Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Ginsberg and Kissinger

Henry Kissinger, unlike Nixon, did not tape his telephone conversations, according to the most recent edition of The Atlantic magazine, but he did have his secretary listen in and transcribe the conversations. "Some 20,000 pages of the transcripts....were opened to the public last year", covering the period from 1969 to 1974, Kissinger's salad days. Allen Ginsberg and Kissinger were, apparently, not even acquainted, but Ginsberg called Kissinger in 1971, cold turkey, in an attempt to arrange a meeting between antiwar activists and the national-security advisor:

AG: I am calling partly at the request of Senator McCarthy... My idea is to arrange a conversation between yourself, Helms, McCarthy, and maybe even Nixon, with Rennie Davis, Dellinger, and Abernathy. It can be done at any time.

HK: I have been meeting with many members representing peace groups, but what I find is that they have always then rushed right out and given the contents of the meeting to the press. But I like to do this, not only for the enlightenment of the people I talk to but to at least give me a feel of what concerned people think. I would be prepared to meet in principle on a private basis.

AG: That's true. But it is a question of personal delicacy. In dealing with human consciences, it is difficult to set limits.

HK: You can't set limits to human consciences, but -

AG: We can try to come to some kind of understanding.

HK: You can set limits to what you say publicly.

AG: It would be even more funny to do it on television.

HK: What?

AG: It would even more useful if we could do it naked on television.

HK: (Laughter)

I think if I had to spend the rest of whatever on a deserted island with a lefty, I would choose Allen Ginsberg. I know, I know - but then I'd have to listen to Sheryl Crowe talking about the Iraq War.

In keeping with the directive from Betelnut Headquarters to make all posts related in some way to the realm of the Yellow Emperor, I seem to remember reading a book by Annie Dillard about a trip by a group of intellectuals to China, one of the first such visits made posssible in the waning days of the Cultural Revolution. It's been many years since I read it, but I do remember being singularly impressed with the portrait of Ginsberg - gentle, funny,and wise. I don't imagine what they were allowed to see was very representative of the reality of China at the time, but then, seeing anything of China in those days was something special for westerners. And the trip would have been worth it just for the company.