It is intriguing to me that, among the many reviews of Go Set A Watchman I have read in the past ten days, none mentioned Harper Lee/Jean Louise’s acerbic reflections in it on her experience as a New Yorker.
I wasn’t having a good night. And I hadn’t had a good day. Needleman in the Washington office had called just after lunch. “Nelson,” he barked, We need you here right away.”
I had to help the boss get ready for a big hearing before the Defense Systems Commission. Tomorrow.
I told him I’d promised to take the kids to a ballgame.
Needleman wasn’t impressed. “They play ballgames in Pittsburgh every night, Nelson,” he said. “We get a chance at a hundred million dollar contract once every ten years, if we’re lucky. This hearing could win it for us. The boss needs your data, and he needs you here to explain it to him. Tonight.”
On February 1, 1965, I was arrested in Selma, Alabama with Dr. Martin Luther King and 250 others. Here’s what happened that day, and how I ended up eating Dr. King’s dinner.
I – Blocking the View, Blocking the Road
That morning, I was too tense to eat. Keyed up and ready, my thoughts were full of armies marching to battle.
It was February 1, 1965. I was part of a nonviolent “army” – or at least a battalion – set to march in Selma, Alabama that day. Our objective, the territory we hoped to occupy, was downtown, the Dallas County jail; we planned to capture it by getting arrested.
While reading about and “living with” Progressive Friends, I was inspired by several of the memorable personalities I walked with. I admired and learned from all of them, as well as others who interacted with them.
But there’s one Friend I identified with especially: Samuel M. Janney.
Researching and writing about Progressive Friends took up most of my time from the autumn of 2013 through the spring of 2014. Often this was a paradoxical experience: from one angle, it was a very solitary effort: from another, very crowded.
I did this research at Pendle Hill in Pennsylvania, as the Cadbury research scholar in Quaker History. Most of my time at Pendle Hill was spent solo: in the Friends Historical Library at nearby Swarthmore College, poring over old letters, minutes, pamphlets and books; in my room, reading more old documents; then lots of staring into my computer screen, at the ever-growing store of texts available there.
Yes, for Progressive Quakers, A Man’s Best Friend Was His Dog-gerel. (It Was A Woman Friend’s Best Friend too.) So here’s a sample, from 1856; it might not be great art, but I hear a lot of current resonance in it. It’s called:
The Tyrant’s Ancient Argument: Or, The Dangers of Thought:
As reports, official and unofficial, have come in about Gina Haspel, the nominee to be the next CIA Director, eerie memories began to seep from the back of my mind.
Take, for instance, this passage from a major Newsweek piece, just out:
“She is the woman who keeps the secrets,” Daniel Hoffman, another former senior CIA officer, told Newsweek. “That’s her. She’s the most discreet person I ever worked with.”
Early on, when she signed up in 1985, she chose the clandestine world over a more public life with a husband and children, her colleagues said. Hall recalled asking Haspel what her weekend plans were as a meeting broke up one afternoon. “Steve, come on,” he remembered her saying. “You know that I have no social life. I have no life whatsoever outside of work.”