Saturday, May 16, 2015

Howard Gillette, Jr.'s "Class Divide"

Howard Gillette, Jr. is Professor Emeritus of History at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. He is the author of Between Justice and Beauty: Race, Planning, and the Failure of Urban Policy in Washington, D.C.; Camden After the Fall: Decline and Renewal in a Post-Industrial City; and Civitas by Design: Building Better Communities, from the Garden City to the New Urbanism.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Class Divide: Yale '64 and the Conflicted Legacy of the Sixties, and reported the following:
Jack Cirie was a real tough guy at Yale: a “local” who excelled in football as well as in the boxing ring. Not surprisingly he joined the marines at the time of his graduation in 1964, making the corps his first career, including a second deployment to Vietnam. What, then, was he doing in the 1980s at the ‘60s hotbed of experimentation, the Esalen Institute? Yet there he is, pictured on page 99, wiry, determined, and wearing an Esalen designation on his shirt as he sets out for a race. His training at Esalen is with George Leonard, a former Look magazine reporter, who coined the term “human potential movement” before throwing himself into it. Dogged by his involvement in the war, Cirie tries in the years after retiring from the military to reconcile his war experience with his inner needs.

Cirie’s effort to reconcile war with peace, external rewards and inner satisfaction, mark him as part of an “in-between” generation: carrying the socialization of the 1950s into the turbulent 1960s. Among his classmates—famous and not—there was a shared sense of obligation to national service. And yet, unlike the silent generation it might have been part of, these men could not count on becoming a part of a unified leadership elite. Instead, as members of this class absorbed the experiences associated with the sixties, they divided: Stephen Bingham, wanted for murder by the FBI in conjunction with a fatal shootout at San Quentin prison, William Bradford Reynolds rolling back busing and affirmative action in his position as head of the civil rights division of the Justice Department under Ronald Reagan. Fellow classmate Joe Lieberman sought the center, and it didn’t hold. These are the stories that begin to identify how a cultural turn in the 1960s had such a lasting and diffusive effect.
Learn more about Class Divide at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue