The Image of a Political Life.
My favorite photograph from my time in college 40 years ago is of a man who I saw but never met, and whose name I never even knew until recently. He is a lightly bearded young man, wearing a black t-shirt, delivering a public address at an informal outside gathering. I was at the event and I recognize the scene--a warm spring day in 1977 at Kent State University in northern Ohio. I was a freshman at nearby Oberlin College and a friend and I had caught a ride to this event--a rally to protest Kent State University's proposal to build a gym on the site of the famous shootings of students seven years earlier, on May 4, 1970. By 1977, May 4, 1970 had become a national and international symbol of student anti-war activism and tragedy, and to those of us who were alert to politics in the 1970s, the place--Kent State University--held great emotional and political meaning.
Although I recall the event, I don't know who took the photo or how I obtained it. For 40 years, I didn't know the name of the man in the photo.
Yet the photograph has been immensely meaningful to me because sometime in the afternoon of that event, inspired in part by the young man's talk, I experienced what I later called a political awakening that energized me much like some people describe a spiritual awakening: an altered state of perception, knowing beyond knowledge, a change in perception of reality. The gist of my experience was an understanding about the systemic nature of injustice that was planned in some way by a minority in power against a majority of people who were powerless. I was not clear on specifics--this was in no way a well formulated political theory, although it drew in part on my own rudimentary understandings of Marxism and my education from my liberal parents' engagement in political issues. And the experience was powerful enough to stay with me to this day: The photograph represents to me the moment when politics became a large, lifelong cause that required immediate, urgent, and collective response.
The moment immediately radicalized me. For the next three years of college I became involved in a variety of the political movements that engaged college students at the time--women's rights, anti-nuclear energy, the divestment of college stocks from South Africa, Native American rights, and student rights. Each movement was intensely personal and drew on all of my energy for the length of the cause; then I moved on to other causes. This energy continued through my adult years as I organized, marched and rallied for women's rights, AIDS activism and anti-Gulf War, and worked locally for labor unions, women's issues, and the environment.
Over the years, I followed a somewhat typical pattern of political development, moving from youthful cause-oriented activism to the citizen-oriented actions of the middle aged, increasingly focusing more on organized elections and political parties. (2) As a young professor in a mid-western college town, I became involved in institutional governance at my university, regional democratic party politics, elected local government, and community-based progressive politics. 1 ran for City Council and held a seat on that body for eight years, four of them as City Mayor.
Through all this time, I carried the photograph of the young man with me, tacking it to my bulletin board and referring to it often as the origin of my political awareness. He was my political lode star, even as I did not know who he was.
Forty years after that event, in 2017, I travelled back to Kent for the annual May 4 commemoration, and 40th anniversary of the "Move the Gym" movement. I brought on the trip my photo of young man in the black t-shirt, hoping some returning activists could identify him.
I was successful. Two people at the event recognized him and told me his name. He was not at the event; he had died twelve years earlier. But I had his name--Carter Dodge--and I proceeded to learn more about him, reconstructing his biography as best I could through public records and reflecting on the role of politics in young peoples lives. At the core of my search was the question of politics, both Carters and mine.
The Biography of an Image
How to reconstruct a life from one old photograph?
This essay draws on none of the typical resources for a biography. I did not know the name of my biographical subject until 40 years after the photograph was taken. I had none of his letters, papers or personal or professional artifacts. I could not locate his family.
I did have his obituary, a few public records from official governmental and university sources, and references of him from the media as he had led a notably public political life in the years after I saw him. I also talked with two of his close friends, albeit these conversations took place over a dozen years after his death.
I also used as a resource the politics of the times, particularly the political dynamics--both real and mythological--of Kent State University in the 1970s, and particularly the work of the "May 4th Coalition," also called the "Move the Gym" group, in 1977-78, which was, as participant Nancy Grim described it, both about facts of the case--the university decision to build a gym on the site of the 1970 incident--and "the struggle over meaning" of political activism. (3) I expanded the scope of that approach both personally and nationally, drawing upon my own political story--what happened as I remembered it, and the emotional legacy of it on my life--and on broader political events of the 1970s and afterwards in the American Midwest where Carter and I both lived, on other biographies of political awakenings, and some scholarly understandings of civic engagement, youth and activism.
From a collection of cold public facts and reports, memory, affect, and my own and others' biographies, I have tried to reconstruct a life and make larger meaning from it, emphasizing my subjects political life, both before and after 1977. (4) The portrait is in no way complete, and contains many contradictions, in part because even official census documents can be deceiving, and in part because of what one of Carter's friends later told me was his tendency to tell conflicting stories about his past. While I avoid any attempt at psychological analysis of Carter, me, or youth activism, it's hard to avoid it. Carter Dodge was, by both his friends' accounts and media accounts, an eclectic, passionate, and peripatetic personality. A life-long political activist, his commitments moved from radical youth groups to civil rights law. He alternatively aligned himself with anarchists, Trotskyists and Maoists, but he also fondly recalled his experience in the military, including his allegiance with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Across his political life, he stood on stage with some of the leading lights of the late 1970s radical left, including William Kunstler, the famous lawyer for radical and civil rights causes, Ron Kovic, the wounded anti-war Vietnam Vet, folk singer Joan Baez and comedian and activist Dick Gregory. Later in his life, he became addicted to alcohol and heroin and became active in his local recovery community.
How to reconstruct a life from one photograph with such provocative, potent, and emotionally rich scraps of biographical implications? I begin with the photograph and its meaning: politics.
What is the experience of becoming politically active? Why do some people choose different strategies and tactics?
Some scholars of civic engagement argue that becoming political is a social experience that evolves from a combination of external influences (including school and family) and emotional and self-reflective experiences, or "the interplay between external sources of influence and students' own self-reflections." (5)
Such a pattern emerges in many memoirs of political awakening: that a political transformation is spurred on by both reading political theory and meeting diverse people. For Todd Gitlin, who was active in Students for a Democratic Society in the 1960s, his first engagement in political work in college made him feel "useful" and gave him "good company, books to read, intellectual energy," and addressed his yearning for a community that was organized for action and purpose. (6)
For some, the draw of "good company" furthered a sense of self confidence and purpose as they were radically inspired by and engulfed in a political cause which became a compelling torrent of life, a vortex that pulled one in and transformed one's identity. As Gitlin remembered the draw of SDS in college, "everything these people did was charged with intensity." (7)
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz' political consciousness at the University of Oklahoma in the 1950s gave her a "sense of enormous responsibility, and that felt liberating, made me feel in control of my destiny, made me feel I could change the world and make a better place for people like me to live in." (8)
So, too, did Susan Stern recall her introduction to the radical political group the Weathermen in the 1960s as a life crisis in which there became:
....only one reality in my life. Weatherman. I fell in love with a concept. My white knight materialized into a vision of world-wide liberation. I ceased to think of Susan Stern as a woman. I saw myself as a revolutionary tool. Impetuously and compulsively, I flung myself at the feet of the revolution and debauched in its whirlwind for the next few years. . . . my family, my past, all faded into dreary insignificance. For the first time in my life that I could remember, I was happy. (9)
Happy, yes, but also a struggle. For Michael Harrington, the shift from a well-intentioned social worker to a political activist was a personal life crisis, "a moment when my life changed," and which left him thereafter a "haunted man." (10)
Ta-Nehesi Coates had a similar experience at Howard University in the early 90s where:
....it began to occur to me that the point of my education was a kind of discomfort, was the process that would not award me my own especial Dream, but would break all the dreams, all the comforting myths of Africa, of America, and everywhere, and would leave me only with humanity in all its terribleness.....This heap of realizations was a weight. I found them physically painful and exhausting. (11)
So, too, did civil rights preacher Will Campbell recall his "conversion" to political activism as both "a joyous and a painful experience," demanding reflection, restitution, and realignment. (12)
As a college student in California in the late 1970s, Barack Obama, wary of his middle class and mixed race background, struggled with claiming his racial identity as an African American by self-consciously aligning himself with politically active Black students who debated radical philosophy and "resisted bourgeois society's stifling constraints." (13) He was, as he recalled, on the outside, cynical, judging, and skeptical. As part of his larger effort to portray a "radical pose," he became involved in the campaign for his university to divest stocks from South Africa and gave one of his first speeches for which he received praise from many, even as he felt that the speech was irrelevant, and that the exercise merely made him feel important, and gave him "a nice cheap thrill." He was shocked into a deeper understanding of his work when his friend Regina criticized him for being like all the other speakers for thinking that "everything's about you" and not about people in need. "They aren't interested in your irony or your sophistication of your ego getting bruised." (14) This personal lecture turned out to be Obama's political awakening: the realignment of his purpose from self to others.
For some, the thrill of political workseemed almost explosive, and eventually destructive. "She was aflame, incandescent," recalled a friend of Shulamith Firestone, the inspirational leader of the new radical feminist movement of the 1960s and author of Dialectic of Sex, which became a mainstay feminist text. "It was thrilling to be in her company." Recalled another friend, she was like "a shooting star. She flashed brightly across the midnight sky, and then she disappeared." (15) Firestone, like others, suffered personal stresses, political conflict, and self-destructive tendencies after she was a "shooting star" and she disappeared into mental illness after the dissolution of her core group and the publication of bookin 1970 until her isolated death in 2012. (16)
The thrill and the struggle, and sometimes even the tragedy, of political work was something I had known almost viscerally from my own childhood. For much of my youth, my father ran for local government offices, ever enthusiastic but never winning. The thrill of those campaigns and the heartbreak of his losses, were amongst my earliest memories, as was the stress of bis political work on my mother, who struggled with the way in which his passionate political work took over the focus of the house and family. Clearly, I could see, a strong self-confidence and a sense of ego was necessary for such work, even more so, perhaps, than an interest in governing. This is the chilling message about the potential celebrity status of political work in the final scene of the 1972 film The Candidate, when Robert Redford, the handsome, maverick, aspiring candidate for U.S. Senate wins his election in a surprise upset, and turns to his campaign manager and asks, blankly, "So, what do we do now?" Driven by the energy of the campaign, the necessary obsession of the work, and his campaign manager's social construction of a politician's identity, this candidate lost track of his family, possibly his ethics, and his reason for running. (17)
For those of us who came of age during the Vietnam War, debates over political strategy, ethics, and commitment were part of our daily fare. To what extent should we object to the war? To what extent did we really understand it? As Mary Beth Tinker recalled her 8th grade classmate's decision to wear black armbands to protest the war in 1965, an act that eventually led to a Supreme Court decision on students' rights, "the whole world seemed upside-down." (18) At my own elementary school in those years, teachers taught us not to fight on the playground, yet we saw images of death and war every night on the evening news. We learned about equal rights, even as we watched Civil Rights leaders continue their struggle for equal rights, often to their own deaths.
The question about how to respond to such contradictions was, if not a common topic for young people, something we were all familiar with. Should we engage in civil disobedience, or run for office? I knew of families where sons were disowned, the front door locked, because they had resisted the draft or attended an anti-war rally. When I fought for the right for girls to wear pants as president of my elementary school student body, was I going through the system or resisting it? Was the appropriate response to the crises of the day liberal reformism or radical action? Was the best strategy one of political debate or personal and cultural rebellion? Should we be analytic or expressive? Fanatical or moderate? What would we risk with either approach?
This is what I came to that rally with in the Spring of 1977, even as my attendance there was largely unplanned. It was a warm spring weekend at college; I was 18 years old. My friend Rosanne and I heard that someone was driving to Kent State, the site of the notorious murder of four students by the national guard at an anti-war rally seven years earlier. Presumably, we were tired of doing our homework; we got a free ride in the back of a pick-up truck; we felt the thrill of an afternoon off, and the excitement of becoming involved in something bigger than ourselves.
Carter Dodge got to that event through a different route. In the spring of 1977, he was a 26-year-old philosophy graduate student, divorced, a Vietnam Vet, and a veteran of other local political causes. He was in the early stages of becoming a leader of a group that would protest the University's plan to relocate the planned gymnasium. Notably, from the photograph, he already had the black t-shirt that read "Remember Kent State: Move the Gym," which Rosanne and I bought later that afternoon in what we felt was a significant act of solidarity.
Carter had, presumably, already had his political awakening.
Carter Dodge was born in 1951 in California; his parents divorced when he was a baby. At some point in his youth, he and possibly his siblings moved to the Midwest--possibly Indiana and ultimately the working-class town of Marion, Ohio, where they may have lived with an aunt. Carter himself would tell different stories about his past: that his father was Joe Dodge, the drummer for the jazz player Dave Brubeck; that as a child, he was in a wheelchair for some time with deformed ankles; that he had spent part of his childhood in a foster home. Carter graduated from high school in Marion Ohio in 1968 and may have then attended Kent State University, where he may have been on May 4,1970. Between 1971 and 1973, he served in the military repairing helicopters, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. (19)
His service at Fort Hood may have overlapped with the emerging anti-war movement among military enlisted and veterans, which by 1971, had an active presence at Fort Hood army base in central Texas. The most celebrated case of GI antiwar resistance took place in 1966 at Fort Hood when three enlisted men refused shipment to Vietnam on the grounds that it was an immoral war. (20) The Oleo Strut Coffeehouse, opened near the base in 1968 and remained an active site of anti-war and counter-cultural arts and political activity through mid-1971. (21) In May 1970 and 1971, hundreds of Fort Hood GIs participated in a nationwide protest of the war in what the GIs termed "Armed Farces Day," held in conjunction with the traditional "Armed Forces Day" celebrations. (22) In the summer of 1971, the anti-war GI movement at Fort Hood organized rallies, distributed petitions, and provided legal advice for resisting GIs, focusing on a campaign to free two GIs, one black and one white, who had held a rebellion at the Fort stockade protesting racist actions by guards. One thousand soldiers signed a petition, and there were rallies held in September and October, the second rally leading to some arrests. In November, Louis Stokes, Black Congressman from Cleveland, who led the newly founded Congressional Black Caucus visited Fort Hood in its investigation of racism at the base, during which time, according to a historian of the movement, "the atmosphere at Fort Hood became charged with revolutionary energy." (23)
Was Carter there? Did he know of Congressman Stokes from his home state of Ohio? Was he involved in the action? Or had he left for Vietnam? Did he go to Vietnam? (He told different stories). Whatever his experience, his two years in the service impacted him greatly, and after leaving the army, he became active in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War movement.
Carter married in 1973 and divorced two years later, around the time he had enrolled in a masters program in philosophy at Kent State University. (24) At this point, 1975, he became increasingly active in a range of political activities on campus, virtually all of which became, or he made them become, controversial. He was constantly in the student and local newspaper for some action, protest, or incident. In these documents, he appears as a political gadfly, ever jumping to new causes and inclined to public demonstration. Yet he also appears, at least twice, as a moderating, mediating influence.
In May 1975, as a member of the Kent State University student council allocations committee, Carter objected to the committees refusal to fund organizations for American Indian rights, Vietnam Veterans, and peace groups. (25) In January 1976, he joined a protest against a proposed tuition hike, and was injured in the protest. One month later, he joined in student support of faculty who were organizing for collective bargaining rights. He later resigned from that group in disgust over its poor planning. (26)
Between Fall 1976 and Spring 1977, Carter was active in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War defense of Ashby Leach, a Navy Vietnam Vet who lost his job with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad and was denied his veterans benefits. On August 26, 1976, an armed Leach took over the offices of the railroad in the landmark Terminal Tower in the center of Cleveland, holding 13 staff hostage for 9 hours. He was charged and jailed for three months pending trial, then was acquitted of kidnapping and convicted of assault, extortion, and carrying an illegal weapon. (27) The Leach case and subsequent trial became a national cause for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War movement and Carter may well have participated in a large rally for Leach in nearby Cleveland in mid-March 1977. (28) Sometime during that Spring he also took part in a protest by the Sphinx Society, a student philosophy association, protesting the freezing of a teaching position in the philosophy department. (29)
From May through September 1977, he was actively involved with the "May 4th Coalition," also known as the Move the Gym movement. (30)
In the Fall of 1976, the Kent State University Board of Trustees approved the funding of a new gym facility to be constructed partially on the site of the Kent State shootings of 1970. To protest the decision, students formed several organizations that eventually merged into the May 4th Coalition. For over two years, the Coalition protested the proposed construction of the gym. In May 1977, around the time of my first visit, some of these protesters pitched tents on the proposed building site, creating an active "Tent City" where they stayed for over 60 days sparking protests and counter protests among members of the university and the community. Court battles ensued and nearly 200 people were eventually arrested and forcibly removed from the site. (31)
The Tent City occupation was radicalizing for participants in a number of ways. (32) While an official goal of the group was to force the university Board of Trustees to change the location of the proposed gym, the larger issue was changing the popular narrative about the Vietnam War, to emphasize national antiwar resistance and its values, principles, and critiques of capitalism, imperialism, and militarism. Or, as Marian Jackson, the main historian of the May 4th Coalition movement words it, to "control the historical narrative about the Vietnam era" and to keep alive and active "the ideas, analyses, goals, and memories of the antiwar movement and its dead." (33)
Particularly in the early part of the summer of 1977, the dreams of Tent City were large: not only would the proposed gym be moved (it was not; it was completed in 1979 on the site originally proposed by the Board of Trustees), but radical activism not seen since the battles against the Vietnam War would be reactivated. According to the nationally known wounded Vietnam Vet Ron Kovic, who spent much of the summer in Kent, the work of the May 4th Coalition was leading "the whole world" to look to Kent "for the beginning of a new mass movement." (34) For its two months of occupation and subsequent months of protest and legal and police actions, the May 4th Coalition developed a hot house atmosphere of political debate and strategizing, drawing on sensationalist publicity and some self- aggrandizement. (35) As the summer progressed and Tent City was legally shut down and physically bulldozed, the group became subject to increasing factionalism as leaders of the Revolutionary Student Brigade claimed leadership, and the purpose of the movement divided between the construction of the university gym and larger issues of capitalism and militarism. Some participants felt that this division undercut the unity of the group. (36)
This radicalism was in full bloom by late September, 1977, at the second rally that I attended at Kent State, along with about one hundred other Oberlin students and about 3000 participants from across the country. (37) There we heard speeches from the Communist Youth League, a Black student group from Kent, and the Revolutionary Student Brigade. After the talks, we marched around campus chanting, and a small group, include members of the Revolutionary Student Brigade, tore down part of the fence surrounding the construction site and spray painted some of the bulldozers. This was an action that my classmate Pete Lavigne had hoped to take part in. He wanted to get arrested, he told me, in a kind of bravado that I did not share, even in my romantic political passion which I shared with my friend Rosanne, who had written a commentary in the college paper the previous week, in which she explained the symbolic significance of the movement and the importance of students moving beyond their "privileged, sheltered existence" of rationalization and "passive apathy." (38) Like Rosanne, my passion was often over-heated and hyperbolic. Sometime the following year, I found myself in an argument with another Oberlin student about the gym controversy, and I broke down in tears because of that passion. The other student was shocked, almost apologetic at my response. It seemed that I was taking this cause very personally.
It meant a lot to Carter too, although presumably he was able to articulate his response more clearly than Rosanne and me. In fact, Carter was widely known for his rhetorical power. My only specific memory of the Spring 1977 rally I attended was a line by Carter that held chilling prophetic significance at the time. "Seven years ago," Carter reminded us, "it was 1970, and four students were murdered here by police. "And seven years from now," he told us, "will be 1984"--a year that then still signified the ultimate political oppression and tyranny of the famous George Orwell book that many of us had read in terror in high school. The meaningful pairing of those two dates sent a shiver of significance through the group.
Carter was a leader in the Coalition, although his affiliations were not always clear. He was identified at various moments as a militant Maoist and member of the Revolutionary Student Brigade which took over the Coalition over the summer. Yet he himself denied membership in the Brigade, even as he agreed with their cause, telling one local reporter that a "very small segment" of the American population "exercises a virtual dictatorship over the lives of people in this country" and that only organized political activity "would result in the oppressed people coming to rule their own lives by gaining control of the vast wealth of this country." (39)
Carter had certainly learned the power of her own voice and physical presence: he was a regular speaker at rallies; through 1977, he was arrested at least once for trespassing; and when a jeep drove into tent city, Carter claimed he was injured, (40)
But even as his presence often furthered the disunity of the group that summer, Carter also acted as a calming influence: In late July, as over 60 Coalition members were arrested for occupying the site, Carter grabbed a bullhorn and led protestors away from the police to an organizing meeting to plan a support picket for those in jail. (41) The next month, he joined a legal negotiating team to work with a federal judge in Cleveland who was working as a mediator, a strategy that led to further division in the group, as some saw the legal work as a compromise. (42) Carter argued that the negotiations were strategic, and that they should not undercut on-going radical positions: the demonstrations should continue. Carter was apparently quite skilled at playing both radical hard-liner and negotiator; he settled his own legal charge of trespassing out of court later that month. (43)
After the destruction of Tent City in late summer 1977, the May 4th Coalition weakened but remained active. In April 1978, Carter was suspended from the University and banned from campus for disrupting a meeting with leaflets about Coalition action. (44) His suspension became a cause celebre on campus, leading to student rallies, teach-ins, petitions, a student senate resolution and the occupation of university offices demanding that Carter be reinstated and charging that the university had violated freedom of speech rights by silencing public statements about the gym controversy. "An injury to one is an injury to all" was the announcement of an upcoming rally "to reinstate Carter Dodge" at the Student Center Plaza one day. Another ad announced the event as an "Anti-Repression Rally." (45)
In early 1978, a district judge allowed Carter back on campus for the annual May 4th rally and Carter gave a speech that drove everybody to their feet with his line that "I am not the victim. The victims will one day be the victors and that's a fact." (46)
In October 1978, Carter was back on campus to talk about a proposed independent film of the gym protest.
In May 1980, now a law student in Cleveland, Carter returned to campus for a debate between Christian philosopher Peter Steen and "communist Carter Dodge" during which Carter asserted that evil in society was not the result of the absence of god, as Steen argued, but the result of "the efforts of rich people who exploit the labor of poor people." "The only way to rid the world of this evil is by violent revolution." (47)
Two years later, having earned a law degree at Cleveland Marshal School of Law, (he told one friend that he won a scholarship named for Pete Seeger at his Law School, yet no such scholarship exists), he returned to campus as the attorney for a Black student charged with assaulting a residence hall security staff member who the Black Student Union charged was racist. (48) The next year, in November 1983, he was back speaking about the American military invasion of Granada at a Progressive Student Alliance rally. (49) In June 1984 he was attorney for a former Kent State history major, who was charged with blocking the entrance to the cafeteria during a demonstration. (50)
After 1984, Carter is largely out of the news, but here his friends fill in the pieces. As a lawyer, he practiced securities law, although he devoted most of his time to social causes, including legal work on behalf of the American Indian Movement under the leadership of William Kunstler, whom he had first met during the Tent City activities, and on behalf of child sex abuse survivors. He also did pro bono legal work and he was chairman of the Cleveland Bar Association's Lawyer Assistance Committee, which aided lawyers with personal problems, including drug and alcohol abuse.
And he ran into trouble: in June 1990, he filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy. (51) In 2001, after resisting an arrest in a drunk driving charge, Carter voluntarily went to a drug and alcohol treatment center--borrowing $3000 from a friend to pay for it. He never paid her back, although he did shower her with gifts in gratitude. He began to attend Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, even as friends suspected that he had developed a heroin habit. On Thursday July 23, 2004, Carter Dodge was found dead at his home in Cleveland Heights. The official cause of death in his obituary was heart disease; his friends suspected a heroin overdose. He was buried in Marion Cemetery. In his obituary, memorial donations were requested to go to an Alcoholics Anonymous group in Cleveland Heights.
Perhaps everybody knows someone like Carter--the impossible friend whose recent antics enliven reunions, who is eccentric, unreliable, outrageous, and still much enjoyed. This impossible friend is the loveable hustler, a Dean Moriarty character, who is excited with life, filled with bluster and lies and dynamism, living for the moment, and still intensely committed to old friends and causes.
According to one of his friends, Carter was a consuming personality who asked a lot of his friends, even as he was immensely loyal to those friends, whom he considered his adult family. He was always on the edge of everything--he drove fast, lived fast, was very funny and very kind.
In our youth, we often wondered what these people would do when they got older--would they ever settle down and get a paying job? Would they translate their initial scattered passions into a long-term focused career? In the end, many of them never made it that far.
One purpose of this essay is to reflect on the personal meaning of politics in apolitical era. Common portrayals of the political activism of the 1960s and 70s tend to center on national and public events, often with a romanticized view of the political left. But politics, like all of life, consists of relationships and emotions. When viewing the personal experience of politics through memory and biography, the whole political picture changes.
Another purpose of this essay is to reflect on the impact of what we might call "selective memoir," such as those memoirs in which the author reflects on past relationships with other people, offering a snapshot of a friendship or of an influence. The difference between memoir and autobiography is the first distinction here--autobiography is a chronological telling of one's experience while memoir is a more intimate self-portrait of how one remembers one's own life and the significance of memories, feelings and emotions. (52) Memoirs of friendship, such as Calvin Trilliin's Remembering Denny, Ann Patchett's Truth and Beauty, and Gail Caldwell's Let's Take the Long Way Home, are reflections on the emotional experience of a self growing in relationship. (53) Also relevant here is a category of memoirs that focus on a particular sliver or angle of a life, such as memoirs about the experience of work--Robert Caro's Working and the poet Donald Hall's memoir Life Work are my two favorites of this genre--and Mary Catherine Bateson's Composing a Life in which she reflects on her and her women friends' personal and professional development as an improvisational art form. (54)
This essay also refers to and is inspired by the work of social historians, especially historians of education who have explored the use of alternative documentary sources in history writing, including photographs, memories, senses, and emotions. (55) This essay thus sits at the intersection of memoir and creative social history: how can we make meaning out of the past by drawing on our own fragmentary memoirs, found objects, and our own life paths while still remaining true to and respectful of more traditional evidence from the past? Biography, autobiography and memoir are by definition fragmentary: there is only so much about the past that we can rely upon, and human lives proceed in such tangled and overlapping ways, with so many moments left undocumented, that we are continually probing the past through research and memory, using different strategies and sources, in order to get to some understanding of the truth of a life, or of a part of a life. This is one reason why there are over 15,000 biographical studies of Abraham Lincoln: it's not so much that we never "get Lincoln right," it's just that there are so many ways to understand him. This selective memoir, then, is as much a probing of Carter Dodge's life, as it is an exploration of a selection of my own life, and an insight into a period of time and culture in America, one that begins with reflections on a simple photograph.
(1) For Billy.
(2) Pippa Norris, "Young People and Political Activism: From the Politics of Loyalties to the Politics of Choice?" Paper presented at the Council of Europe Symposium, Strasbourg, France, November 2003: 4.
(3) Nancy Grim, untitled essay, Left Review 2 (Fall 1977): 7-9.
(4) My thinking about biography and autobiography is inspired by chapters in Craig Kridel's excellent edited volume, Writing Educational Biography: Explorations in Qualitative Research (New York: Carland, 1998); and Louise de Salvo, "Advice to Aspiring Educational Biographers" JCT (Journal of Curriculum Theorizing) Winter 1998.
(5) There is a significant amount of research about how and why young people become politically active, particularly young people in the 1960s and 70s. I do not draw on that literature here: My question is not so much how and why Carter and I became politically active, but what our experiences of it were; 'Frond Solhaug and Niels Norgaard Kristensen, "Political Learning Among Youth: Exploring Patterns of Students' First Political Awakening," Citizenship, Social and Economics Education 12, no. 3 (2013): 175, 182; See also Carole L. Hahn, "Comparative Civic Education Research: What We Know and What We Need to Know." Citizenship Teaching & Learning 6, no. 1 (2010): 5-23.
(6) Todd Citlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (New York: Bantam, 1987), 88.
(7) Ibid., 105.
(8) Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960-1975 (Norman OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014), 8.
(9) Susan Stern, With the Weathermen: The Personal Journey of a Revolutionary Woman, ed. Laura Browden (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press), xiv.
(10) Michael Harrington, The Long-distance Runner: An Autobiography (New York: Holt, 1988), 10.
(11) Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2015), 52, 55.
(12) Will D. Campbell, Brother to a Dragonfly (New York: Continuum, 1977), 225.
(13) Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (Edinburgh: Canongale Books, 2007), 101.
(14) Obama, 108-109.
(15) Susan Ealudi, "Death of a Revolutionary," The New Yorker 89, no. 9 (April 15, 2013).
(17) Robert W Rieber and Robert J. Kelly, "The Cult of Celebrity: How Hollywood Conquered Reality," in Film, Television and the Psychology of the Social Dream, (New York: Springer, 2014), 109.
(18) Mary Beth Tinker, "What a Black Arm Band Means, Forty Years Later," Speak Freely (blog), February 4, 2009, https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/what-black-armband-means-forty-years-later.
(19) U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs, B1RLS Death File, 1850-2010, online database, https://www.anccstry.com/search/collcctions/vadeaths/.
(20) Jamcs R. Hayes, "The Dialectics of Resistance: An Analysis of the GI Movement," Journal of Social Issues 31, no. 4 (1975): 127.
(21) "Oleo Strut-Front Line of GI Protest," Searching for Jeff (blog), November 9, 2011, https://jeffsharletandvietnamgi.blogspot.com/2011/11/oleo-strut-front-line-of-gi-protest.html; David L. Parsons, Dangerous Grounds: Antiwar Coffeehouses and Military Dissent in the Vietnam Era (Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press Books, 2017), 44-60.
(22) Hayes, 132; Parsons, 57-60; Dale Smithson, "Sir! No Sir!" YouTube video, 1:04:15. Posted [November 10, 2017]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTJF9MEU9XA; Harry W Haines, "The GI Resistance: Military Underground during the Vietnam War," in Voices from the Underground, Vol. 1, ed. Ken Wachsberger (Location Unknown: Incredible Librarian Books, 1993), 190-97; David Zeiger, "Did the GI Movement End the Vietnam War? And What is the Real Legacy of the GI Coffeehouses?" The Rag Blog (blog), July 26, 2008, http://theragblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/david-zeiger-did-gi-movement-end.html.
(23) Parsons, 58.
(24) Ohio Department of Health. Ohio Divorce Index, 1962-1963, 1967-1971 and 1973-2007, https://odh.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/odh/know-our-programs/vital-statistics/vital-statistics
(25) "Minority funding submitted" Daily Kent Stater, (Kent, Ohio) , May 13, 1975 , Mary Mullin, "Allocations Spark Groups' Anger" Daily Kent Stater, (Kent, OH), May 14, 1975.
(26) Jeff Casher, "Police Demonstrators Clash; Hike Stands Despite Violence," Daily Kent Stater, (Kent, OH), January 9, 1976; Barbara Grubb and Al Richardson, "Caucus Bargaining Panel is Confused," Daily Kent Stater, (Kent, OH), February 20, 1976; Daily Kent Stater, February 25, 1976; Barbara Grubb, "Caucus Member Resigns over Bargaining Action," Daily Kent Stater, (Kent, OH), March 9, 1976; "Three Resign from SCCCB; Committee Bill Called "Fascist," Daily Kent Stater, (Kent, OH), March 5, 1976.
(27) Dick Feagler, "Disturbing Observations," Cleveland Magazine, (January 28, 2009; originally published March 1979), https://clevelandmagaxine.com/in-the-cle/disturbing-observation; Paul Delaney, "Vietnam Veteran Releases Hostages and Gives Up in Ohio After 9 Hours," The New York Times (August 27, 1976), https://www.nytimes.com/1976/08/27/archives/vielnamveteran-rcleases-hostages-and-gives-up-in-ohio-after-9.html: VVAW, Ashley Leach Campaign: Lessons Learned for the Future), The Veteran 7 no. 3 (June 1977), www.vvaw.org/veteran/articlc/?id=1666: Ted Joy, "The Siege of Terminal Tower," Mother Jones (June 1977): 21; Carter Dodge, "Vet Unity Urged in Light for Ashby Leach Freedom," Daily Kent Stater, (Kent, OH), November 12, 1976; "Ashby Leach Defended; Rally Attendance Urged," Daily Kent Stater, (Kent, OH), March 31, 1977; Andrew E. Hunt, The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (New York, New York University Press, 2001), 182-183.
(28) The Veteran 6, no. 6, (November/December 1976) and 7, no. 2 (April 1977).
(29) "Protest Held in Response to Vacancy," Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), April 6, 1977.
(30) Dan Moreland, '"Mass Rally' planned for Saturday, Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), September 21, 1977; Brenda Lang, "The Great Debate: Golding, Canfora Discuss Gym issue," Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), September 21, 1977; Cathy Hakala, "Faculty Senate Says Rally Can't Change Annex Locations," Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), September 22, 1977.
(31) Thomas R. Henslcy and Glen W. Griffin. "Victims of Groupthink: The Kent State University Board of Trustees and the 1977 Gymnasium Controversy." Journal of Conflict Resolution 30, no. 3 (1986): 497-531.
(32) Miriam R. Jackson, We Shall Not be Moved: The May 4th Coalition, the 'Gym Struggle' of 1977 at Kent State University and the Battle Over Ultimate Control of the Vietnam Era National Narrative. (Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing, 2017); William Bierman, "Tent City: A Diary of Love and Anger," Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, OH), June 26, 1977.
(33) Jackson, xxii.
(34) Jackson, 125.
(35) Jackson, 109; Gitlin, The Sixties, 5-6.
(36) "Issues, Leadership of Protest Change at Kent State," Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, OH), November 29, 1977; "A Short History of the Brigade: 3 Years of Struggle on the Road to a National Student Organization," Encyclopedia of Anti-revisionism On-line, https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-1/rsb/doc2.htm; Nancy Grim interview, "Tent City: 'A Real Community," in Kent State/May 4th: Echoes Through a Decade, ed. Scott L. Bills (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1982), 221-230.
(37) "OC Students Join Rally at Kent State," The Oberlin Review (Oberlin, OH), September 27, 1977.
(38) Rosaline Friel, "Kent State: A Distortion of History," The Oberlin Review (Oberlin, OH), September 23, 1977.
(39) "Issues, Leadership of Protest Change at Kent Slate," Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, OH), November 29, 1977.
(40) Brenda Lang, "Prosecutor orders Jeep Incident Probe," Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), September 20, 1977.
(41) Jackson, 120.
(42) Jackson, 162-63; Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, OH), August 2, 1977.
(43) Jackson, 165-66; 193.
(44) Terry Mazzone, "Task Force and Coalition Prevent Verdict: Leaflet Hearing Ends After Disturbance, Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), April 7, 1978; Mike Pesarchick, "Found Guilty of Disrupting Hearing; Grad Student Dodge suspended," Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), April 19, 1978; Terry Mazzone, "Observance Committee Urges Review of Leaflet Regulations," Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), April 19, 1978; Mike Pesarchick, "Three Student Groups Now in Opposition," Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), April 21, 1978.
(45) Terry Mazzone, "Protestors Occupy Offices Demanding Dodge Reinstated, Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), May 3, 1978; "Philosophy Teach in Today: To Discuss the Recent Suspension of our Colleague Carter Dodge," Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), May 10, 1978; "Graduate Senate Recommends Carter Dodge be Reinstated," Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), May 11, 1978; "Rally to Reinstate Carter Dodge, 12 Noon Today," Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), May 11, 1978. Terry Mazzone, "About Graduate Students' Suspension, Movement is Gaining Momernlum," Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), May 12, 1978.
(46) Terry Mazzone, "Permitted on Campus, Dodge Speaks at Ceremonies," Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), May 5, 1978.
(47) Debate on Marxism and Christianity," Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), May 6, 1980; "'Greedy Corporations' Attacked in Christian, Communist Debate," Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, OH), May 7, 1980.
(48) Michelle M. Bell, "BUS President; Hearing Not Fair," Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), October 8, 1982.
(49) "Plaza Rally Included in Activities of Protest," Daily Kent Stater (Kent, OH), November 10, 1983.
(50) David de la Fuente, "University Drops Lettich Complaint," The Summer Kent State (Kent, OH), June 27, 1984.
(51) U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Case Number 9012797, June 20, 1990, https://ecf.ohnb.uscourts.gov/.
(52) Michael Wood, "Selective Memory," The New York Times October 8, 1995.
(53) Calvin 'Trillin, Remembering Denny (London: Macmillan, 2005); Ann Patched, Truth & Beauty: A Friendship (New York: Harper Collins, 2004); Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship (New York, Random House Incorporated, 2011).
(54) Robert A. Caro, Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing (New York: Knopf, 2019); Donald Hall, Life Work (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2003); Mary Catherine Bateson, Composing a Life (New York: Grove Press, 2001).
(55) Noah W. Sobe, "Researching Emotion and Affect in the History of Education," History of Education 41, no. 5 (2012): 689-695; Ian Grosvenor, Martin Lawn, and Kate Rousmaniere, Silences and Images: The Social History of the Classroom (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1999); Ian Grosvenor, "Back to the Future or Towards a Sensory History of Schooling, History of Education 41, no. 5 (2012): 675-687.
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