Tuesday, May 17, 2016

PHOENIX and GOLDEN RULE (7) Skipper's perspective

     "We plan to sail on June 11. Barbara feels strongly that we should carry on the protest of the Golden Rule. . . I know she is right, but I'm appalled at the idea. To tell the truth, I'm afraid, not just of the physical danger, although that is certainly real. I think I could stand up to that. What paralyzes me is just the idea of doing such an outlandish thing.
     "In the first place, I'm just not the lawbreaking type. . . I'm the type who always waits for the green light before crossing the street. I'm absolutely positive that this AEC regulation will never stand up in an honest court--yet, it's the 'law.' The Lord knows somebody ought to do something about it--but why does it have to be me?
     "I know that if we do this thing it means the end of my academic career. I'm naive in many ways, but not so naive as to think that the AEC [his former boss, remember] and military powers would ever forget or forgive my defiance. Unfortunately, my type of work has to be done either under government or academic auspices; there just aren't openings elsewhere.
     "In other words, if we do this thing, even though we win the legal fight, my formal scientific career is ended. I try not to let this weigh too heavily on my mind, but I can't help it. I was born poor, worked hard, and have gone a long way farther than I could have expected; I hate to give it up.
     "As I read this over I see that I give the impression of being selfish and self-pitying. I wish I didn't--I wish I felt noble and heroic--but don't, I just feel put upon, as we used to say down in Mississippi. . .

     "Day before yesterday the whole family visited the Honolulu jail. All five Golden Rule men are now in custody, serving a sixty-day sentence.
     "The visiting room is narrow and dark, and further divided by a heavy wire mesh. The men all came in together, and greeted us heartily. They seemed to be in vigorous good spirits.
     "My feelings were strangely mixed as I greeted them. I felt a surge of personal warmth and friendship for these men, and pride, too, that they were Americans, and that America can still produce men of conscience and honor. But it wasn't as simple as that. I had to repress a feeling of awkwardness, of discomfort, of--let's face it--shame. And worst of all, I was ashamed of being ashamed.
     "It goes back, I suppose, to my boyhood, when I had it drummed into my head that bad men go to jail, and good--or careful--men stay out. Of course, I know as well as the next man that many good people have been imprisoned for their beliefs; I know that jail is not necessarily equated with evil actions. I know that Christ himself was imprisoned and executed as a criminal.  
     I know all these things, and it sounds pompous even to bring them up; but I'm dealing with how I felt, not how I should have felt, and all the time I was chatting during the visit, a nasty little voice in the back of my mind was saying, 'Just what the devil do you think you're doing here?'
     It boils down to this: It's one thing to be intellectually certain of the rightness and justice of a position; it's another thing to be emotionally prepared to face the consequences of that certainty, especially when the consequences go against deeply planted prejudices and habits. But I'll learn. Anyway, I've just survived another first: for the first time in my life I've been inside a jail."

(Condensed from Earle Reynolds, The Forbidden Voyage, pp. 36-37, 40-41)

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

Jessica, thank you for sharing this. In all the time i've known you, i've never had a good "picture" of your dad. I think this says it much more clearly than i could imagine. Wow.