Seize The Moment
Some time ago a professor of Social sciences introduced me to his class as, "A man twenty years ahead of his time." I suppose he meant to flatter me.
Instead it angered me. I forgot everything I planned to say to his class that day and let them see my anger instead. An old friend had died and I heard him also once described as a man twenty years ahead of his time because of his early involvement in the Civil rights movement.
I don't want to be like William Sloan Coffin. I want to see the results of my efforts and the results of the efforts and sacrifices of my family. I told the students that it isn't a matter of being of one time or another, most of you just don't see the truth until it is too late. The Truth is the damned system doesn't work. I don't think that it ever did. It was a good idea, but Jesus, Marx. Jefferson all had good ideas. None were really practiced."
When I interviewed A new Catholic bishop in my state and mentioned the failure in the cities where many Catholics reside: the murder rate and crime rate, the poverty and desperation, his simple answer was, "Christianity hasn't failed. It has never really been tried."
I told the students about Bill Coffin, Chaplain at Yale and minister of the famous Riverside Church in New York. I told them that I was glad that he was finally at peace. The last time I saw him speak he said he had about six months to live. That was at least a year earlier. We had our differences about realism and how to apply it. Coffin was an ex CIA agent. He had been a friend of George W.H. Bush since his youth. They both attended Phillips Academy (1942), and he brought Coffin into the exclusive Skull and Bones secret society at Yale.
As a CIA agent he spent three years in West Germany recruiting so called "anti-Soviet refugees", and bringing them to the US to train them on how to undermine Stalin's regime. Some of them were the most ruthless Nazis such as Radislow Ostrowski and Emanual Jasiuk, the darlings of the Einsatzgruppen and Major Dimitri Asmowitch the Ruthless Nazi mayor of Smolensk. I could never forgive him for that. The Nazis destroyed my father's hometown in Byelorussia and killed members of his family. Many left-liberals in the civil rights and anti- war movements never could take Coffin to their hearts knowing about his CIA background.
When I first met him I compared him with Cardinal Spellman of New York. I often referred to the war in Vietnam as "The Cardinal's War." Spellman saw the war as a We (Catholics) against the anti Christ Commies and no one had more influence on the Kennedy family than Spellman did. Coffin also put all Communists in the same Anti-Christ, enemy bag.
But like Doctor King, William Sloan Coffin finally grew into a Realist.
It was not easy for him to shed the Yale Seminary anti-Communist, anti-Christ brainwashing, but I think the New Coffin was born when he learned of the C.I.A coup that brought down Mossadegh in Iran and the other clandestine operations that had nothing to do with Christian ethics, but were in fact motivated only by greed.
I used him on two or three occasions, once as a keynote speaker at an open air
anti war demonstration. As an orator, only Doctor King surpassed him. On another occasion I produced a Public (Then Educational) television program that featured Coffin and the Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh. After the program Bill told me that he was unhappy with his performance. ""Nhat Hanh was talking about love and that's my business, but I was talking about politics." The subject was "War and the Church"
I remember the tear gas filled streets of New Haven and Coffin racing around trying to calm the "Crazies". I remember the long talks in his office about violence and non-violence and the image of man. I also remember the chiding I got for a piece that I wrote titled "The religion of football."
Yes, he grew into one of the most remarkable Realists I ever met. When I heard him say he only had six months to live I could not help but get very emotional. After his Historic "Freedom Rides," the many anti- war demonstrations and speeches, the many arrests he suffered through, are we not at war again? Are our school systems not more segregated? Are we not, as a nation, just as divided? Rest in Peace Bill.
I see Cindy Sheehan and many others like her and I see all of you students grabbing issues and protesting just like Bill Coffin and still unable to "address the edifice", as King said, that creates the situations that you protest.
Polls show that Americans have a very low regard for politicians of both parties. The power brokers and the media create our choices for us and ask us to choose tweedle Dee or tweedle dum.
Time for you the young people of America to create your own Progressive Party and create a system that will work for all the people. Seek out a leader and perhaps you can save the soul of America.