was also quite good. And as a day-to-day organizer, Dave was very hardworking.

After Dave left me in Furnald Hall, I felt excited at the prospect of being able to room with him, as well as with Ted, in the fall. Dave still interested me intellectually very much, seemed so politically committed and dedicated to serving humanity, and seemed like a beautiful guy on a personal level. He was also more emotionally open and easier to get closer to on a personal level than Mark was in May 1967.

The academic term came to an end and I passed all my courses, despite my high rate of cutting. In the “American Foreign Policy II” course which had led me to do the research on the U.S. military-industrial complex that produced the discovery of Columbia’s secret IDA connection, I only received a “C-minus.” Despite my low grades, though, I seemed to know more about intellectually and politically relevant matters than most of the other Columbia College sophomores. More and more Columbia and Barnard students appeared to be moving in the radical intellectual and philosophical direction that I had started to move as a freshman; and this reinforced my belief that it was more intellectually productive to read on my own, instead of reading what was assigned by non-activist, “bourgeois liberal” Columbia professors.

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