Work took me to east midtown today, old stomping grounds. I had lunch in Dag Hammerskold Plaza, then I went over to the island in the middle of First Avenue, where the Raoul Wallenberg memorial is. I’m always very moved there. There are five rectangular columns of black diabase from the bedrock of Sweden, polished smooth on two sides and left rough on the other two. The smooth sides tell a brief version of Wallenberg’s heroic work as a Swedish diplomat in Hungary who organized the rescue of thousands of Jews in 1944 before his arrest by the Soviets in January 1945. Stalin, never one to let good work go unpunished, had him murdered; his body was never recovered. There’s a big blue ball on top of one of the columns. The paving stones below are from the Budapest ghetto. Frankly, it looks like a lot of other memorials (boring, obtuse; you have to read every word to figure it out) except for the life-sized bronze rendition of an attaché case with the initials RW on it. From afar, the case looks quite real, one of those old-fashioned leather jobs that you still see on occasion. You can imagine the man carrying it wearing a suit, tie, and hat. Gray charcoal pinstripe maybe, the pants so much higher than we wear today. Fedora, or maybe a homburg. It looks as if he’s absent-mindedly left it there before hailing a cab. I wonder how many rookie cops and others have called it in as a suspicious package. The rocks of the memorial don’t really do anything for me, but the simple presence of the attaché case, and the abscence it represents, that I find absolutely heartbreaking.
Last night I could not get to sleep because I was in despair over this Palin creature, a Vice Presidential candidate in 2008 unable to think of any Supreme Court decisions besides Roe v. Wade; a Governor unable to mention a newspaper or magazine that she reads. Of course, her complete inappropriateness for the job wouldn’t be so frightening if her politics weren’t so hideously retrograde. Tens of millions of my fellow Americans are going to vote for her and the desperate, cynical old fool who put her up to the job… just like they did for that criminal George Bush and his monstrous puppet-master Dick Chaney. (The fact that most of these millions call themselves “Christian” is just too perverted a reality to contemplate rationally.)
In times like this, I have to remember people like Wallenberg, as well as our own native touchstones of the truly courageous. The ones who were up against society, up against the might of the state, up against the whole murderous machine, in the name of truth, liberty, and justice. There are so very few of them, of course, anywhere, anytime. I think of Roger Williams and Jane Moody and the others exiled from Puritan Massachusetts. I think of abolitionists and underground railroad conductors of the 19th century. I think of the Quakers, great bulwarks of witness. I think of the Mennonites, some tortured and murdered in Leavenworth for refusing to fight in Woodrow Wilson’s war. I think of all the mill workers, miners, manufacturers, and other laborers who fought for dignity and good wages. I think of the Civil Rights campaigners who stood up to spit, rocks, bottles, teargas, water hoses, dogs, bullets, and bombs with nothing but their bodies and their spirits. I think of Victoria Woodhull running for President from the Old Ludlow Street Jail. I think of the drag queens at the Stonewall Inn who’d had enough bullshit from the cops.
How I could go on! For there are so many worth remembering in the face of the lies, corruption, and injustice that are our masters today. I say keep the faith, remember the brave, don't stop fighting.