By Matthew Rothschild on December 26, 2013

Vivien Roodenko died on December 18 at a nursing home in Newtown, PA, at the age of 91.

She was one of the last of a generation of radical Jewish pacifists. Her brother Igal, who shared her views, was a conscientious objector during World War II, and was put to work in a Civilian Public Service camp. There, he organized against forced labor and the censorship of mail. After going on a hunger strike in protest, he was sent to federal prison for a year and a half.

After the war, he and Vivien campaigned for amnesty for conscientious objectors. As secretary of the Washington branch of the Committee for Amnesty, she helped engineer a letter-writing campaign to prominent people to get their endorsements. Albert Einstein, Eric Sevareid, and Dorothy Thompson agreed, among others.

Later she worked in the Washington, D.C., office of the ACLU and her brother became chair of the War Resisters League. She was also a member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament.

Aside from issues of peace and civil liberties, Vivien Roodenko was also deeply committed to racial justice. In the 1950s, she tried to get the Palisades Amusement Park integrated, and she even posed as an apartment seeker so that James Farmer, the founder of CORE (the Congress of Racial Equality), could get an apartment in Manhattan.

For many years, she worked for the Pennsylvania State Department of Labor.

A devoted reader of The Progressive magazine for seven decades, she was fond of telling the following story. She had just moved in to assisted living and was falling down when she landed on a box filled with issues of The Progressive, which she had dutifully collected. "I could have broken my hip! That would have been the end of me. The Progressive saved my life."

We will miss her at The Progressive, and the movement for peace and social justice in America will miss her, too.

Photo: "Angel," via Shutterstock.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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