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I was a sixth grade communist

Wednesday, August 19, 2009 by Dave Winer.

A cute story about my 6th grade class. Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named gail.jpgMy girlfriend in sixth grade, Gail Schneider, who I still see from time to time, will tell you that I haven't changed in the 42 years since I was a 12-year-old boy growing up in Queens. I always thought it's funny how women, even when they are little girls, think they can peer into your soul and see the real you, but in this case I think Gail is right. (BTW, that might be a picture of Gail, a few years later, at Woodstock.) Permalink to this paragraph

My mother accumulates things, it's her curse. She wishes she traveled lighter, in the George Carlin sense, with less baggage. She keeps shedding stuff, but then a relative dies and she ends up with another closet full of stuff that's too precious to throw out. Anyway, she had been holding on to my sixth grade autograph book, and gave it to me on my last trip to NY, and I've been reading it. This one was worth keeping! Permalink to this paragraph

Some observations. Well, men never know what women are thinking. There were a couple of girls who had a crush on me, all the girls knew it, but I was clueless at the time. The trail is right there in the book.  Permalink to this paragraph

And (finally I get to the point) along with a couple of friends, Clifford Hable and John Monterisi, I was part of a club of sixth grade communists. Of course we weren't really communists, we were just kids, but we read the news and knew the adults were freaked out by the commies, and we thought they were silly (don't all 12-year-olds think adults are silly). So we had a club, and in that club we were communists. That's all over the autograph book too. Hammers and sickles, comrade this and comrade that. It still makes me laugh how we adopted the symbolism and language of our most feared enemy.  Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named mao.gifI wrote to the Chinese mission to the UN asking for literature about their country, and boy did they send stuff. Color magazines and posters mostly in English, a copy of Mao's Little Red Book, a huge wall-size poster of Chairman Mao. I loved reading the stuff the way I loved District 9. It was science fiction, but it also bore some semblance to reality. It was forbidden and terrorized the adults. I liked it! A picture named sidesmiley.gif Permalink to this paragraph

So today when a Republican Twitterer from the Deep South called me a commisar and said I should communicate with the Kremlin and said dasvidaniya, I smiled, and almost thanked him. As if it were Clifford or John, complimenting me on some daring or noble revolutionary act in defiance of Mrs. Dori, our sixth grade teacher.  Permalink to this paragraph

On reflection, I realized this is the new Republican macho. Call anyone who criticizes a Republican a Nazi or a Commie. Can't call me a Nazi (I have relatives who died in Hitler's camps) so go for commie. Except the Cold War has been over for almost 20 years. It's really sad that it has come to this. Permalink to this paragraph

BTW, another woman who could peer into my soul was Mrs. Dori, who was one of my two favorite teachers. She wrote in my autograph book: "To David, a boy who really cares." I don't know if she wrote that for everyone, maybe she did. But in my case, it was true.  Permalink to this paragraph

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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

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