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H2O Man

(74,054 posts)
Wed May 22, 2024, 04:34 PM May 22

A DU Interview [View all]

"A university is definitely not a democratic institution. Whether students vote 'yes' or 'no' on a given issue means as much to me as if they were to tell me they like strawberries."
-- Herbert Deane, vice dean of Graduate Faculties, Columbia University (April, 1967)


In 1970, a copy of "The Strawberry Statement: Notes of a College Revolutionary" was my late oldest brother's favorite book. It detailed the thoughts and experiences of author James Simon Kunen, who was both a participant and observer of the 1968 student protests at the university. This was the first of a series of important books by James Kunen:
https://www.google.com/search?q=books+by+james+kunen&rlz=1C1CHBD_enUS901US901&oq=books+by+james+kunen&gs_lcrp=EgZjaHJvbWUyBggAEEUYOTIHCAEQIRigATIHCAIQIRigATIHCAMQIRigATIHCAQQIRigATIHCAUQIRigAdIBCDkzNjVqMGo3qAIAsAIA&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

When I read "The Strawberry Statement," it immediately became one of my favorite books. Other things that influenced my thinking on the role of educatio included A.S. Neill's 1960 "Summerhill: : A Radical Approach to Child Rearing (with a powerful introduction by Erich Fromm); the 1962 Port Huron Statement, primarily by Tom Hayden; and Abbie Hoffman's 1968 "Revolution for the Hell of It." James Kunen seemed a wonderful blend of those three.

He has done a serious interview regarding the recent Columbia University protests, which I will link below:
http://jameskunen.com/Columbia%20New%20York%20Mag%20Interview%2020240506.pdf

Because of the acrimony in discussions on this forum regarding Gaza, college protests, and the weather, along with the national atmosphere of anxiety, depression, frustration, and a sense of impending doom, I asked James Kunen if he would participate in an interview for the Democratic Underground. I was hoping for a message of impending positive, and he agreed!
-- Patrick R. McElligott (aka H2O Man)


Q; My older son's favorite part of The Strawberry Statement was when the cop, upon hearing your name, mistook you for Irish and let you go. How, he asked, did you keep from bursting out laughing?

JK: It was scary. The police had a bus ..... it might have been a city bus, but I think it was a police bus. The cops were slamming people around. I was the first one on the bus, and when he said that, I was too afraid to laugh.


Q: Who were the biggest influences on your thinking when you were a student?

JK: One was the novel "Lord Jim." The character is on a ship that he thinks is sinking. He jumps off. But it turns out the boat isn't sinking

The other was the television series "Davey Crockett." You might remember that. Davey held that when you know what you really believe in, you go with it. So when we were in (Columbia President ) Kirk's office, and the police were going to throw us out, I knew what I believed. A lot of students jumped out a window to safety. I didn't jump.


Q: My younger son recently looked me in the eye and said, "Old Man, I thought your generation was going to save the world. What happened?" Do you think the 1960s and early '70s brought about progress?

JK: Yeah, in areas like gay rights, women's rights, and civil rights. I can't recall if student activity was the real cause. It wasn't so much a result of that, is that it was a time of disorder that resulted in a new order.


Q: What influence did the Beatles and other musicians have on youth back in the day?

JK: They absolutely had a major influence. The fact that we were listening to the Beatles together, and the Rolling Stones and others together at the same time gave us a generational identity. And that was really the first time the young generation had the feeling of being united as a group, and a social force.


Q: It's said that history rhymes, rather than repeats. What do you think of the recent campus protests?

JK: I'm not sure that it really rhymes or repeats. In '68, it was Vietnam. In '85, it was investments in South Africa. Gaza is different. But people see something they know is wrong, and they see what is possible. They take over a building to make their voices heard.


Q: In "The Strawberry Statement," you wrote about Mark Rudd, a national leader of Students for a Democratic Society." He went underground shortly after that. When I interviewed Mark for DU a few years back, he was teaching math at a community college in New Mexico. He was backing BBarak Obama for president, and advocating non-violent change. Is this a normal part of the aging process?

JK: I think Mark Rudd is his own special case. A real journey. Things reached a point where he thought violence would work. Then he went underground.

Most of us saw what was wrong, and wanted it fixed immediately. Eventually, we learned that "perfect" is the enemy of "good," and focused on what is possible.


Q: There are three presidential candidates this year: President Biden, Trump, and RFK, Jr. What do you think of each?

JK: Trump is a sociopathic con man. I don't get his appeal. Kennedy is on a narcissistic ego trip, despite the destructiveness of his campaign. I definitely support Joe Biden. I do have concerns about his age. Yes, he is sharp right now, but what about the next four years? Older people can have a rapid change. But he is the best choice, especially considering the other option.


Q: Independent voters now outnumber Democrats or republicans. How important is it to do outreach to independents to re-elect President Biden?

JK: Campaign professionals -- and I'm not one -- have two schools of thought. The first is to turn out the vote. The second one is to reach swing voters. I think that we need to do both of these.


Q: When Nixon resigned, I was sure we would never see his ilk in office again. Today, he would seem a decent fellow compared to Trump. What has happened to our country?

JK: Nixon wasn't the first cynical con man in Washington. Remember Senator McCarthy in the 1950s. I think that what has happened is social media and Fox News.


Q: Outreach to young voters is essential. Who do you think is better at this, AOC or her primary challenger, retired Wall Street banker Marty Dolan?

JK: I totally agree. I admire AOC. She is a brilliant communicator. She speaks clearly.


Q: The internet provides advantages the underground press of our day did not have. Yet it risks keeping people from traditional grass roots campaigning. How important is it to engage in going door-to-dooe?

JK: I think it's very important. There isn't the same sense of community that there was 75 years ago, Back then, there were trusted messengers in neighborhoods, in the PTA, and church. So we need to still be activists.

One thing I've noticed in recent years is that those attending meetings almost all have gray hair. We need to work on getting young people involved.

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A DU Interview [View all] H2O Man May 22 OP
We have watched a couple youtubes on cilla4progress May 22 #1
Thanks! H2O Man May 22 #2
K&R 2naSalit May 22 #3
Thank you! H2O Man May 22 #6
Fabulous as always malaise May 22 #4
Thanks! H2O Man May 22 #7
Well said malaise May 22 #27
I loved the music. H2O Man May 22 #28
K&R Well done! nolabear May 22 #5
Thank you! H2O Man May 22 #8
I get that. He's had a long and hard life and has stood up for others. nolabear May 22 #29
Right. H2O Man May 22 #31
I agree. We need to focus on stopping tfg. That's all. nolabear May 23 #32
thanks for this....a great read.... bahboo May 22 #9
Thank you! H2O Man May 22 #13
Thank you so much for this! Goddessartist May 22 #10
Exactly! H2O Man May 22 #14
Yes Goddessartist May 22 #15
About a month or H2O Man May 22 #18
I hear them as well. Goddessartist May 22 #23
One good turn H2O Man May 22 #26
Perfect! Goddessartist May 22 #30
Thank you for sharing history and a great interview, H2O Man! Kid Berwyn May 22 #11
Thanks! H2O Man May 22 #16
My favorite part Saoirse9 May 22 #12
I agree! H2O Man May 22 #17
Kick. Rec. Bookmark. Thanks! Hekate May 22 #19
Thank you! H2O Man May 22 #21
thanks for thread DoBW May 22 #20
Thank you! H2O Man May 22 #22
K&R spanone May 22 #24
Thank you! H2O Man May 22 #25
Thanks so much for this reflection & interaction Bundbuster May 23 #33
Thank you! H2O Man May 23 #35
i 1st started smoking weed after school listening to led zeppelin. i notice mopinko May 23 #34
Would you believe H2O Man May 23 #36
Thank you H2O man. Prairie_Seagull May 23 #37
Thank you! H2O Man May 23 #38
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