Sunday, July 22, 2007

`Ted Gold's Wisdom'

Life is so short
With so many things to do
Patiently Ted Gold talked
And his love for all shone through.

Oh, I had a dream one night
Where I saw an old kind friend
For humanity
He died early
Don’t you miss Ted Gold’s wisdom?

He marched when just a child
For the cause of Black people
He passed through school
Broke all their rules
Don’t you miss Ted Gold’s wisdom?

When SNCC did need a friend
Alone, Ted Gold did work
From dorm to dorm
And all night long
Ted Gold he got the funds.

He sought no cash reward
And wished to be no star
He taught the young
Turned on for fun
And was faithful to his love.

The jets bombed Viet Nam
The ghettoes did erupt
Ted Gold he spoke
And gave us hope
That our masters would be crushed.

They could not break his spirit
He fought pigs to his death
He had no price
He sought to do right
And live like Che’s new man.

Now many years have passed
And Ted Gold he does now ask:
“Are my brothers free?
How’s the family?
Do my sisters recall the past?”

Yes, I had a dream one night
Where I saw an old kind friend
For humanity
He died early
Don’t you miss Ted Gold’s wisdom?

To listen to this biographical folk song, you can go to the following link:

Ted Gold’s Wisdom was written deep inside of Brooklyn in the early 1980s. To mark the 20th anniversary of Ted Gold’s death, I also wrote the following column, which was published in the March 6, 1990 issue of the Columbia Daily Spectator:

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the 18 W. 11th St. townhouse explosion in which former Columbia Students for a Democratic Society [SDS] vice-chairman and 1968 Columbia strike leader Ted Gold was killed, along with two other Weatherpeople. The Greenwich Village townhouse explosion was triggered by a mechanical error made by one of the Weather activists while producing bombs. Ted was not yet 23 years old at the time of his death.

In conversation, Ted exhibited a wealth of knowledge about politics and could also be quite witty. He liked to write and sing parodies of rock songs, substituting leftist lyrics for the more apolitical lyrics. At Columbia, Ted seemed to be one of the best minds on campus and one of the most together people.

Twenty years later, I think students at Columbia and Barnard should consider the issues raised by the example of Ted Gold’s life. Unlike many of his former SDS comrades, Ted never became a yuppie. He was a radical political activist before completing his studies at Columbia and he was a revolutionary activist after leaving Columbia. Like the late Abbie Hoffman used to say: “You can either go for money and become a yuppie—or you can go for broke and fight for your freedom.” Ted Gold never became interested in either money or a bourgeois academic or professional career. He went “for broke” and fought for his freedom and the freedom of all oppressed people on the earth.

In recent years, some former Columbia SDS activists have joined yuppie mass media pundits, feminist yuppies and neo-Marxist yuppie professors in declaring that Weatherpeople like Ted Gold went “crazy,” became “super-macho” and “terrorist” and “destroyed” the white New Left student movement of the 1960s, in general, and the largest New Left student organization, SDS, in particular. And if you accept the conventional wisdom of our 1990s “Yuppie Left” and the “Yuppie Mass Media” of the United States, then you’d have to agree that Ted should be remembered as, at best, a Columbia student radical who, after the 1968 student revolt, became too left-sectarian and too left-adventurist in his politics.

Although no revolution developed in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s, as Ted had predicted would occur during the eight months prior to his death, I think a logical case can be made that his Weatherpolitics resulted from the conclusions he drew from his own personal experiences and his desire to respond to the history of his times.

Recent events in Central and Eastern Europe indicate the collective power that students still possess when they collectively decide to fight for democratization and demands for greater freedom. Yet at Columbia in 1990, students still don’t appear to genuinely control the campus or possess access to the U.S. mass media. And Columbia SDS founder David Gilbert remains locked up in Attica [in 2007, he’s in Clinton Prison in Dannemora, NY] at the same time nearly 200 other U.S. political activists from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s also remain imprisoned. Because Ted Gold was a revolutionary, not a yuppie reformist, I don’t think he would have been satisfied with the current U.S. political situation, 20 years after his tragic death.
(Columbia Daily Spectator 3/6/90)

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