In this significant, clearheaded memoir, Dick and Mickey Flacks chronicle the victories and pitfalls of the postwar American Left, as lived by a couple who’ve fused their personal and political lives for 60 years and counting. In alternating passages, longtime area activists trace their role in national antiwar and civil-rights organizations, and then a myriad of Santa Barbara causes.
Since a teenage meeting at a Leftist sleep-away camp — which they of course tried to reform — their morality has been rooted in a secular Judaism fueled by the Biblical prophets’ call for social justice. That goal has bridged potential contradictions. Their Communist parents struggled for unionism and civil rights and were blacklisted for their troubles. But learning about “the crimes of Stalin” liberated these Red Diaper Babies to “restore a radical quest for social change” and consistently embrace decentralized, participatory democracy. Anchored in family and academe, they avoided the apocalyptic path many protesters subsequently chose when frustrated by an unending Vietnam War. From fighting for affordable housing to shaping alternative media, Dick writes, “civic engagement [has been] a way to claim that your life has value.”
“I don’t think you can make good history if you don’t make good life,” Mickey Flacks added. It hasn’t always been easy — Dick was nearly killed by an unknown but likely ultra-right assailant in his University of Chicago office before the pair moved here. But, resilient and determined, their commitment has made Santa Barbara a better place to live.
For an interview with Dick and Mickey Flacks about their book and six decades of activism, see independent.com/flacks.