Wednesday, October 19, 1983
The Michigan Daily
Joan Baez still
Joan Baez. Singer, songwriter, activist.
During the 1960s, she always seemed to be
there when it mattered - marching in
Selma with Martin Luther King, Jr.,
visiting Hanoi while Nixon was dropping
bombs, appearing at Newport when Dylan
went electric. During the 1970s, she drop-
ped from the public eye. She spent time in
Europe and the Soviet Union, worked with
numerous peace groups, and raised her
son, now 13. In 1979 in order to narrow her
focus somewhat, Baez founded Humanitas
International, a human rights
organization. Now Baez has gotten her act
together and is taking it on the road. In the
past she usually has appeared alone, but
this tour has four musicians with her.
Although Baez says "I still say things I
want to say," she asserts her concert
tomorrow night at Hill Auditorium will not
be an evening of protest songs. Baez took
the time out from a tour stop in St. Peter-
sburg, Fla. to talk with Daily Features
Editor Fannie Weinstein about where she's
been, where she is, and where she's going.
I am brown, I am woman - are very
dangerous and I think that nationalism is a part
of that. Everybody has a case of it. Because of
that, we justify killing other people.
Daily: What do you see as an alternative?
Baez: The first thing that comes to my mind
is caring. On a large scale, it's very, very dif-
ficult to imagine what the alternative would be.
I've always believed in a sense that nations are
going to be the death of us. What would replace
nations would be some kind of international
structure where we began to eliminate the bor-
der mentality that we hold to now. I don't know
how we're going to do that because we've got so
many countries. When I began preaching this
stuff 20 years ago we had 128 countries.
Now we have about 150. Everytime a new
one arises, the first thing you have is you.
tax everybody and make an army and
usually when you have an army, eventually.
you use it.
Daily: What do you hope to accomplish with
Baez: At the beginning we were very unclear
about what we wanted to do. In 1979, I sent out a
letter that was signed by 81 people criticizing
human rights violations in Vietnam. It was very
much of a shock to the left wing because they
are very protective of the image of Vietnam.
We had all spent so much time in the 1960s
trying to give Vietnam back to itself and when
she got herself back to herself, apparentlyY
nobody really knew how to behave and five
years later, the government was locking up
people, locking up all the doctors and lawyers
and architects and dentists, and the country
was in really miserable shape as far as human
From this letter there was such an enormous
response from people, both for and against the
action of sending this critical letter, that we
saw a lot of potential energy in a lot of ways,
good and bad. So I decided that for the next few
years, with an organization I'd like to em-
phasize the education of dispelling ideologies,
educating people to the fact that torture is tor-
ture, human rights violations are human rights
violations, repression is repression.
The left wing was furious about my sending
the letter. The right wing thought, "Oh,
whoopee, she's come to us and now she's going
to be Jerry Falwell." Nobody understood.
Daily: Do you see any parallels between the
major political movements today such as the
disarmamant campaign and those of the
Baez: I think it's important for us to drop the
sixties, and I think it's very, very hard to do.
For people my age, giving up the sixties has
proved almost impossible because it was the
last time in their lives that their lives were vital
whether they were right or left of pro-war or
anti-war. It was a time when things happened.
But I think there's also lots of thinking young
people who deserve at least to be challenged.
Daily: Your father was a physics professor.
What was it like growing up in academia?
Baez: Unfortunately what happened to me
was that it made it impossible for me to read
for the first 30 years of my life. I did not take to
academia very well. I suffered through about a
quarter of a semester of college and that was it.
Luckily for me I had a talent that allowed me
to go out and make a living. But I think maybe
cynically and maybe accurately that most of
what people learn in college they learn in spite
of college. If you look around it's probably the
things you do outside of your official
curriculum where you pick up the stuff that's
interesting unless you have a subject that you
really love or really interests you and you
really long to get to that class because you
can't wait to find out more about it. That's
relatively rare but it does exist. But to begin
really living and feeling and caring and being,
college doesn't do too much to help that.
Daily: There are a lot of people who say that
art and politics don't mix. You obviously don't
agree. Would you say more that the two really
can't be seperated?
Baes: For me they can't be seperated.
Maybe it was okay for Michelangelo, who
basically didn't give a damn whose castle he
stayed in. My theory is that it's all connected
and that we had to have some basic caring
about other people's lives. But when you look
at the statue of David, you realize the guy
who chipped away at that statue really didn't
give a flaming damn and that he'd switch sides
as long as somebody gave him bread and but-
ter. I think that in 1983 what happens is that
you are political whether you want to be or not
n in college by the nature of the times we live in. Either
e of your of- you are pro-nuclear bomb or you.are against
nuclear bomb of if you're quiet, you're for it.
t the time of I'm very lucky because I happen to like what
you been to I do. I was politically and socially involved
uld you com- before I even sang. It's nothing new to me. It't
something that makes my music and my life
son. I think more vital.
on is saying Daily: You were on the cover of Time when
on. They're you were 22. You're 42 now. How have you,
how they're changed?
sixties. But I Baez: I've changed in lots of ways because
encouraged people do as they get older. In some ways I'm
They appear very, very relieved to have left a lot of neurotic
r're bored. If stuff behind. At the time I was on the cover of
nething that Time magazine, I was sick. I wasn't into
sense of wor- drug's ever - I didn't need to be, I got all sick
ld be much in spite of it. I think it's the things that have
stayed consistent within me that have kept my
aven't given life meaningful to me, but it's the changes that
for thiniringy have made it easier.
Daily: You've said before that you abhor all
politicians on principle. Yet at different times
in your career, you've made sacrifices along
these lines to further a particular cause. How
have you dealt with the inherent conflict this
Baez: You're talking about two different
things. My emphasis has been always with'.
causes - cause usually refers to what people
want for themselves, their community, their
lives, and so on. My difficulty is usually how
distant that gets from politicians.
It's just that I don't think the base of power
should lie where it lies. I think it should lie with
you. and me and I think the best example to look
at would be the war in Vietnam. The reason we
finally ended our participation in (the Vietnam
War) was only because of the people insisting
that the politicians change what they were
Daily: Ig a recent Rolling Stone interview
you said, 'I was given the gift of not having an
ideology." Could you elaborate on this?
Baez: I think that ideologies - fierce right-
wingers, fierce left-wingers, fierce I am black,
Baez: I think maybe cynically and maybe accurately that most of what people lear
they learn in spite of college. If you look around it's probably the things you do outsid
ficial curriculum where you pick up the stuff that's interesting.
I've also found from letters from (college-aged)
people that they wish they lived in the sixties
because they find things now boring.
I went the other night - because I had the
night off and for my own education - to a Joan
Jett concert. Granted that is a certain brand of
kids, but the ones I talked to all agreed on a lot
of things. They all agreed they were bored,
they all agreed that they liked the music
primarily because it's loud and they could lose
themselves in it. They all agreed that they
don't have any leaders that they trust or like.
I think we just have to create something now
and I don't think it will be easy and I think it's
going to take a while. One of the reasons the
freeze and the anti-nuclear movements make
me nervous is that they have to be built on fear.
We are frightened. I'm frightened that we're
all gonna get blown up tomorrow. But I feel
even if by some miracle we got rid of all the
nuclear weapons, if we all stayed the same in
our hearts, we could build them all again in six
Daily: You were in Berkeley at
the Free Speech Movement. Have
college campuses lately? How woi
Baez: There isn't any compari
what the press loves to capitalize
the kids aren't thinking and so
thinking. They're thinking about.
gonna get a job. It is not like the s
think that the one thing I'm slightly
by is the fact that kids are bored.I
to me to be bored. They tell me they
something could fill that void, son
gave them a sense of power, and as
th, and a sense of caring, it wou
more interesting than being bored.
I just feel as though people ha
your generation any credibility f
for having a brain. The record con
"The kids who buy records, they d
think, they don't want to hear wor
want a beat." I think for many kids
Who wouldn't want to escape a wor
on't want to
ds, they just
rld like this?
Dialogue is an occasional feature of the
Edite atnitichig an l
Edited and managed by students at The University of Mcia
Vetn am Veterans of A merica:"
Aliternative for young vets.
Vol. XCI V-No. 37
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
PRESIDENT RONALD Reagan
had a busy week preparing for
the 1984 election. No, he has not of-
ficially announed his candidacy, but
his campaign machinery was cleaned,
oiled, retooled and revved into action.
Meanwhile, his government engine is
Chapter one of Reagan's new cam-
paign mechanics manual shows how to
assemble an effective campaign
machine to make it run more smoothly
-even at the expense of the gover-
Step 1: Remove from the campaign
machinery abrasive, noisy, and
irritating components like James
Watt. These parts may be loved by a
few, but they draw attention like -a
worn out muffler. Midasize then, but
only after everyone and his or her
cousin complains about the noise.
Step 2: Steal a replacement part like
William Clark from the government
engine. And don't get overly worried
that the campaign machine is a foreign
model and none of the parts are really
compatible with the government
engine. Figure out some way to make
the government look and sound like it
works better than it really does. The
important thing about this engine is its
appearance. After all, you are hoping
not to have to use it that much before
Step 3: Now you have a pretty effec-
tive campaign machine. Don't do
anything to strain it. Trouble is, the
government machine is shot to hell.
Start moving parts again. But this time
be more careful to find a part which
works in both engines, without attrac-
ting attention to itself. Whatever you
do, don't waste all that money you
spent Midasizing by using the same
brand of muffler again. Jeane Kirk-
patrick simply did not do. Better to go
with something less flashy like Robert
McFarlane - you don't want the
neighbors to talk.
Step 4: Now you are'all set. The elec-
tion machine is ready to roar, and the
government machine, well, it will pass
if no one looks at it too hard and you,
don't have to use it much. But don't
worry, that's the least of your concer-
ns. Just keep that election machine
By James Ridgeway
WASHINGTON - Vietnam
veterans, mostly silent since the
end of the war, are now putting
together an organization which
promises to add considerable fire
to the political scene.
These veterans have been an
unknown quantity - often
derided from the right as hippies
and losers and shunned by
liberals as unconscionable
killers. Today at least some are
working to form an organization
they hope will ultimately rival
the American Legion and
Veterans of Foreign Wars.
THERE ARE about 30 million
veterans in the United States
today, including 12 million who
served in World War II. Viet-
nam-era vets total 9 million -
some 3 million actually saw duty
in or around Indochina - and as
they grow older, they become a
more significant factor both
within the largely conservative
veterans organizations and on the
wider political scene.
One earlier effort, "Vietnam
Veterans Against the War," soon
sputtered out. It was not until
1978 that Robert Muller, a former
Marine lieutenant paralyzed in
action in Vietnam, began to lay
plans for a new organization, the
Vietnam Veterans of America
VVA now has 17,000 members
Muller and VVA leaders have
twice traveled to Vietnam, have
established direct com-
munications with the Vietnamese
Foreign Ministry, and are in
regular contact with the Viet-
namese U.N. mission in New
York. In Washington, VVA works
on Capitol Hill through an ad hoc
group of congressmen around
David Bonnior, a Michigan
VVA will hold its first formal
convention here in Washington
Nov. 5. Muller is expected to be
elected president, although he is
being challanged by Duane
Goodridge, a decorated Vietnam
hero who heads the Ohio VVA
Council. Goodridge finds Muller
too radical and thinks the VVA
should work with, not against, the
other veteran's groups. He also
wants to move the headquarters
from New York to Ohio.
ALTHOUGH generally shun-
ned by churches, unions, and
foundations, VVA is now finan-
cially sustained by contributions
from government workers giving
through the Combined Federal
Campaign, a big federal charity
drive - $500,000 last year, with
$750,000 expected this year.
Launching a new veterans'
organization in opposition to the
American Legion, which has 2.6
million members, one-third of
them Vietnam vets, and the
Veterans of Foreign Wars with two
million members, is not easy.
But the VVA cannot be accused of
taking a middle-of-the-road
political stance to attract mem-
At the convention, the leader-
ship hopes to persuade the mem-
bership to support policies that
seek to normalize relations with
.Vietnam. They want a major aid
program for Vietnamese
children, including a plan to
youngsters who choose to leAve,
and an independent scientific
inquiry into the effect of Agent
Orange within Vietnam.
THEY ALSO oppose U.S. inter-
vention in Central America and
in Lebanon, and Muller says he
hopes convention delegates will
agree to send fact-finding teams
to Nicaragua, Honduras, and El
Salvador. Such activity would
provide a counter to VFW leaders
who have toured Central
America, praising the right-wing
governments there and urging
their members to make con-
tributions to the U.S.-backed
rebels in Nicaragua.
On the home front, VVA
leaders plan a broad attack on
the system of veterans' benefits
which it calls unworkable and
More than $300 billion has gone
into such programs since 1945 -
including education and training
under the GI Bill, pensions,
health care, hiring preferences,
and special unemployment com-
pensation. Most veterans have
taken advantage of one or
another of them.
ANNUAL costs for vets'
programs now runs about $26
billion, making the Veterans'
Administration the third largest
agency in the government,
behind only the Departments of
Defense and Health and Human
Services. It is particularly
vulnerable in a period of fiscal
"VA hospitals were created in
the 1920s to provide war-wounded
veterans with medical care,"
Muller says. Now, he points out,
"less than 15 percent of the
money goes for care and treat-
ment of servic'e-connected
disabilities." The overwhelming
majority of the patient population
is eligible because they cannot
pay for care.
As to veterans' pensions, Muller
says flatly: "There shouldn't be
any. They are a vestige of the
days before you had a social safety
net through the Social Security
The VVA already has acted on
some of its proposals.. Leaders
say they have won Vietnamese
approval for an accelerated
program to process and to fly out
children. This last summer, VVA
helped two charity groups visit
,Saigon and discuss the program.
The State'Department, however,
has been markedly cool to any
Ridgeway wrote this article
for the Pacific News Service.
by Berke Breathed
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