Books for under the tree
If you know a young girl between 12 and 14, a nice stocking stuffer would be Mike Palecek’s new book, “The Progrrressive Avenger.” It’s like Tom Wolfe’s “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” on hormones. Leigh King is looking for Bigfoot because he’s conspiring to rule the world and because he murdered her parents. Bruce Wayne never had a better reason to hate the Joker.
Iric Nathanson has finally gotten around to writing his history of the city of Minneapolis. He’s written numerous essays for local community newspapers, and with “Minneapolis in the Twentieth Century: The Growth of an
American City” he’s brought it all together. We meet the leering gangster Kid Cann; the corrupt politicians; the well-meaning reformers. Perhaps the best chapter is on the Teamster’s Strike in 1934, a bloody battle that changed
Minneapolis from a city run by Big Business and the Citizen’s Alliance to a city that worked in partnership with labor unions. My main quibble with the book (and it is a petulant quibble) is that he seems star-struck with city development projects and seems to neglect some of the important community organizing done in the Model Cities Program and the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. An exception is his wonderful description of how some of the Nicollet Island residents successfully fought off high-rise development on their island. Nathanson’s “Minneapolis” is from the point of view of downtown, and that’s valid. That’s the official story. But there is another Minneapolis where neighborhoods are being built and rebuilt one kaffeeklatsch, one block club, one neighborhood blog, one vigil for a murdered child at a time. Sometimes city government is helpful or benign, and sometimes, like the present administration, they jealously regard their power and refuse to listen to voices distant from downtown.
Carol Masters deserves thanks from all of us for sitting down with Marv Davidov and listening to all his stories and writing them up in “You Can’t Do That: Marv Davidov, Nonviolent Revolution-ary.” It’s a history of joy and glorious struggle. It was a struggle where all of us knew we would lose
every battle, but we believed, and Marv believed more strongly than any of us, that we would win the war [or, rather, win to end the war—whether it was the war in Vietnam, Nicauragua, Yugoslavia or Iraq]. I first heard about Marv while a student at the U. He was threatening to organize the nude models at the Art School to picket in the buff to demand a raise from $1.69 an hour to $2.50. The University caved in, and Marv got his first lesson in political
organizing. We used to drink evenings at the East Hennepin Bar. One night he came in and said he was going on a Freedom Bus Ride the next morning. He said he wasn’t sure why he was going. Joe Sweeney and I talked to him for hours, until we figured it out. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how deeply the talk had radicalized me, and I’m still not sure if that wasn’t Marv’s intention. Marv’s brother worked for the City of Minneapolis, and Marv used to say his mother told all her friends, “My one son cleans the streets, and the other son sits in them.”
I’m proud to have taken marching orders from Marv and the Honeywell Project on appropriate behavior for demonstrations. I accepted their discipline because they were willing to go to all those long and boring meetings.
disagreed with Marv only once. We were in the street on Washington Avenue in front of Coffman Union. It was 1972. We were protesting the war in Vietnam. We had played cat and mouse with the Tactical Squad for the last three days. We had taken the streets and held them for three days. On the last night the Tac Squad came with bulldozers and cleared away our barricades.
The next afternoon some of us wanted to try again. We gathered bike racks and dumpsters, scrap iron and lumber, and built a barricade. The Tac Squad came. They stood warily a block away. Marv said he’d go talk to them. He came back and said we’ve got a deal, “They’ve agreed to arrest us
nonviolently.” My Irish temper got the better of my Swedish reserve and I screamed back, “I’m not going to be arrested ‘nonviolently.’ I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t start that genocidal war in Vietnam. If the police come, we’ll back off and go somewhere else and build another barricade. We’ll be nonviolent, but we’re going to stay in the street.”
Enough people supported that, so Marv had to go back to the police and tell them how uncooperative we were. He came back and said, “They said you can have the street for tonight.” We had won. It was an important victory, and if Marv hadn’t been there it could have gone horribly wrong. For once, Marv had to play the adult in the room.
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