Revolution #58, August 27, 2006
In Memory of My Wonderful Compañera
The following letter, from a long-time comrade and friend of Susan’s, was read at her memorial:
On July 4th this year, Susan lost her battle with cancer. Her death is a great loss to her loved ones and to everyone who had the great privilege of knowing her—she was, to quote Peter Tosh, such “an upfull” person. She had great heart and a tremendous thirst to understand the world around her and to share that understanding to the best of her ability and in every way she could. She always seemed to bring out the best in people, and she genuinely cared how people thought—what was on their minds, their concerns and insights in all different realms from politics to arts and science—and engaged with them deeply and learned a tremendous amount from all her friends and even casual acquaintances she met from various walks of life.
But her death is literally a great loss not only to those of us who knew her, loved her or were directly touched by her, but to millions of people she never met…
I think about Susan and her battle with cancer that she ultimately lost. And the fighting spirit she carried in that battle up until the end and the inspiration she was to us all throughout this. Even seemingly small things, like what she expressed in her log about refusing to let this disease destroy her sense of humor.
I think about how difficult it must have been when, after her initial rounds of Chemo, she never was really able to run again—and she really loved to run. (Which we used to joke about—how that love of running probably had some relationship to how she loved to eat as well, which tragically is also something she lost the ability to do some months ago.) But such setbacks didn't make her bitter or self-centered nor (and most importantly) did she let them derail her quest to finish the "marathon" that she had dedicated her life to. Quite the contrary.
Susan was about 12 or 13 when the Watts Rebellion happened in Los Angeles, and it had a big impact on her. While in college in the San Francisco Bay Area, she couldn't wait to change a society where people's roles in society were determined by the color of their skin or their position in life. Like many others of her generation, she wanted to take this understanding out to working people. She joined in the picket lines with women on strike against Farah Pants. She went to the fields in California’s valleys and talked with agricultural workers. She began working in one of the early Silicon Valley electronic plants, soldering chips with Latino and Asian women, learning about their lives and sharing her developing thinking about revolution, socialism, and communism. At night she would go out to the Latin bars and dance the cumbia and eat pupusas.
Susan became even more committed to bringing about a whole new world, a communist world—“a world of freely associating and cooperating human beings, a world in which the great majority of people, and ultimately of all of humanity, would want to live and in which they would thrive, in ways never before possible or even imagined.” This of course is not such a fashionable position these days, but Susan did not go in for what was trendy. She cared about the truth, the actual reasons why the world is the way it is today, not only the absurdity of a handful controlling all the wealth while the vast majority in the world are suffering miserably, but the fact that this actual setup is rife with deep contradictions, holding society back but also propelling forward potentially seismic ruptures that could hold the potential to bring something totally new and liberating onto the stage.
Susan was a passionate admirer of Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party. She wrote me that she was introducing many people to his amazing DVD, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, his memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond, and other works. She wanted to give everyone a chance to talk about the big things that really matter. When she became ill three years ago, she not only fought her battle with cancer in an uplifting and scientific way, but she said that she wanted to devote the rest of her life to making sure that as many people as possible know that there is a leader in Bob Avakian who can lead us to a future worth living and dying for.
Susan also was keenly aware and very concerned that right now the U.S. was heading toward a high-tech dark ages and with all the strength she could muster she was working to draw everyone she could into the battle to stop that trajectory. Though somewhat hobbled by the fight with cancer, she proudly participated in November 2 (2005) World Can't Wait demonstration in Chicago, which was one of the last political events she was physically able to attend.
But even as her body's physical strength began what turned out to be an irreversible decline, Susan’s mind was still very sharp and her heart was thoroughly with the people of the world. Even a few short weeks before she left us, getting a chance to visit with her in the hospital was a great joy and thoroughly invigorating. She had been following the news of the Haditha massacre on the TV in her hospital room and the other U.S. atrocities in Iraq starting to come to light and was thoroughly outraged. She was eager to get a copy of the DVD of Sir, No Sir, a new documentary on the military resistance of the Vietnam era. As was typical, we delved into culture—reviewing the last season of the Sopranos and the deep philosophical dimensions of the famous episode in the hospital. I could tell that she had actually bonded deeply with every hospital employee who entered the room while we were together. This was the last time we embraced.
We have to continue this great conversation about how to understand reality, what kind of world we can bring into being, and how we could get there—spread it to others—and while we do, act on our understanding to the best of our ability and with all our individual and collective creativity. As she wrote me in August 2005, "From South Central (Los Angeles) to Niger to Peru to the areas hit by the Tsunami, the people of the world are counting on us to answer this great need.” A fitting tribute to her legacy would be for those who share her understanding of the world to redouble their commitment and for those who don't fully agree or even disagree but who share her intense concern for the state of the planet to contribute all they can to act on their convictions to bring about a better world. Susan has passed on the baton to us to complete this marathon for her.
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