The following is the chapter, “Peril,” from The Book of Mev.
Spring 1994 was blooming in the Bay Area. We participated in a Good Friday demonstration at the Lawrence Livermore nuclear laboratory with Steve Kelly and our Pax Christi friends. The following week, we welcomed Noam Chomsky to our campus. On several occasions, we had both heard Chomsky fill the huge lecture hall on MIT’s campus when Mev and I lived in Cambridge in 1990-1991.
Chomsky had a slew of engagements. He was kind to include the GTU in his overbooked schedule, which has been overbooked for the last decade and a half, as he is constantly on the road, all over the world, giving talks. That’s what he does best: explicate the nature of U.S. foreign policy in a way that ordinary people can understand. This has long earned him scorn and dismissal by those with the proper PhD political science credentials. When I interviewed him in Cambridge, he said to me, “When I enter the Harvard faculty club, you can feel the chill from those professors.” And even though he personally had no use for organized religion, he still had strong appreciation of the Catholic militants in Latin America whom he had met and stayed with throughout Nicaragua on a speaking tour there in the mid-1980s. His anarchist convictions were interwoven with his personal practices: Even though he was known world-wide as a linguist and philosopher of first rank and a radical political activist, he was eminently down-to-earth. He talked in as many monosyllables as possible because he believed that political commentators so regularly tried to make their specialty arcane and above the heads of folks. Chomsky was different. So, although I was delighted that he responded to my late letter of invitation, I wasn’t so surprised. He’s a mensch, I told Mev. Or, as my friend Angela, a Reform rabbi, exclaimed, “He’s my rebbe!”