My most vivid memory of David was not a personal encounter, but in the pages of WIN Magazine, a “radical pacifist” journal published by the War Resisters League. In 1969 he joined several other elder eminences in coming out there. These were the first confrontations I had had with homosexuals as sympathetic figures and colleagues.
A local paper reported a reunion of some of the group two years ago:
“McReynolds, [raised in Los Angeles, as a serious Baptist, but now] an atheist who lives in the East Village, described his decision to burn his draft card as “an act of penance” for supporting President Johnson the year before.
“I thought he would stop the slide to war,” he recalled. “I felt so betrayed by the horror of Vietnam.”
All of the five draft-card burners were eventually arrested and most served short prison sentences, except for McReynolds, who by then was too old to be inducted. Jim Wilson, now about 70 and active back then in the Catholic Movement “by way of Selma,” received the harshest penalty — two years of hard time behind bars from a three-year sentence for failing to report for induction. He was 20 or 21.”
From a 2011 speech he gave at a book party for a dual biography of him and his feminist contemporary, Barbara Deming:
It has been a good life in which, looking back, I am moved by the thought that at one time or another I walked in the company of giants such as Alvin Ailey, Norma Becker, Karl Bissinger, Maris Cakars, Sam Coleman, Dave Dellinger, Barbara Deming, Ralph DiGia, William Douthard, Peggy Duff, Allen Ginsberg, Gil Green, Arthur Kinoy, A.J. Muste, Grace Paley, Igal Roodenko, Bayard Rustin, Myrtle Solomon, and Norman Thomas. And was arrested with more than half of them.
I am deeply moved by those who organized this event and by WRL, which put up with me for nearly four decades, and the Socialist Party, which twice honored me with their nomination for President. . . .
First, do not be dismayed that we are in such troubled time. Large numbers of Americans seem impressed by Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, or Donald Trump. Would you rather have found yourselves in a comfortable time when your voice wasn’t needed?
Think back to the other times we have lived through. The great war for Four Freedoms when we put Japanese in concentration camps on the West Coast. McCarthyism, when people were jailed for their political beliefs.
I remember, at UCLA, a group of us young radicals met at the beach shack in Ocean Park, 132 ½ Ashland Ave., for a serious discussion of whether we should not all leave for Costa Rica. One of us was taking flying lessons, and one of us was arranging for renting or buying a plane.
We voted not to go — though we were convinced we would all end in prison, as indeed some of my close friends at the time, Vern Davidson and others, did, for refusing the draft. Think of the fact that south of the Mason-Dixon line whites and blacks were separated on buses and trains, and blacks in the South had no vote.
Even in defeat we are victorious, for we have given our lives a meaning others should envy. In struggling for something greater than ourselves, we will be transformed.