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Izzy on Izzy
100th Birthday

A Celebration of the Life of I.F. Stone
November 16, 2008
Story Chapel, Mount Auburn Cemetery

Remarks by Jack Beatty


I'm Jack Beatty, and Lois and I are delighted to be here, honored, honored, Celia, as we were too honored in Washington as neighbors of Izzy and Esther to drive them places after Izzy wisely gave up the wheel.

And we found in doing that that Izzy could speak before any audience without self-consciousness or inhibition because he didn't see it.

And I wish I could think of profound things to say but the fabric of our relation really was his laughter.  I just laughed in anticipation of seeing him.  He was a mirth-making man to me.

Example:  After the birth of our son Aaron, he called to congratulate and he was warm and, oh, wonderful, wonderful.  He said, Isn't it time a man of your age -- I guess I was 35 -- isn't it time a man of your age thinks about obtaining a Mick Lock?

And I thought, was this sort of Jewish thing?  I didn't know.  I said, Mick Lock?  He said, Yes.  Pause.  An Irish chastity belt.

You know, yeah, that kind of thing -- those were the sparks of his intellect, and I wish I could reach back through the years and just bring them all forward.

But what I can do is bring out some stories which has the quality of his visual experience at the center.  Esther told me they were invited to an occasion at the Cosmos Club in Washington to celebrate Walter Lippmann.  There had been a biography of Lippmann.  And they were sitting on the dais of this place.

Now, the Cosmos Club is a place of galactic pretension.  I mean, you just have to be in there.  You can't believe how -- it's just unbelievable.  Anyway, pictures of worthies on the wall.  Anyway, they're on the dais and everybody is saying what a great man Lippmann was, the sage of Woodley Place and all the rest.

And then it came to Izzy.  And he launched into an attack on Lippmann.  He said this man was Jewish and he didn't write for all those years about the persecution in Germany.  For ten years there was never a word about the gathering Holocaust, and he betrayed his people.

He went on and on in this vein, and Esther said he couldn't see anything.  I had to absorb all those eminencies, just, you know, looking at one another, their dignity affronted, listening to this assault on their deity.

Well, that was the kind of thing that we saw again and again with Izzy.  We went to him -- we drove him to a film about the American communists.  I guess it was Children of the American Communists, a documentary.

And after it was over, I think he was asked to stand up or maybe he just volunteered to stand up, and people expected that, you know, he would be simpatico with this film.

Instead he gave the red, white and blue oration about the greatness of the United States, American liberty, what a wonderful country this is.  And people were saying, Well, we really didn't expect that.

And I think according to Lois' recollection, he said, Well, if you didn't want to hear my views, you shouldn't have invited me.  And this Socrates gadfly role was one he played again and again.

Example:  We went to a Palestinian occasion.  It was people -- I think he was being interviewed and talking about -- and instead of blending in with the kind of indignation meeting it was becoming about Israel, he launched into his memories of the pioneering Jewish state, of the bringing the -- you know, making the olives grow out of the orange trees in the desert, of the wonderful personalities, of David Ben-Gurion and others.

And the man that was questioning him just couldn't believe it.  And again, he just kept going, completely oblivious to the rrr-rrr-rrr going on.  And he just said, These are my views.  And finally -- but they couldn't recover from that sort of thing.

And then when he would go to a film he saw, he saw -- well, partly he didn't see very well, but he also saw politically, let's put it that way.

And we went to see a movie called Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears, a kind of Apartment 3-G about people coming, girls coming, young women coming to Moscow from the provinces to make their lives, and they live in a dorm.

Well, in one scene they take over the apartment of one of the girls' uncle.  And it's a beautiful place.  He's an intellectual.  There are high ceilings, a paneled study, you know, books, everything is grand.  A little shabby but it looked like the Dakota, you know, from Rosemary's Baby.

And afterwards Izzy said, Oh, did you see that dark, dank apartment?  That gloomy -- and we thought he meant the dorm, and he said, Oh, no, no, the professor's apartment.  It was just so dark.

And I said, Izzy, that was a beautiful apartment.  Oh, no, these people have suffered so much.  You could just see the dust on the -- and of course, this was a Soviet film, and I'm sure that was probably, you know, that was probably put in there to say, See how our intellectuals can live?

And we were looking at it and thinking, what a great place.  And Izzy, Oh, no, they suffered, and, oh, the war.  And he just saw what he wanted to see.

But I suppose here I should remember in a quasi-spiritual religious place something touching on -- and with Thanksgiving coming -- something touching on Izzy on that subject.  And again, this social insulation allowed him to say whatever he wanted to say.

And the Kondrackes, Mort and Millie Kondracke, Millie was just a wonderful woman, dead now some time.  And they invited us to Thanksgiving to their house, Izzy and Esther.  And they had two little girls.

And before Izzy arrived, they told them, A great man is coming.  You've got to be respectful.  You've just got to listen to everything he says, and he's a truth -- and they went on.

Well, he came and there was a round table and people started to give their little thoughts about the season.  And they turned to religion and their gratitude to God or Allah, I don't know who, but to some power for having made all this bounty possible.

And it came to Izzy and the girls are waiting.  And he said, You know, if there is a God, he has to be one of the greatest monsters conceivable for having sat back there doing nothing while children have been slaughtered through the millennium.

What a great criminal this God must be.  I, for one, would rather stand with the thought that there is no God rather than impeach God with this dreadful thing, human history.

And the girls were just, you know, and afterwards they said to Millie, Is it really true that there isn't any God?  Tell us.  I mean, that's Mr. Stone.  And she had to say, No, no, no, he was -- (laughter).

But -- but I have to close there because that was the -- people would call that courage, and of course it was courage, but it was also self-put.  He was himself in all weathers.

It must have been very hard to have been his child.  He didn't tact to social climate, to people's opinions or prejudices.  He was just himself.  And to me that was the greatest gift he gave.

He was a full, a rounded self, a man in full.  And I -- and for all his achievements, they're there, but just seeing this person who was so much himself is continually an inspiration to me.  So thank you.


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