A Sign from the Past, a Sign for the Future


I’ve been asked to read the manuscript for a new book about the formation of convert Zen in the West and its principal personalities, and, to write an afterword.

As I’m reading I found an interesting line about how when Gary Snyder dropped out of Reed College he joined the merchant marine and with that the marine cooks and stewards union. It was 1947. There was a sign in the union hall that announced “No Red-baiting; no queer-baiting; no race-baiting. First offense $100 fine. Second offense, dismissal from the union.” I find myself wondering about the sentiments and the teeth in that sentiment.

In 1947, in America, or at least from America out to the oceans of the world political radicals, gay people (From the time I’m assuming men, but I don’t know with any certainty. And of course “queer-baiting,” a problematic term hanging there even if used in a “best” sense…) and people of color were all welcome and they said so up front. And that is a bottom line. All welcome. And don’t mess with them.

Not a university. Not madison avenue. Merchant marines. Cooks. Stewards.

I wonder about when that sign was written. After the war? During the war? Before the war?

A story there.

A bunch of stories.

I’m sure…

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