As the reality of Mississippi grew further and further apart from the reality of the college campus, it became more and more difficult for me to talk to Ted. In this letter I explicitly reject traditional political thought in an effort to communicate the reality of what I was experiencing. The notion of "who is qualified" to make decisions was a central theme at this stage of the movement.
i can't really talk too much analytically anymore about the movement or what we or anyone is doing here or why or what it means. but i can tell stories, or things that happened. i don't mean to suggest that this is any kind of an overall statement or anything, but that this is the framework that this type of thing is going on in.
the best example i know of to all kinds of questions that people ask me is charlie. charlie was called by his draftboard like alot of the black kids who are working. he didn't answer the first notice, but went up to new york a couple of weeks later to see them. he had an appointment for the morning, but ran into a friend on the street and had breakfast instead with him. he came into the office three bours later. after telling charlie that he was late the sargeant told him to put out his cigarette. charlie thought this was reasonable, but noticing the sergeant was smoking a cigar asked why he could smoke, but charlie couldn't. the sargeant told him he had to have stripes before he could smoke. charlie accepted the explanation, but walked out and finished his cigarette. when he came back in the sargeant told him to get upstairs. charlie said, "what's upstairs?" the sargeant was surprised but answered. charlie went upstairs. he was called in for checking homosexual on the questionnaire. the psychiatrist asked him if he was a homosexual and charlie answered he didn't know what the doctor meant by the word. if he meant did he restrict the love he had for people because of their sex, no, and if he meant did he restrict physical expressions of love how did he decide what this meant. was it a pat on the shoulder, or what. he said he didn't really know what homosexual meant. at this point the doctor asked him whether he wanted to be in the army or not. charlie said he didn't know because he had never been in the army, and no one had made available to him the necessary information to make this decision. then charlie asked who had made the decision that he should be in the army. the doctor said his draft board had. charlie said he wanted to know how they could make a decision that affected his life without consulting him about it. he said be would like to know who those people were so he could sit down and talk to them about whether he should be in the army or not. the doctor said he would have to get the names from his congressman. charlie said be was sure they could find them and that they were all in new york and why couldn't he call them right then and arrange a meeting to discuss his case. the doctor gave him a l-y and waived his physical. charlie's comment was that he knew his values and the army's were different and he was just wondering how long it would take before they found out they couldn't work together.
mrs ruffin, from laurel, miss, a 30 year old woman on welfare who runs the freedom library in laurel came into the office the other day after reading some megazines and books. she said to me. "you know, honey, even if i could vote i wouldn't know what to vote for. you know that war in vietnam, well i'm not even sure we should be there, or if we are which side we should be on. and did you know something else? when they dropped that bomb in japan they didn't even have to." mrs. ruffin sat down with another jackson fdp woman who also had less than six years of school and wrote a letter to the fdp chairman in each county asking them what they thought about vietnam, and about 300 kids getting kicked out of school in one county for wearing sncc buttons. i don't know the response to vietnam. i do know we've had statewide school boycotts since then.
let me redo marx a little. a man is not really a slave to the objective conditions of his life. by that it means a man is a slave to the past and present. how i would change it would be to say a man is only a slave to the extent that he is a slave to the future. to the extent that he could not perceive alternatives and choices in his future, to that extent he is not free. to the extent he could not effect these perhaps he would also be not free.