A belated farewell to a person whom I have read extensively and often disagreed with as I read extensively, but for whom I always held in admiration. Farewell to author/historian Studs Terkel .
Terkel is an important historian for the method he used. Rather than allow his own narration to become the focal point of the narrative, he chose to allow the voices of the participants ring loud. At times Terkel’s left of center (and he was certainly that) came to the surface in his analysis and evaluation, however, his body of work is impressive, particularly concerning The Great Depression, The Second World War (which he called “The Good War) and American Workers and the work they do.
Terkel had an edge to him and while I did not agree with his position regarding post 9-11 security measures, I do hold in respect any person who can give a heartfelt and rationale argument towards a position. This to my mind was the most frustrating aspect of the current election campaign – the utter mindlessness of many drones rekindling memories with a mantra of “Change, change, change” and “Yes, we can”, who inability to clearly articulate a coherent arguement about why their beliefs were valid to a rational mind. The vapidity of the masses reminds one of Orwell’s sheep bleating “Four legs good, two legs bad”. Blind obedience and the ability to speak slogans without the benefit of an ability to coherently defend a position is dangerous to democracy whether the sheep are of conservative or liberal cloth.
Studs Terkel was no a pushover, and his interviews, writings, essays and certainly his anthology of oral histories are worthy of respect – from whatever side of the political spectrum one finds themselves upon. I for one will miss his voice – raspy from far too many cheap cigars – and his passion for his beliefs. I am able to understand his perspective and find some common ground with it, even though I often rejected his conclusions.
There is a reason why I wll miss his voice, more for the content than its tone and tenor. As Studs wrote, “I want people to talk to one another no matter what their difference of opinion might be.” Isn’t that concept an important fixture of self government?