I am Will Callender Jr. I was born in 1936 in Fall River, Massachusetts, the son of Willard and Ruby Hodgkins Callender, a pastor in the Northern Baptist tradition and an elementary school teacher. My father was then the Pastor of Central Baptist Church in Tiverton, Rhode Island.
I was in Kindergarten at Sarah Barton School in Tiverton, Rhode Island when Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. My sister Gloria and I were taught how to crouch under our school desks during frequent air raid drills.
I was in Elementary School when V-E day (May 8th, 1945) was celebrated, and on the days the Atom Bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6 and 9, 1945), and when Japan officially surrendered on September 2, 1945. The Boston Red Sox lost the world series to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1946, a calamity fans of my generation of Red Sox Nation did not recover from until 2004.
I was in the sixth grade when the Arab-Israeli war ended with the establishment of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948. By my count, Israel has been in twelve major conflicts and military actions with its Arab neighbors since then. In short, what we call the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has meant nearly continuous war for the last sixty plus years. While a two state solution has been in the works for years, no agreement has yet been reached.
I finished Junior High the year a 450 Megaton Hydrogen Bomb, “Ivy-Mike,” was “tested” on an Island in the Enewetak Atoll in the South Pacific. Herman Kahn, a strategic planner at the Rand Foundation, and the author of On Thermonuclear War, later conceived of a “doomsday machine,” a cluster of hydrogen bombs”salted” secretly in the earth and connected by computer. The cluster would blow up if the Soviet Union or another enemy fired a nuclear weapon at the United States. This was a dramatic vision of what came to be called mutually assured destruction, or MAD.
I began high school in Somerville, Massachusetts the year Senator Joe McCarthy was finding communists in the State Department, and graduated in 1954 when the Army-McCarthy hearings were in full swing. A local teacher was rumored to be a suspect. My father knew Herb Philbrick, the author of “I Led Three Lives: Citizen, ‘Communist,’ Counterspy,” an FBI plant in the Communist party whose testimony had become important in outing communists. He sometimes came to services in our church, The Grace Baptist Church in Somerville.
My high school years also embraced the Korean War from 1951-53. I remember two boys from our neighborhood who signed up to fight in Korea because, they told us smaller boys, they needed jobs. Our troops are still in South Korea.
I entered Bates College, in Lewiston Maine, in 1954, and made the Basketball team. In 1957, The Boston Celtics, led by Bill Russell, won their first championship, and then again in ten of the next 12 years. I was captain of the Bates team in the 1957-58 season.
I graduated from Bates College in 1958 a year after Sputnik went into orbit and the Cold War heated up. Elvis Presley went into the army about this time. The Suez Crisis and War occurred in 1956-57. Syria and Egypt formed the United Arab Republic under the Presidency of Gamel abdel Nasser 1n 1958. Arab-Israeli relations worsened. Fidel Castro overthrew the government of Fulgencio Batista in Cuba in January of 1959, and established a communist government not far off the coast of Florida.
I finished a Masters degree in Sociology at the University of Connecticut in 1960 and began a doctoral program just as President Kennedy was sending 1364 “advisors” to Vietnam and unsuccessfully invading the Bay of Pigs in Cuba (April, 1961).
I started teaching Sociology at what is today the University of Southern Maine in the fall of 1962, just in time for the Cuban Missile Crisis when the US and USSR rattled nuclear swords at one another between October 13 and November 2oth of that year. By this time the number of advisors in Vietnam had increased to 9865 and the surreptitious bombing of North Vietnam had begun. President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Friday, November 22, 1963, a day I associate with the Don McLean song American Pie, written eight years later (1971). The Kennedy assassination was for me “the day the music died.” By 1971, the death of music days included as well the assassinations of Martin Luther King (April 4, 1968) and Robert Kennedy (June 5, 1968).
In 1960, on the day after New Years, I married Beverly Husson of Manchester, New Hampshire, a classmate at Bates College. By 1964, Beverly and I had welcomed the birth of three children, Anne, Peter, and Catherine. We had a reasonable rent, a car that ran, a modest income and a wonderful family life. Despite all of the terrible world events that had dominated the news as we grew up, life had seemed steady, inspiring, predictable, safe, meaningful, even reasonable, and lots of fun. I remember childhood as wonderful, exciting, and dazzling. But, in retrospect, look at what was going on all around!
Who knows how to write history? Who knows one’s own history? Who knows the person they have become? Who knows how they became the person they are. I can’t say I do. I have recorded all of the above, without completing the rest of a biography, because—in retrospect—it seems that World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, The Vietnam War, the Arab-Israeli conflict, The Nuclear Arms Race, Christianity, the Baptist Church, sports, and the immense growth of Technology have been the formative experiences of my life and generation. Most everything I think comes from one of those sources or another. I expect that is what will show up in whatever I have to say in this Blog.
I record these events too because it is evident to me by now how profoundly absurd most of history has come to seem. Where as a child I found comfort in a stable home, a united nation, and a strong faith, and thus a sense of continuity and progress, I find it hard to be thus steadied now. The world I’ve lived in doesn’t seem to make a great deal of sense. Why did the World Wars have to be fought? What good can come from nuclear bombs? Why are we still in Korea? Why did we invade Iraq? Why are we still in Afghanistan? What on earth are we doing with life? Why do the major world religions spend so much energy doing violence to their members and to each other?
Beyond the influences historical events have had on my thoughts and attitudes, I have wanted to develop this blog for a more current reason. Our present times are so confusing, conflictual, fast-moving, vital, important, and consequential that I have wanted to be part of the debate, and yet have been mostly silent. This despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that I know not what I’m likely to or going to say. I used to write quite a lot when I taught college classes; I needed to write in order to prepare lectures and materials for class. I have written a few papers and essays and published a book. But that was in the 1990s. Since then the world has changed at what seems like an exponential rate of speed with each passing month, and I have been more confused by events then steadied by them. My mother used to say that she had led three very distinct and different lives between her birth in 1900 and what became her death year in 1997. I feel that way too.
George Herbert Mead, the pragmatist philosopher and author of Mind, Self, and Society, argued that the views of other people are of such over-arching importance that a person cannot convince himself of a belief unless he believes his explanation would gain the approval of others. Our views, in short, are explanations to reference groups and persons we most passionately identify with. It is in that sense that I don’t know what I’ll actually say in my upcoming posts. I need to write in order to find what I’m willing to say about public matters to the people I most care about. This reference group most definitely includes parents, family, friends and fellow citizens. I also care about the attitudes of the great people who have formed this world for us, the wonderful people all around the world today, and the sparkling posterity to follow. Human Life on this planet of ten billion years has, after all, just begun, and I will be glad to offer primitive thoughts.
While I start this blog to find my own voice and views, I very much welcome other people, not only as an audience of commentators but as fellow contributors.