Sunday, April 27, 2008

"[T]here was some transcendent issues involved." --Every1 of Us (as embodied by Judge G. Reichbach dn2008-0425)

AMY GOODMAN: Gus Reichbach.

GUSTIN REICHBACH: I would just add that while certainly the specific demands were what motivated people, there was some transcendent issues involved. We came together—Tom talked about the powerlessness that people felt, the powerlessness about being able to stop the war, the powerlessness in confronting an institution that had an incredibly paternalistic and controlling aspect to it. So, part of this coming together—and it’s really a spontaneous coming together—was because we thought in some small way that we could be agents or wanted to be agents in the course of history, and we shared this electric moment where collectively all our hearts were touched by a certain passion and fire.

And so, that was really not that the demands were unimportant, not that the issues were unimportant, but there was this larger—and I don’t mean to reduce it to psychological terms, because I don’t think it was that. I think it was a fundamental political issue about powerlessness and the requirement of taking action, of doing something, of putting one’s body on the line, which I think now that I’ve reconnected with people, after many, many decades, have come to observe in terms of the lives we’ve led since that time, that, you know, this participation was this Sartrean moment of a fracture that really has altered, I think, for many of us the course of our entire lives since that time.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you become a judge after being a student leader?

GUSTIN REICHBACH: It’s very unlikely.

TOM HAYDEN: He went over to the law and order.

GUSTIN REICHBACH: Very unlikely. In fact, I had a lot of trouble getting admitted to the bar because of my participation. Law professors lined up to testify against my admission to the bar. Some testified in favor of my admission, so I guess I’m responsible for destroying the collegiality of the faculty, but I went through two years of loyalty hearings before the character committee. The thought of me becoming a judge was—it was unlikely I was going to become a lawyer, much less a judge.

But it actually—my becoming a judge is somewhat connected to ’68, in that I was brought into a local judicial race in Brooklyn to help elect the first Hispanic judge. There had never been an Hispanic elected to a judgeship in Brooklyn, and because of the peculiarity of the election law, they needed a second warm body in order to help elect Richie Rivera, who became the first Hispanic judge. But we organized, having learnt doing dorm organizing and going door to door. We ran a judicial campaign that was very similar, people knocking on doors, walking up flights. And at the end of the day, I won, beating—we ran—Richie and I ran as insurgents against the Democratic organization, and I won by the munificent total of 141 votes. So that’s how.

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