I remember commenting to Sam during the course of our conversations on the fact that no way, no way in hell, if it had not been for the explosive events of the 1960s, of the war and later a bunch of social issue questions, mainly third world liberation struggles internationally and the black liberation question at home we would not even be having the conversations we were having, not the two of us anyway, talking stuff about the virtues of the “enemy” which would have been treason talk if not legally then emotionally (both of also as we rattled on chuckling a little at using the old time terms, especially the use of “struggle” and “question,” for example the black, gay, woman questions since lately we have noticed that younger activists no longer spoke in such terms but used more ephemeral “white privilege,” “patriarchy,” “gender” terms reflecting the identity politics that have been in fashion for a long time, since the ebb flow of the 1960s).
I (and Sam too) had imbibed all the standard identifiable working-class prejudices against reds, some of those prejudices more widespread than among the working class among the general population of the times, you know, like the big red scare Cold War “your mommy is a commie, turn her in,” “the Russians are coming get under the desk and hold onto your head,” anybody to the left of Grandpa Ike, maybe even him, nothing but communist dupes of Joe Stalin and his progeny who pulled the strings from Moscow and made everybody jumpy; against blacks (I had stood there right next to my father, Ralph, Sr., when he led the physical opposition to blacks moving into the Tappan Street section of town and had nothing, along with my corner boys at Van Patten’s Drugstore, but the “n” word to call black people, sometimes to their faces. Sam’s father was not much better, a southerner from hillbilly country down in Appalachia who had been stationed in Hingham no too far from Carver at the end of World War II and stayed, who never could until his dying breathe call blacks anything but the “n” word); against gays and lesbians (me and my boys mercilessly fag and dyke baiting them whenever the guys and I went to Saratoga Springs where those “creeps” spent their summers doing whatever nasty things they did to each other and Sam likewise down in Provincetown with his boys, he helping, beating up some poor guy in a back alley after one of his boys had made a fake pass at the guy, Jesus; against uppity women, servile, domestic child-producing women like our good old mothers and sisters and wanna-bes were okay as were “easy” girls ready to toot our whistles, attitudes which we had only gotten beaten out of us when we ran into our respective future wives (and me with Joyell too but don’t mention that to my wife Laura since all these years later she see red when I mention her name in any content) who had both been influenced by the women’s liberation movement although truth to tell they were not especially political, but rather artistic types. Native Americans didn’t even rate a nod since they were not on the radar, were written off in any case as fodder for cowboys and soldiers in blue. But mainly we had been red, white and blue American patriotic guys who really did have ice picks in our eyes for anybody who thought they would like to tread on old Uncle Sam (who had been “invented” around my way, my Troy hometown way).