Sunday, May 2, 2010

* Gentleman Liberty Retires at 76 and Lady Liberty Spills Tears of Oil

Gentleman Liberty

For forty years there has been another colossus among us besides Lady Liberty, rising not out of New York's actual harbor but out of the the visual harbor (and now the digital harbor) first of New York television, and later, of national television, to illuminate the imaginations of all Americans defining themselves as liberals.

That Gentleman Liberty has been Bill Moyers.

His role as liberal archetype first defined a Liberty Continuum, from Bill to shining Bill : The Moyers (Left)------------Buckley (Right) spectrum, intellectual journalists who actually READ books.

Bill Moyers' Journal

Firing Line with Wm. F. Buckley, Jr.

After the demise of the USSR and the "threat" of Communism and the death of Bill Buckley himself, there was no intellectual on the Right to populate Buckley's place on the Liberty Continuum, only shrill talk-show harangers.

Bill Moyers tried to retire in 2004 , but the need for a liberal intellectual voice brought him back for a blessed six more years.

Today he retired again , his 'final' time he called it, as the Gulf Coast from which he was spawned as a Texan was being overwhelmed by what may be the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history: the BP Oil rig collapse and the spillage of 200,000 gallons of oil PER DAY into the waters, a spill which may taint Florida and beyond, even sneaking up the East Coast, some predict as I write.

In 1972 I had the privilege of being interviewed, with my fellow Kent State student Greg Rambo, on one of the first of Bill Moyers' Journals.

Back then PBS was only a New York phenomenon, and Bill Moyers' Journal was in its infancy.

Kent State was taboo, and very few people cared that Attorney General John Mitchell had refused to convene a federal grand jury to investigate the slaughter of four Kent Students by Ohio National Guardsmen, May 4, 1970 (the 40th anniversary of which occurs in two days).

It took guts for Bill Moyers to come to Kent and focus on that injustice.

I was 27 and Mr. Moyers, the former Press Secretary to President Johnson, was in his mid-thirties. His producer, Harry Moses, (later a
60 Minutes' producer) prepped us for the interview. My recollection was that in the midst of our hokey Ohio student-costuming came a young man with hair as dark as mine and only a few years older than myself, in a camel's hair overcoat and Fifth Avenue suit of some sort.

He was wearing the accoutrements of power and respectability: the costume needed to be heard in those shrill days of military haircuts and hippie hair.

I had long hair at the time, but I had enough sense to wear a suit and tie for the interview, lest I be dismissed as "just another Kent State radical." Actually, sense is the wrong word: my wardrobe choice was a conscious strategy to defuse popular prejudices about students. Now that the entire world dresses in blue jeans even at funerals and weddings, such wardobe distinctions seem antiquated.

I didn't realize then, but came to realize over the decades, that here in the person of young Bill Moyers was a nascent colossus, striding out to meet the forces of narrowmindedness and injustice and to "speak truth to power".

Lady Liberty sheds a tear today, at the departure of Gentleman Liberty fom the scene.

A tear tainted, I am sorry to say, with petroleum.

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