"You know, Kerry, the Jews in Germany didn't put up much resistance to the Nazis."

"Yeah, that puzzles me. I met another writer one night in the Quarter, Henry Avery, who lived in Israel, fighting Arabs. He talked about that."

"It is difficult to figure out why they just obligingly marched into the ovens singing religious songs, isn't it?"

"Henry Avery says there were exceptions. In Czechoslovakia, young blond Jewish men infiltrated the S.S. and kept their people informed about Nazi plans. And in Germany one old Jewish rabbi stood in his doorway and boldly scolded Hitler's police, telling them they could take him and his family, but that they had better not lay a hand on his sacred books."

Genuine admiration seemed to light Brother-in-law's eyes. "Yes!"

Once he gave me his mellowed-out hoodlum grin and said, "I think there ought to be absolute sexual freedom. I think people ought to be able to fuck in the streets, if they want to."

"Certainly. I think we ought to be at least as rational about sex as we are about eating. There are cultures with taboos about food that are as silly as ours about sex. That goes to show how subjective it all really is."

"Kerry, do you think the average person has within himself the potential to be a genius?"

"That's something I've always believed. Maybe a combination of educators and scientists and other geniuses could take someone of average intelligence and cultivate brilliance in them -- providing, of course, there was no organic damage to the brain."

"Or perhaps you could create genius in anyone by breaking down all the emotional blocks and sexual inhibitions."

I hadn't thought of that. It seemed logical enough. Many of my own learning disabilities in early elementary school had been emotionally grounded.

However, whenever I would become exceptionally enthusiastic about sexual freedom, Brother-in-law would put a damper on my zeal by pointing out proudly that National Socialism had practiced sexual freedom by maintaining breeding camps for the S.S.

That wasn't what I had in mind.

"Kerry, why are so many rich people attracted to the doctrines of Communism?" In tone his question seemed both agonized and sincere.

"I've been wondering about that myself. I think maybe it is because the Communists are not actually against the rich. What they are always objecting to is the middle class. So possibly the Communists and the rich have got a common enemy."

"The same thing has occurred to me," he said. "And another thing you should keep in mind: in Russia they've got an 'American town' where they train spies and assassins for work in this country. Don't forget that."

Note 30

He was forever instructing me what to remember and quizzing me about what I knew.

"Did you know that Stalin had a great number of doubles, so as to confuse any would-be assassins?"

"Yeah, an F.B.I. man who belonged to the Mormon Church that I interviewed for a high school term paper told me about that. Also, he gave me a bunch pamphlets by J. Edgar Hoover. You know what Hoover calls Communism -- Red Fascism. I think that's a good name for it."

"Yes, Kerry -- so do I."

During one conversation like this, he injected the question: "How would you like it, Kerry, if I put you in a position where the people of this country would have to overthrow the government in order to save your life? Is that okay with you?"

I suppressed a laugh. For a two-bit hood, this man sure had big ideas. "Yeah, sure, that's all right with me."

"You will be all alone," he warned.

"I am not afraid of solitude," I said, trying to sound like a hero in an Ayn Rand novel.

"Tell me something: Do you believe familiarity breeds contempt?"

"No. I've never agreed with that saying. I think familiarity breeds love."

"Kerry, you know, people like Fidel Castro -- who had to struggle for their causes -- aren't going to respect you unless you also go through a struggle."

"Who the hell cares about the respect of Fidel Castro?"

Brother-in-law and Slim just locked at one another and grinned.

Many times he said, "During the Thirties the Rockefellers, the Morgans, the Mellons, the duPonts and a handful of other rich families got together and tried to overthrow the government so as to neutralize Roosevelt. And General Smedley Butler, a retired Marine, exposed the plot."

From time to time he would also ask me if I realized the Rockefellers were Communists.

"I wouldn't be surprised."

"But the Rockefellers are basically idealistic people, Kerry. They are not as mean as many rich people."

A frequent habit of his was to balance one opinion with another like that.

"Kerry, I think your problem is that you are a good writer, but you don't have anything to write about."

"I agree that that's my problem."

"How would you like me to arrange things so that you've got something to write about?"

"I'd like that very much!"

"Tell me: Do you think ignorance is bliss?"


"You might have a chance to find out for sure." His voice seemed to convey ominous undertones.

"Yeah, we've argued about this before. I most certainly do not agree that ignorance is bliss."

"Remember Cox's Army, Kerry? Did you study that in history?"

"A bunch of farmers who marched to Washington to protest hard times. In boot camp our drill instructor used to compare us to Cox's Army when we marched out of step."

"Marching to Washington like that is a good way to capture the imaginations of the American people. You might want to keep it in mind."

Exactly when he thought I would need to march to Washington was unclear to me. Vaguely, it is linked in my memory with the Smedley Butler story.

Note 31




free web stats