David McReynolds (1929 – 2018): Resist in Peace

August 19th, 2018 - by admin

War Resisters League & The New York Daily News & WBAI News – 2018-08-19 00:16:00


Presente, David McReynolds! (1929 – 2018)
War Resisters League

(August 18, 2018) — David was instrumental to WRL throughout his years on staff from 1960-1999, and remained within the WRL NYC community. A socialist, photographer, and out gay man since before 1969, David will be remembered for living radical pacifism.

David McReynolds, Longtime Peace Activist and Agitator, Dead at 88
Ellen Moynihan / The New York Daily News

(August 17, 2018) — Longtime peace activist, writer and photographer David McReynolds died Friday after a fall in his New York home. He was 88.

McReynolds, who was also the first openly gay candidate for president, moved to New York in the mid-1950s. A few years later, he began working with the War Resisters League. His career spanned four decades; he retired in 1999.

Born in Los Angeles in 1929, he came to the city after graduating from UCLA and dived head-first into politics and activism, his friends said.

“I hardly know what to say. He was such an important figure in my mind and in my life,” said Bob Fass, host of WBAI’s “Radio Unnamable,” a pioneer of the free-form style. “He was a good friend . . . I’m still a little shocked.”

The two met in the 1960s while organizing a protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which turned ugly when the Chicago Police Department declared open season on the activists. The violence was broadcast live on TV.

“We went to confront the Democrats,” Fass said. “There were a lot of personalities.”

McReynolds became involved in politics as a teenager, first with the youth group of the Prohibition Party, then as a Socialist. He ran for Congress in 1958 and 1968, and president in both 1980 and 2000 as a member of the Socialist Party.

A 2004 bid for senator as a Green Party candidate was also unsuccessful. Despite never holding public office, McReynolds stayed close to politics and never stopped organizing, writing and opining.

Fass said his friend should be remembered most for his peace-loving beliefs.

“He was against violence and against war,” Fass said. “He was very important in organizing against it.”

Last summer, McReynolds posted a lengthy reflection on the process of aging on Facebook.

“It is about realizing we — those of us in our 80s — will be here for a while, and need to treat ourselves with a bit of discipline. We are needed, not to complain but to resist, to use the wisdom we have gained, often at a steep price, to stand for sanity in our world, and for a sense of compassion in our relationships,” he wrote.

Dave McReynolds
Linda Perry / WBAI News

(August 18, 2018) — Longtime Peace Activist Dave McReynolds passed away at 1:30 this morning after a fall at his home in lower Manhattan. Until then he was healthy with a sharp mind. As is the case with some people who are getting on in years, he was a bit shaky and would sometimes lose his balance. Friends checked in on him regularly and he was found soon after he had fallen.

McReynolds had a long history of peace activism. During the Korean War, he was a draft resister. He joined the staff of the War Resisters League in 1960 where he worked for almost forty years.

McReynolds was one of the first to publicly expose the flow of U.S. arms and advisors in the lead up to the Vietnam War. He was a committed pacifist who was on WBAI’s air many times through the years. In 1980 running on the Socialist Party ticket, he was the first openly gay presidential candidate.

McReynolds was also a photographer and most recently he was going through old photos in hopes of a future exhibit. Many of his historic photos are online here.

Neighbors and friends checked in on McReynolds often. He stayed in touch with his family and continued to be actively involved in peace activism, posting to listservs, including one for older activists. War Resistors League says condolences are pouring in. A memorial is being organized. Dave McReynolds was 88 years old.

Sudden Fire: Witness to Hiroshima
David McReynolds / War Resisters League Magazine

(Spring 2009) — Hiroshima/Nagasaki: Perhaps darkness and total silence is the best documentary. Perhaps there is no way to grasp this. Most of you reading this review were not alive when that sudden, unexpected fire disintegrated Hiroshima. I was a kid at a Baptist summer camp in the California mountains when word came.

My father, then in the Army Air Force, had gone to Hiroshima shortly after the war to examine the destruction. Our family has always wondered if his fairly early death from cancer was not a result of that visit. If I’ve felt a special link to Hiroshima/Nagasaki, it was because my father’s work was with the B-29, the plane that delivered the bombs.

I’ve been to Hiroshima several times; it is a totally new, rebuilt, and fairly nondescript city. Only in the central area, where the bomb exploded, have the ruins remained.

At one level there was nothing so special about Hiroshima or Nagasaki. The Allied forces did the same thing to Dresden late in the war, destroying one of the great cities of Germany and one which had not been a military target. In the firebombing of Tokyo, more people died in a single night than died in Hiroshima.

Of course, those horrors required vast fleets of aircraft and tons of bombs. They were, we can see looking back, very different from the limited damage the Germans inflicted on London. Before Hiroshima, that war had reached a new level. At the time, the destruction of whole cities by fire seemed only a small step in the dance of war.

But Hiroshima was unique. It stays with us. It haunts us. No fleet of planes was needed. A single B-29, flying in seeming innocence above the city, dropped a single bomb that floated down, and then suddenly the city vanished. That was new. It made us pause.

This short documentary tells the story of the bombing of Hiroshima through watercolors drawn by Keiji Tsuchiya, who was 17 years old and in Hiroshima when the bomb exploded.

Good though its intentions are, and effective as the soundtrack is, this documentary is trying to deal with something too terrible for the narration of the watercolors. It is also set at an odd angle by the concluding discussion of the horseshoe crabs and Keiji Tsuchiya’s work to help preserve them — noble work, but not related to the bombing.

However, I welcome anything to help remind us that Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have happened over 60 years ago, but several nations are well equipped to destroy all life on earth if the next war goes nuclear.

How frustrating it is to hear the United States, which is the only nation ever to use a nuclear weapon, threaten Iran if it dares to follow the examples of the United States, Russia, France, Britain, China, North Korea, India, Pakistan, and Israel by developing a nuclear bomb.

Let those who preach set our imaginations on fire by actions — by the beginning of unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United States.

David McReynolds served on the staff of WRL for nearly 40 years and was chair of War Resisters’ International.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.