Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why I Don’t Work for the CIA

One detail of my experience of the sit-in (what we called “occupy” in the ‘60's) in Iowa City in ‘67 came to me yesterday as I was running my giant snowblower, trying to move 6" of wet, gloppy, heavy snow from my 400' driveway. (&$@^%!)

The day of the sit-in, the morning after the SDS planning meeting, I had a job interview with the CIA. The interview took place on the second or third floor, on the northwest corner of Jessup Hall, which is the northwest building of the four original campus buildings surrounding Old Capitol. (Upper right of Old Capitol in photo. Union is far upper right.)

The interviewer told me what they were looking for: History majors like me, with a few years of Russian and French, like me, who could build files on leaders and upcoming individuals in foreign countries. Sounded very interesting. During the interview I was looking out the window, down Jefferson Street to the Student Union. People were gathering for the protest against Dow Chemical.

For a year and a half I had been coming under the influence of Christianity. My Brother-in-law had died in an auto accident in May, 1966, so I had thought through some life and death issues. I had joined First Presbyterian Church in Iowa City, where Jack Zerwas had given me the Phillips translation of the New Testament (more correctly called the Christian scriptures). I had read it and was moved by the teachings of Jesus. And he introduced me to Bonhoeffer and Tillich.

And what is not widely known, one big reason for the campus protests of the ‘60's was that a steady stream of older, Quaker men, were traveling the campus circuit, explaining their anti-war stance. I heard several such lectures, and I heard James Bevel, from King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, tell about the connection between the struggle for civil rights and the disaster that was the Viet Nam war.

So I left the CIA interview and joined the protest against Dow, and later refused induction into the US Army. And I never worked for either of these “companies.” Life is funny, how it works out, how I ended up in the church. The frontespiece of Carl Jung’s Memories, Dreams, and Reflections explains it for me: “We must not only live the time of our lives, but also the life of our times.” Yup.


Gary Davis said...

My college friend, Ken Haas, did go into the CIA. He was blown up in 1983 in Beirut and there is a gold star at CIA headquarters to mark his passing. Haas was both the most intelligently-gifted and arrogant man I ever met. He hated "sophists" like me. I was on the college debate team. But he was willing to take advantage of others -- even his friends -- and he was completely committed to Realpolitik. An American hero with clay feet.

Reverend Sax said...

Very interesting and sad. I don't think I would have made the grade, having failed the state dept. exam. I can't imagine myself as an obedient "company" man, of any company. Certainly true of my life in the church. Even some of my business major friends (I was working on an MBA) thought that the business school only led to big corporations and had no use for would be entrepreneurs.