Marv Davidov: Gadfly
And like that pesky insect that burrows under the blanket of the horse of State, Marv beset the system by demanding social justice, economic justice, racial justice. Such a youth-corrupting agenda was bound to bring trouble to Davidov, as it did to Socrates.
As Marv attacked the state, my duty was to defend it. Thus I played Inspector Javert to Marv’s Jean Valjean, with the only major difference being that I believed in my role, unlike the luckless French inquisitor.
Marv believed in revolution but, much more, he toiled for it—forsaking the distractions of family or other employment—unstintingly. Fraternity, Equality, Liberty were his jobs.
As a Jew, Marv—consciously or instinctively—took up the role of Jews in America with a vengeance. In the forefront of the bitter struggles for decent housing, unions, universal education, yes—even welfare—and the other benefits that describe a decent life—Jews dotted the ranks of leadership. It was Goodman and Schwerner who perished with Chaney fighting for civil rights. It is the words of Emma Lazarus that greet immigrants at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
Dignity for the downtrodden was Marv’s mission as he exemplified—in the extreme—the role of the hopeful Jew in the real Promised Land.
I negotiated with Marv, mostly futilely, and found him uncompromising on the principles he embraced. He possessed one quality that I found unique among figures in public life (as opposed to the hacks and flacks that worked for them); he was a near miraculous editor of his spoken word.
I marveled as he took a fairly complicated problem and distilled it into a succinct, pithy, powerful, memorable sound bite that would be sure to get the media’s attention and ignite the imaginations of their audience.
Revolution was Marv’s job and he tackled it with the energy of a working scholar. He not only protested, demonstrated, got arrested and jailed and performed all the other obligatory functions of an activist, but he built an impressive network that he used to write, speak and teach his message. And he lived and breathed it all his adult life.
Sunshine patriots and summer soldiers, Tom Paine called them. Blustering blimps, jingoist and mindless hawks also fit the mold. “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” said Samuel Johnson. It is a characteristic that has led many nations astray, including ours.
A true patriot is a loving critic, one who sees the flaws and works to correct them. Invariably a scorned and condemned role. Davidov embraced it.
When Bishop Desmond Tutu was disinvited to appear at St. Thomas, Marv risked his tenuous livelihood to protest.
Each and every one of us is under a sentence of death, so when it arrives after over three and a half score, it cannot be labeled a tragedy. It is normal and to be expected. What we can, and must, do, however, is to measure the content of that life and, yes, dare to pass judgment.
Marv Davidov led a life that was useful to the community he served.
It doesn’t get much better than that.