Hugh Holmes Norton,
Eleanor Katz, Elliott Macis,
Mary Sue Valenti,
INT: The other thing I wanted to say is describe Berkeley, by actually saying "Berkeley campus..."
RD: OK. Well, the Berkeley campus was... what was interesting about that was that it came early in the movement, from my perspective, and it created a national ignition. It was local, but it allowed a voice to be heard across the country, especially on to campuses across the country. And so it was a very powerful building moment for the movement that subsequently followed, you know, as we went into the latter part of the decade.
(B/g talk. Cut.)
INT: ... pick up on the story about what happened the day after you got hit on the head and you were taken to hospital.
RD: Well, Wednesday night was the night of the nomination, and I watched it from television. I had gone unconscious for a period of time, and had 13 stitches in my head, and I was feeling pretty much under the weather, not ready to go into the streets. But I was in full drama headgear by the next day, and the talk that I gave on a trash can in front of the Hilton Hotel was carried live by all three networks. And it was interesting, because when I went to Hanoi in 1969, I happened to arrive at the... I forget what year it was, but the anniversary of the Geneva Convention which had ended the war between Vietnam and the French, and it was a high diplomatic kind of meeting, with the Prime Minister (Fam Vandong) coming out, and then all the ambassadors from all the countries that had representation in North Vietnam. And (Fam Vandong?) walked out, there was a standing ovation. I was about half way down in the auditorium, and he walks right out on to the stage and walks down the steps, and then comes back to me and looks [at] me and takes me by the shoulders, and then he says, "How is your head?" (Laughs) you know. And it was like, I didn't know what he was talking about, you know. This picture of me kind of looking like I had just fallen out of an airplane or something flashed around the world, and I think it became a symbol in many ways of what had taken place in Chicago. People's heads were bloodied, but their defiance and willing(ness) to stand up, encourage and continue to speak out, was unabated by what took place.
INT: How successful do you think you were and the movement was in breaking down the Cold War mentality in America?
RD: Well, it was probably more successful than maybe the historians really want to give a credit to, you know, because certain things didn't occur, and... you know, and there is no question about that, but the capacity of the United States to wage war kind of discriminately anywhere in the war without the American public looking over their shoulders very carefully, I think has been changed forever. It's still very much, you know... a president thinks twice now. You know, the Gulf War was a certain kind of situation, but it's... just to go off and exercise foreign policy through the use of military means is something that policy-makers think long and hard about as a result of what happened in Vietnam. And I think that it had a... you know, there's so much to be done relative to equality within the society, but the days of the Fifties and what was going on in the South, as well as northern cities, was radically changed by the civil rights movement. There certainly... I mean, just to have a national holiday with Martin Luther King is an amazing change in the culture of this country. I think, too, the launching of women into their own self-empowerment, their own decision to take control of their lives, you know, has become a true mass phenomenon and has its seeds and roots in the 1960s. So these are some very, very big themes of social change that I think very objectively did come out of that turbulent era.
INT: We have three questions we ask people about the Cold War. Do you think the Cold War was necessary?
RD: Well, I don't know if necessary. I mean, you know, it was a story that emerged out of history and the... you know, wherever there's fear in a society, cold wars tend to occur, and so the roots of it are fear, and you know, the root of fear is a very deep philosophical question, really, what causes that. Did it sustain a world from not having to face nuclear holocaust? I don't know. Perhaps. You know, certainly the American designers of the Iron Curtain and containing, drawing the line in Europe after World War II would probably point with pride to, you know, the practical sensibility of not letting even a single inch be taken without the threat of dropping the big bomb, you know. And, yeah, you know, the whole thing is that the Iron Curtain, the Soviet Union, America's wanting to have an enemy of such a mythic proportion, fundamentally is rooted in fear and separation. And the truth is, is that the human race is really not separate at all. You know, I mean, these ideas that we build up about different countries, territories, language, culture - the real truth is that we are one people, we are one humanity. Now humanity has not evolved to that level of understanding, but I think the Sixties was a great shock to the fear-based cultural norm that pervaded the whole world, you know, for most of human history. And I would love to see another kind of shock go down - not so much in the form of an angry revolution, but in the revolution of comprehension, that we are one human race and that we really are brothers and sisters underneath it all, really, you know, and not some Pollyanna idealistic ideal, but as a true knowingness. This, to me, would be the next logical step of human evolution, and when we take that step, we start to really eradicate the roots of what causes human beings to go to war.
INT: Was there any particular episode which has strong Cold War connotations, that you knew sort of represented the worst possible likelihood of the threat of nuclear annihilation, for example? Did you ever worry about that?
RD: Well, we worried about it at the time of the Cuban crisis with Kennedy. I mean, I think that at the very early days of our movement, it was the one place where I would say fear came in and was very powerful and pervasive. I mean, there was really a sense that this might be it. And in terms of, you know, actually affecting people and the public, I would say the Cuban crisis was probably the most central time when many, many people spent a pretty intense period, a few days of their life, wondering what was really going to happen. Other times that maybe we don't know about - I can't really comment on that, but that was a moment where I think many, many people had a very deep concern about what their tomorrow might look like.
INT: And the effects of the Cold War?
RD: The effects of the Cold War - well, you know, quite honestly, we haven't gotten rid of fear, and the Cold War is rooted in fear. That's really what it is. There's still something about fear that drives the human species. And the Soviet Union has broken up and we have a whole different world, but at least in this country, the roots of the whole thing, fear, are still very much alive and well, you know. Women don't feel safe to hitchhike across this country, and men don't feel safe walking through most inner-city areas, and there's still a whole lot of looking over the shoulder, you know, just not feeling trust, feeling like something's going to get you; there is a shadow chasing you through a river of hell, and that you need to be very alert and very acutely aware of danger all around. You know, you can say that it's a better world, but the root of the Cold War was that phenomenon, and that phenomenon is still present today. I'm not passing judgment on it, but I'm saying that that... if we want to deal with the crisis of the Cold War, we shouldn't pat ourself on the back by superficial changes, when it's rooted in fear of each other, and it's the fear of each other that, when that changes, that's what's going to end the cold wars for ever.
INT: Rennie Davis, thank you very much.