2. When a writer promises

When a writer promises, as I did regarding Mark Rudd, the next installment of a topic and doesn’t deliver, he violates his contract with his readers.

There is more to Mark Rudd than the brimming bucket of anecdotes I took with me when I left him on Wednesday morning.  By posting “Breakfast with Sheldon Adelson,” I hurried to satisfy my compulsion to share something of this man—a man who was once the point man of a movement intent on altering the course of history.  Today, he seems a simpler soul. With me he was affable and welcoming from the first minute, his teddy bear looks disarming. 

I began several postings about Mark, but each went off in a direction I was unprepared for—an alert from The Muse of my Right Shoulder that I was not ready to write.

Since my visit with him, Mark and I and have sustained a lively email exchange.  He pointed out that when I reported “he did not much care for the other Sheldon Adelson,” I watered down the dialogue.  His word of choice was “evil.”

Mark has given me phone numbers of friends, invited me to a fundraiser for a cause dear to him, and taken an interest in my writing.

Our continuing interchange and my reading of his book and essays have revealed more facets of his character.  They’ve given me more insight into the life cycle of the SDS and Weathermen, his 30-year period of political humility, his evolution as a political thinker, and his re-emergence as an agent for change.  Follow up questions abound, and it would disrespect readers and subject alike to write too soon. 

The supply of topics may rival those of Mountain Man Roy. Choosing what to write has been a dialogue with The Editor who resides on my left shoulder.

One of the discussions I had with The Editor was to clarify what the blog is about.  A Year on the Road is about people, places, and events as I am experiencing them.  But the blog not a pulpit.

Mark Rudd is a story.  His story is a political one that cannot be separated from the man.  Although the blog is apolitical, I seek the political points of view of people in order to report them. The blog’s passenger/readers are free to comment and express their politically flavored experiences without creating a contentious forum.

Much of who Mark is and what he has to say will provoke visceral responses to your personal politics.  There will be people who find some of Mark’s points of view so disagreeable it might be easy to skip past a thoughtful response and go to a more incendiary one.  I ask you not to be baited.

When I understand them better myself, I will write more about:

His shift from violence to nonviolence as a revolutionary tool.

His enchantment and disenchantment with Che Guevara.

The humiliation he felt when the failure of the Weathermen spelled the death of the broader-based, more moderate SDS.

His return to activism.

His plans for the future as a mentor to young activists.

My plan is to know Mark better, to better understand his political coming of age, and write about my takeaways.

In the meantime, my Year on the Road will go on, continuing to poke my fingers into people, places, and events.

9 Responses to 2. When a writer promises

  1. Kymberlie says:

    “When a writer promises, as I did regarding Mark Rudd, the next installment of a topic and doesn’t deliver, he violates his contract with his readers.” – funny this comes up now on your blog, Al. I have been working on the very same subject this past week regarding one of my author idols and his broken promises to his readers. I haven’t yet been able to convey the depth of my disappointment. When it’s complete, I’ll link you if you’d like.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Colleen Rae says:

    I think we should all realize that people change, the world changes…so why do we automatically think what people thought or did in 1967 should be done and thought in 2011? I don’t think of anyone as ‘not keepigng their promises, ‘but more, changing…like the universe!

  3. Colleen Rae says:

    Al – take your time writing about M. Rudd. We will still be here to read it when you decide what to write. As far as experiencing visceral responses to his politics – everyone has the right to think and speak their politics in this country. That’s what America is all about!

  4. Dave L says:

    I read your blog, any blog, to discover ideas – your ideas in this case. I want to know ‘what’ you feel about Riudd – as well as the bare-assed book seller. It sounds like you might be concerned over readership – will we agree, continue to worship and admire [ 😉 ]. A writer, IMO, needs a muse that seeks no applause … that brings the writer’s soul to the writing. I like Mark Rudd, not for what he stood for, but for the fact that he acted. We all need a little more of that to my way of thinking. A man with principles is one thing. A man who acts on them is quite another.

    All of this could apply, but even if not (to this situation), it’s stands complete on its own.

  5. karen wittgraf says:

    I so agree with your bloggers- I want your opinion- your feelings about Mark Rudd, about the naked bookseller, about all of it. And, yes, this is a democracy (last i heard) and we need to be able to relate to one another. I am very interested in Mark and want more- and only you can give it. Obviously, we all love what you are doing!

  6. Beth says:

    No need to apologize, Al. The rest of the stories will come when they come. In the meantime, I’m all ears for whatever you bring to the blog table.

  7. Michael Joyce says:


    “Digesting” an articulate and experienced political statements often requires the enzymes of contemplation and differing interpretations. While acting as and Independent Medical Evaluator for the court, I read the examination findings and report of a well known medical evaluator working for insurance companies. Though his examination findings were different than mine, after reading his report his conclusions seemed sound and reasonable. How could that be when they were not supported by own examination findings? I reread his report, a few times, and realized he had gradually changed tense as the report progressed which then supported his conclusions. Writing a report dissecting his report for the court led to a favorable legal ruling.

    How often I wondered, have I been snookered, and didn’t know it.

  8. David Bauer says:

    The most direct contact that I had with the SDS was in 1969 during my final year of graduate school at Penn State when I was completing my dissertation research project. As part of that research, I collected data from 10 public schools distributed across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. These data were coded on Scantron test item response forms that needed to be read electronically before being transferred to Hollerith punch cards for analysis by the mainframe computer. Most important to know is that when conducting my research and when writing the dissertation I made it a special point to make a duplicate copy of everything which I then stored separately from any originals. In the case of the one thousand or more Scantron forms, however, I opted not to make duplicate hard copies because of the expenses involved. Instead, on a Friday afternoon I personally hand carried the forms to the Testing Center located on the campus at Penn State at University. When I delivered them for processing I made it a special point to let the clerks know that what I was giving them were original copies for which I had no duplicates and which represented weeks of work, hundreds of man-hours, and thousands of dollars invested in the collection of the information. The clerical staff at the office indicated that they would do the work that afternoon and store everything in a locked metal cabinet for the weekend, and that I would then be able to get the originals and the results of their processing on Monday morning. When I left the Testing Office I felt somewhat reassured but still uneasy.

    Unfortunately, my worst fears were justified, for on Saturday night some unknown person launched a Molotov Cocktail through a window of the Testing Center setting a room and the building on fire. The next day, it was reported that members of the Students for a Democratic Society were responsible for the bombing. Lucky for me, on Monday morning when I went to the Center to retrieve my data I was told that I was fortunate that the testing staff was able to return the forms and scan results to me. It turns out that the forms were left on a table when the testing office closed on Friday, and the Molotov Cocktail landed in the room close to that same table and set the table on fire. When I received the forms they were discolored from the smoke and the corners were singed from the fire, but they remained readable.

    Needless to say, I was not then happy with the SDS. Since then, however, I have forgiven them and have come to recognize that youthful enthusiasm can sometimes lead to indiscretion and that, at the time, the SDS was loosely organized with little control over actions of individual members. As far as Mark Rudd is concerned, I see him as a fellow traveler in life who continues to struggle to give meaning to his own life and to help young people searching for meaning in their own. As Austrian therapist Viktor Frankl expressed it in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, people can live with any how if they have why. I wish Mark the very best of luck in his search.

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