Memorials for Ireland, Mandel, and Mandela
Doug Ireland: 1946-2013
By Scott Tucker
Doug Ireland, gay liberationist and radical journalist, died in his East Village home in New York City on October 26. He had survived two strokes and, in his last years, also suffered from diabetes, kidney disease, sciatica, and the long-term effects of childhood polio.
In 1963, at the age of 17, Ireland was elected to the National Council of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and became an assistant national secretary from 1963 to 1964. In 1966, he left SDS and concentrated his activist work on the electoral wing of the anti-war movement. Ireland began his work in journalism at the New York Post, but from the late 1970s until his death, he worked primarily as a political journalist for progressive publications, including the Nation and In These Times in the U.S., and Liberation and Bakchich in France.
Ireland also wrote for the Village Voice, the New York Observer, and New York magazine. In more recent years, he was a regular columnist for Gay City News in New York. Ireland was not only a left-wing critic of sexual and political conformism among sectors of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movements, but he was also one of the notable public intellectuals of the civil libertarian left. Our paths crossed only three times, many years ago in the previous century.
Both of us had joined activist groups of the left in our teens and both of us were also active in the post-Stonewall gay movement on the East Coast. This is considerable common ground in politics and we took care to highlight the overlapping segments of the Venn diagrams.
We discussed the Democratic Party, of course, but never really argued about the subject. The argument would have been pointless. We had the same evidence before us, but had come to different conclusions. Ireland was often a ferocious critic of career Democrats and he became a true public scourge of Bill Clinton. But Ireland remained engaged, both personally and politically, with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. (I allow the word progressive here without quotation marks, but I refer to vanished decades.) Indeed, Ireland was an adviser and manager in the campaigns of some notable Democratic politicians, including Eugene McCarthy, Allard Lowenstein, and Bella Abzug. So far as I know, he never gave up hope for what was left of the left in the Democratic Party, even in his last years.
Ireland appeared as a studio executive in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories, which seems oddly apt, and he was an admirer of French philosopher Michel Onfray, especially of the latter’s explicit atheism and hedonism. Bill Dobbs, a gay civil libertarian in New York City, reminded me that during “the mid-90s war on sex,” Ireland wrote an important article, “Don’t Regulate My Body,” for the June/July 1995 issue of Poz magazine and argued for both reason and pleasure in places on the borderline of the public and private realms. In the piece, he argued: “Asserting, as New York Newsday columnist Gabriel Rotello recently did, that sex clubs are ‘the killing fields of AIDS helps promote the myth that such places have sparked the so-called second wave of infection. In fact, most unsafe sex takes place in private bedrooms…. Sexual policing by government is not the way to stem the tide of AIDS. By taking the lead in a new witch hunt aimed at the commercial sex industry, our misguided activists are providing ammunition that will certainly be used by the growing ranks of homophobes.”
On his blog, Direland, Ireland posted in 2010 a memorial to Hervé Couergou, including these words and a brief video: “The video below is of my late beloved Hervé Couergou, in which he speaks of his seropositivity and the AIDS virus not long before he was swept away by it. The video was made in Paris by our dear mutual friend and brother Lionel Soukaz, the pioneering French gay filmmaker, who has only just sent it to me—it’s an extract from testimonies from 30 years of AIDS, which he is compiling in a video journal. For me, watching this video of Hervé is deeply moving and reduces me to tears each time. But it is also a reminder of his sweetness and courage which I’m so glad to have as a souvenir of our years together. How I miss him. Thanks, dear Lio.”
In an obituary, it is the custom to erase philosophical and political disagreements. That is a bad public habit and I dissent. The atheism of recent years has not, to my mind, advanced far beyond the debates of the 18th century and rarely matches the literary style of the radicals of the Enlightenment. It is less earnest and more trendy than the atheism of those two great friends, Albert Camus and Jacques Monod, who had joined the fight against the Nazis and who wrote after World War II in the most individual style against all metaphysical escapism.
Atheism was one bond of friendship between Doug Ireland and writer Christopher Hitchens until they parted company in a public polemic over the war in Iraq. At his best, Ireland brought a philosophical and critical mind to the daily news. When he became increasingly confined by illness, he could not pretend to be a truly investigative journalist.
The conditions of work for many writers will remain lonely, but the costs of political journalism are becoming punitive. Not least in the radioactive background of the surveillance state and in the threats of career politicians against independent journalists. Ailing, but still vitally at odds with the politics of war and empire, and defiant of the god William Blake once called Nobodaddy, Doug Ireland gave his best until the end.
Scott Tucker is a writer and a democratic socialist. His book of essays, The Queer Question: Essays on Desire and Democracy, was published by South End Press in 1997.
Michael Mandel 1946 – 2013
By Stephanie Maclellan
Michael Mandel wanted to be remembered as an educator of lawyers, a proud father, a lifelong musician and “a radical left-wing activist.” And just in case anyone wasn’t sure about that, he spelled it out in his own obituary. “He had a sense of the things that were important to him,” explained his wife of 15 years, Karen Golden. Mandel, Osgoode Hall’s longest-serving full-time professor and an outspoken anti-war activist, died Sunday, October 27 of cardiac amyloidosis, a rare heart disease. He was 65. He began teaching law students in 1974, not long after he graduated from Osgoode Hall. Thirty-nine years later, he estimated he taught at least 4,000 lawyers. “At first, a mere 26 years old, he found his students intimidating, but, gradually, he grew to love them and found real joy in teaching, a feeling most students seemed to reciprocate,” Mandel wrote of himself.
One of his students was Lorne Sossin, now dean of the law school. Mandel gave Sossin his first job as a law teacher, as a TA for his summer courses in the early 1990s. “He’s been an extraordinary mentor, dedicated to so many students over the years,” Sossin said. Mandel was teaching as recently as last spring, determined to finish the term even as his illness worsened, Golden said.
Mandel’s influence extended well beyond Osgoode Hall. He helped shape the early debates about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms through his academic work, Sossin said, fearing the 1982 charter would “overly politicize the courts.”
His anti-war activism later became the focus of his career. He led an international legal effort to have NATO leaders indicted for war crimes at the international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in 1999, and he was an outspoken opponent of the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“At an anti-Iraq war rally in 2002 he famously branded the Bush administration ‘a bunch of thugs in the White House’ and at the anti-Bush rally in Ottawa in 2004, he told the crowd that G. W. Bush was ‘not so much a President as a homicidal maniac’.”
“Michael’s irreplaceable because there’s nobody in Canada that I can think of who is of Michael’s stature that is always willing to speak up on behalf of peace and against war and the illegal use of force,” said Vancouver lawyer Gail Davidson, who founded Lawyers Against the War with Mandel in 2001. “I think he mentored and inspired a lot of people in the peace movement in Canada.”
Mandel’s views, and the passionate way he expressed them, made him a provocative figure at Osgoode Hall—both in the classroom and at faculty meetings, Sossin said. Arguments with him could get heated, but they never got personal. “As a student, I remember that energy in the classroom as he would provoke students to express views, to figure out what they were about and he would be very honest about his (views),” he said. “But when it came to assessing your work, he measured it by how effective each student was, not by whether they agreed with him.”
Outside of law and justice, Man- del’s other passion was music. His father, Max, had his own Yiddish radio show in Toronto starting in the 1930s, and Mandel spent the last few years of his life researching and compiling a multimedia book about the show and Yiddish radio culture. While Mandel had trained as an opera tenor in Italy, he later learned his father’s Yiddish songs.
“It was really a labour of love,” Golden said. Mandel passed his love of music to his children with Golden, Tevi and Orly, and from his first marriage, Giulia, Lucy and Max, an accomplished chamber violist. Helping his children with their music, he wrote, was “one of his greatest joys.
Nelson Mandela 1918-2013
Quotes That Won’t Be In
the Corporate Media Obituaries
Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary who served as President of South Africa from 1994-1999.During the 1950s, while working as an anti-apartheid lawyer, Mandela was repeatedly arrested for “seditious activities” and “treason.” In 1963 he was convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela served 27 years in prison before an international lobbying campaign finally won his release in 1990. In 1994, Mandela was elected president and formed a government of National Unity in an attempt to diffuse ethnic tensions. As president, he established a new constitution and initiated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses and to uncover the truth about crimes of the South African government, using amnesty as a mechanism.
We wanted to share some Nelson Mandela quotes which we don’t expect to read in the corporate media’s obituaries:
“A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favor. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens.”
“If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care for human beings.”
The current world financial crisis also starkly reminds us that many of the concepts that guided our sense of how the world and its affairs are best ordered, have suddenly been shown to be wanting.”
“Gandhi rejects the Adam Smith notion of human nature as motivated by self-interest and brute needs and returns us to our spiritual dimension with its impulses for nonviolence, justice and equality. He exposes the fallacy of the claim that everyone can be rich and successful provided they work hard. He points to the millions who work themselves to the bone and still remain hungry.”
It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
“No single person can liberate a country. You can only liberate a country if you act as a collective.”
“If the United States of America or Britain is having elections, they don’t ask for observers from Africa or from Asia. But when we have elections, they want observers.”
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is human-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”“
On Gandhi: “From his understanding of wealth and poverty came his understanding of labor and capital, which led him to the solution of trusteeship based on the belief that there is no private ownership of capital; it is given in trust for redistribution and equalization. Similarly, while recognizing differential aptitudes and talents, he holds that these are gifts from God to be used for the collective good.”
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