BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Colman McCarthy, author of “All of One Peace,” what is this breakfast you had with General Merrill McPeak?
COLMAN MCCARTHY, AUTHOR, "ALL OF ONE PEACE" Well, that came about, Brian, during the Gulf War when I was writing a lot of columns that were criticizing the Iraqi, I guess, massacre. It wasn't really a war. It was a one-sided massacre, mostly of women and children, and I didn't think we should be there. I'm opposed to that war; I'm opposed to any war we've ever had. I'm a pacifist. So he wrote to me and invited me to come visit him, and I was a little bit surprised. I was getting a fair amount of mail criticizing me for my pacifist views during the Gulf massacre, and so he invited me to have breakfast with him. I think it's good to go into the belly of the beast. So we had a very cordial exchange. A lot of people, I think, think that pacifists think that they're the warmongers and they're the people that are the problem, and I really don't blame anybody in the armed services for our government's having a war ethic. I really blame myself for not doing enough to write with passion or teach better. So we had a lovely breakfast, and he's written back to me and I keep up with him.
LAMB: Who is he?
MCCARTHY: He is one of the joint chiefs of the Air Force and was very much involved in the Gulf War. And so I like to talk to generals. I like to talk to everybody. It was a good, lively exchange, just he and I -- no one else there. I was delighted to have a visit with him.
LAMB: Had you ever been to the Pentagon before?
MCCARTHY: Oh, sure. They invited me over to talk to them every once in a while, and they always say, "Well, now, Colman, after all, we both have the same goals. We want peace for the world." It's good to keep up with those who work there. As I say, I don't have any judgments against those who work there themselves; I just question the war ethic. They're paid by Congress to be a killing machine, and they do so with great efficiency. We've had six or seven wars in the past dozen years -- Grenada, Libya, Panama, Gulf, Somalia -- and rattling our saber endlessly -- Haiti and other places around the world. I write about that.
LAMB: Go back to that breakfast again. Why in the world would the chief of staff of the Air Force think that he could -- did he want to change your mind?
MCCARTHY: No. I was writing some rather severe pieces.
LAMB: Give us an idea of some of the things you were saying.
MCCARTHY: Oh, I said they were dropping bombs on women and children. It wasn't a surgical strike war. The only surgery involved was in the operating room after the people were killed. And the media really weren't informing us of who was dying. It was mostly civilians. It was really a cowardly war, and I use that phrase. To be dropping bombs on people who couldn't defend themselves, is that how you settle conflicts? So it was some fairly harsh criticism. I'm opposed to any violence, particularly Pentagon violence or Saddam Hussein violence or any government that believes in killing people to solve problems.
LAMB: What did the general say to you?
MCCARTHY: Oh, he said, "Well, after all, there comes a time when you have to use force." I quoted Gandhi, "An eye for an eye and we all go blind," and then he quoted his views. We went back and forth, but it was very amiable and I think it ought to be that way. I make no moral judgments about anybody. I make a lot of judgments about the ethic which they may believe in, and they may criticize mine. I think that's a good, healthy way to go about it rather than shouting at each other, and so I appreciated visiting him very much.
LAMB: What would you do if you were the ruler of a country and another country took up arms and just came in and took you over and put you in prison and you had no way to get out?
MCCARTHY: I'd stay in prison. I hope I wouldn't yield my values or my principles. It's hard. You can create any number of scenarios to prove that nonviolence won't work, but meanwhile we rarely question that the violence is clearly failing. In other words, most in the media become very skeptical when they hear about pacifism. They equate it with just letting people walk all over you, which it clearly is not. When you study Gandhi, King, Merton Day, Muste and all the others, you find that it's direct resistance to authority, a direct resistance to Caesar. But it's a very difficult subject to comprehend. Everybody is always, "What if someone breaks into your house with a gun and wants to shoot your family? What do you do then?" So you can create scenarios where clearly it probably won't work, but meanwhile there are 40,000 a people a month who are dying in wars around the world. The U.S. is selling weapons to 142 nations; we're the world's biggest arms dealer. We spend $800 million a day on Pentagon programs, bankrupting our economy, and rarely is this ethic questioned. So I question it.
LAMB: I want to ask you -- first of all, this is what the book looks like?
MCCARTHY: Well, there's a cover on there.
LAMB: I know, but I want to ask you about this hardback. Why does the hardback look like this, and then, of course, the paperback looks like this?
MCCARTHY: Well, the publishers, I guess, decide. You'll have to ask them why they didn't put a jacket on, but that's the way it looks.
LAMB: What is it?
MCCARTHY: It's a collection of essays I've written for the past 25 years, mostly with the theme of nonviolence and pacifism. I've been writing those all this time, and that's how I make my living.
LAMB: Who decided which columns got in here?
MCCARTHY: I did. Rutgers University Press said, "Pick out the ones you really feel passionately about and arrange them in order," and so there are about seven or eight chapters, arranging everything from my teaching in school to the nonviolence of bicycling. I commute to work every day by bicycle, which is a lovely experience, and I've been bicycling to work since the early 1970s. I've been urging you to bicycle to work also, Brian. Stephen Breyer from the Supreme Court, I think he bicycles to work, so I'll be eagerly watching to see if he keeps that up now that he's on the way to being a Supreme Court justice.
LAMB: The picture on this, what year was this taken?
MCCARTHY: Oh, a few years ago, four or five years ago. That's an old Raleigh three-speed bicycle. That's the only English product which I used. I boycott English products, but that's the only concession I make to England, to use their bicycles.
LAMB: Why do you boycott?
MCCARTHY: Northern Ireland. I'm opposed to their presence in Northern Ireland, and I just can't consciously use any British products. That's a second-hand bike, so I didn't buy it new from Britain.
LAMB: What are you driving now?
MCCARTHY: I have a Raleigh three-speed.
LAMB: The same?
MCCARTHY: Yes, oh, yes.
LAMB: Because there was a little accident you had a few years ago.
MCCARTHY: I've had many crashes over the years. In 25 years of biking you're bound to go down a few times. I had one about three years ago, and I was nearly killed. I hit a hole and went flying. I hit my head when I went over. I had a helmet on. I was knocked out, and the first thing the emergency room doctor said to me when I came around was, "If you didn't have a helmet on you'd be dead." I broke my jaw. I was out for about six weeks -- the cheekbone, the usual stuff. I had to be operated on. Nothing has really bothered me since then. It's amazing when you have a close call like that. I've interviewed other people who have had near-death experiences. Andy Jacobs from Indiana, a Congressman, had one, and he's had the same reaction. The things that used to get to you suddenly don't anymore. So I urge everybody to have a near-death experience.
LAMB: You mean I can't ask you a question that's going to make you mad, no matter how hard I try? The bicycle, though, why?
MCCARTHY: Well, it's healthy, it's outdoors, you don't fume up the air. If more people commuted to work by bicycle, we wouldn't have all the filthy air we have. I think people would be a lot friendlier, healthier. It's a lovely, relaxing way to come in and out of work. Now, I'm not saying I never use a car, but I bike about 50 miles a week, 2,500 miles a year. That's 25,000 every 10 years, so it adds up. It's a small contribution to make to the public good, and it's no big deal. But it is something that I love to do, and I think if more people did that we'd have a cleaner city and a much healthier country.
LAMB: I don't know that there is a simple answer to this, but do you have a favorite column in this book?
MCCARTHY: Oh, we kind of like them all, like they asked Ben Hogan, "What's your favorite shot in golf?" I asked him, "What's the most crucial shot in golf?" and he said, "The one you're about to hit." And so your column, the next one you're writing is the one you really put your heart into. I do about four or five drafts of every column. It's always 800 words. I guess I've developed an 800-word mind over the years. I go over them with great diligence and get the cliches out, the slogans and the hackneyed phrases, and put all I have into it.
LAMB: How many a week?
MCCARTHY: Twice a week. I've been doing that since 1978 when I joined the Post Syndicate, and I joined in 1968 the Post itself.
LAMB: In those years has anyone at the Post ever taken something out of your column?
MCCARTHY: No, not really. I have wonderful editors, and Donald Graham is the publisher. He's always been very much an ally. I'm sure he gags on a few of my columns every now and then.
MCCARTHY: I don't know. I'm sure he disagrees with a few of them. You know, I take some rather strong viewpoints. But he's always most helpful and civil and never has criticized, "You shouldn't have said that" or "That wasn't right." Never anything close to that. I think Don Graham is really one of the prime figures in American journalism.
LAMB: I remember something -- and I've never asked you about this -- but do you like to debate people?
MCCARTHY: I do in my classes. I teach school, and so I always ask my students to stand up and make their arguments and challenge me. I think it's a good way to teach.
LAMB: But you don't go out and debate, though.
MCCARTHY: No, not usually. I talk a lot at colleges and I organize schools to get peace studies programmed, but I don't go out and debate right-wingers. I just think that would be show biz.
LAMB: Why, and what's wrong with that?
MCCARTHY: I think it's staged. They know who they are. I think McGovern did that with Meese. They'd go on the road show, which is fine if they like doing that. But I don't have much of a feel for the audience when you do it that way.
LAMB: Have you ever been booed off a stage?
MCCARTHY: Oh, no. Why would anybody do that, Brian?
LAMB: I mean, seriously, on all those speeches you ever gave, did anybody ever throw anything at you or scream at you from the crowd, saying, "Get out of here, you left-wing so-and-so"?
MCCARTHY: No, I try to be non-aggressive when I speak. I think if you go on too strong, you alienate people, so I try to be fairly open to other viewpoints. I make my own points, of course, but not to be preachy. People get mad when you preach at them, and I try not to do that when I speak before audiences; otherwise you put their defenses up. "He's coming after me." That arouses people. But if you try to bring them along with you and say, "Here is a new way of looking at things. You may not agree with it, but let's explore it." That's a more nonassertive way to do it.
LAMB: Where were you born?
MCCARTHY: On Long Island, Old Brookville, in 1938, and I'm the youngest of four boys. My father was a country lawyer, and my mother was a woman who loved being at home with her children and kept home. So, Long Island, N.Y.
LAMB: Where are the other three brothers?
MCCARTHY: One is in Switzerland. He's at a school. He's a professor. My other brothers are here. One lives in Florida, a writer, anarchist -- a beautiful philosophy, by the way -- and the third brother lives in Massachusetts, a lawyer.
LAMB: And if you and the anarchist get together, how do you come out on the old conversation?
MCCARTHY: Oh, I love Dennis, my brother, very much, and he and I debate the issues. He says, "You should go further left, now," and then I say, "Well, I'm going to do it. Give me time." So we get along, really. I love to debate with him. He's really very loyal to me. We've been close all these years.
LAMB: Are there any conservatives in the family?
MCCARTHY: Well, we have one who is a conservative, and so we debate with him also. He thinks I'm so far gone, there's no hope for me.
LAMB: Where did you go to high school?
MCCARTHY: On Long Island, public schools all the way, Seacliff High School.
MCCARTHY: Spring Hill, a small Jesuit school in Alabama. Eighteen reasons I went to Spring Hill College -- they had a wonderful golf course. I was pretty much a golf bum in school. I read more greens than I read books. But it was a good Jesuit school. I majored in English and wrote all during school.
LAMB: What did you do after school?
MCCARTHY: I was such a hedonist in college, always on the golf course and never really studied very much and kind of frittered it all away. I was coming home from Alabama to New York where we lived, and I stopped off at a religious order, a Trappist monastic order in Georgia. I went to stay for a week and I ended up there for five years, living with the Trappists. It's a Catholic order. I've written about that, I think, in the book a little bit. I was never a monk; I was a laborer. We did all the heavy lifting. I shoveled cow manure for four years, and some of my critics on the right say I'm still shoveling cow manure. So it's worked out fine. But it was a lovely five years. I came out before taking any kind of vows.
LAMB: Why did you do it?
MCCARTHY: I wanted to read and I wanted to get away from the world for a little while. It's a monastic order, very cloistered. We never went anywhere. You went in and you stayed at that one place, and I never went out for five years except to give blood at a local Red Cross office. But it was heavy manual labor. We woke up about 3:00 in the morning. I was on the milking crew. We had a herd of jersey cows, and I milked until about 7:00 or 8:00 and had breakfast, a slice of bread. It was a very austere life. And then we said the Psalms. We prayed the Psalms every day. Then we had mass and then we went back in the fields. I took in the crops, took care of the calves and went to bed at 7:00. But I read about 300 books a year and wrote a lot and kept a journal. I wrote, I guess, about 10,000 words, at least, a week in my journal. I studied English and really did what I probably should have done earlier, but I was doing it on my own now. I read the books I wanted and really studied writing then, and really, I guess, put my heart into it.
LAMB: Why did you leave it?
MCCARTHY: The abbott there was a wonderful man, Augustin Moore, and he said, "Well, I think you can do better than shovel manure, even though you're doing it for the Lord. Go try writing. That's obviously what you have your heart set on." I've always thanked him for that advice. There are about 80 fathers and brothers there, just really very good, holy men that lived authentic Christianity. I hear some of these people on the Christian right talking about how they found Jesus and Jesus that, you've got to have schools, you've got to have all the prayer in the school, and they Jesus this and Jesus that. I lived for five years with people who were devout and passionate about their Christian faith. They'd never go around preaching to people, "You should do this," or "This is the right way to think." So I've written a lot about religion over the years, but it's always been centered. I knew some people who were very sincere about it. You didn't see the Trappists coming around, preaching sermons of, "This is the way you should believe," and "Vote for this guy, vote for that fellow."
LAMB: You got out of the monastic life after five years and did that?
MCCARTHY: In 1966. Then I started to freelance write around the country, and I wrote for some of the small magazines. One of my readers then was Sargent Shriver who saw an article I wrote about him, a little bit criticizing him. I didn't have a nickel. I was out in Kansas City, and he tracked me down somehow and found me and said, "I read this piece and thought there was somebody who thinks he knows everything," and he was kind of joking like that. He said he was looking for someone to help him with some of the writing of his articles and speeches and so he hired me, and that's how I came to Washington in 1966. In fact, I dedicated my book to Sargent and Eunice Shriver, and also my mother-in-law. I've been very close to Sarge Shriver all these years. I think he's one of the great, great political servants. All the programs he began -- Head Start, Job Corps, legal services, Peace Corps, VISTA -- are all there.
So when people criticize, "Oh, those '60s programs, they didn't do anything," are you kidding? They're in place. They've served hundreds of millions of people. Plus the Special Olympics, which he now runs with Eunice Shriver. That's a global program. It's the biggest sports program in the world, and both the Shrivers have done that. I think they are rare people. Sarge is a very humane person. He goes to mass every morning. He doesn't shout about it, and he doesn't tell you what he's heard from Jesus this morning like some other people do. It kind of gets to me when you hear these self-righteous, alleged Christians. I've never met a Christian. I've met some people who are trying to become one, but I've never met one who really was. The Trappists were the closest, and I say Sarge Shriver is also very close.
LAMB: You say in the opening of your book, the acknowledgements, that, "I worked no more than 38 hours a week."
MCCARTHY: I belong to the Newspaper Guild. It's a very good union -- I'm a union man -- and they have a contract. They negotiate good contracts, and it's really 37.5 hours a week that's in our contract. I think that's enough to give to my company.
LAMB: Where do you do that?
MCCARTHY: At the Washington Post.
LAMB: I mean, do you physically go there every day?
MCCARTHY: Oh, yes. I bicycle into work, five miles in, five miles out. I have a nice office, and I write there every day.
LAMB: If you do two columns a week, why would you have to go there at all?
MCCARTHY: Oh, I do book reviews, I do other assignments.
LAMB: You mean they have a call on your time for those 37.5 hours?
MCCARTHY: Oh, sure.
LAMB: It's not just the two columns.
MCCARTHY: You know, I do book reviews, mostly, and other things -- sports section articles and pieces like that.
LAMB: But you teach school.
MCCARTHY: I teach at three schools. Bethesda Chevy Chase High School every morning from 7:30 to 8:30. I've been there for five or six years. Maryland U, I teach these general honors courses, and I've been there for about seven years. And then Georgetown University Law School. So I've got law school, under-graduates and high school, and I do them before and after work so it's not during my work day. And then I teach courses on pacifism and nonviolence. I've had about 4,000 or 5,000 students the past 12 years.
LAMB: Who is your favorite pacifist?
MCCARTHY: Well, there are so many. I've been reading Gandhi a lot. Gandhi is really one of the -- he is, I think, the greatest man of the 20th century. There have been a lot of wonderful women also, but Gandhi among the men, I'd say. He wrote over 90 books on nonviolence -- it's all been gathered together -- and I started reading it back in the '60s. There are always new thoughts in Gandhi.
LAMB: Where did he get his ideas?
MCCARTHY: Well, he got them from Thoreau; he got them from reading the Christian scriptures. He came to Christianity fresh. He was a Hindu and he saw this religion. He started reading the Christian Scriptures and said, "This is radical. Here's someone who taught nonviolence, share your wealth." He didn't find that in Hinduism, but he found it in Christianity.
LAMB: When did he live?
MCCARTHY: He was born in 1869 and died in 1948. He was assassinated in 1948. He had a complicated life. He didn't really understand women too well. He was alienated from one of his -- he had four sons. His oldest boy very much resented that Gandhi was always on the road -- he was a public figure -- and felt deprived in his childhood. He said, "Well, what can I do to stick it to the old man?" when he got into his 20s. Do you know what he did? He joined the army. Gandhi was overwhelmed by it, and it was really never reconciled in any meaningful way. So Gandhi is really one of the greats, but there is King, there is Albert Schweitzer, Jeannette Rankin, A. J. Muste. There is a long list. Einstein ...
LAMB: Let me go through them quickly so that you can define who they were. Who was Jeannette Rankin?
MCCARTHY: She was the first member of Congress who was a woman. She came from Missoula, voted against the First World War and the Second World War. She gave almost the same speech. I think it was the greatest speech ever given in the Congress, when she said on the House floor, both times, "You can no more win a war than win an earthquake," one of the great lines in U.S. history.
LAMB: Did you ever know her?
MCCARTHY: I interviewed her in 1968. She was marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in the first great anti-war march and feminist march. Just wonderful. She was one of my "sheroes." I have a chapter about her in my book. I go into colleges and I give the kids a little quiz and I do student assemblies, and I ask them to identify these five or six people. I start off with Robert E. Lee. Everybody knows Robert E. Lee, "Oh, yes, a great Civil War general." U.S. Grant? "Oh, yes, we know him." They know all the peace-breakers but not the peacemakers, like Jeannette Rankin, Sojourner Truth or Jane Addams, a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1929 and a social worker in Hull House in Chicago. The kids don't know who Jane Addams is, Jeannette Rankin or Sojourner Truth, the black abolitionist, pacifist. So I teach them in classes, and the kids are amazed. They say, "How come we haven't heard of these people?" Well, you go to American schools is why you haven't heard of them. So I'm trying to do a little bit about that by teaching in law school, Georgetown Law, and the ...
LAMB: Why wouldn't American schools teach these people?
MCCARTHY: Well, if you read the history books, how they teach the kids, it's almost war-centered, and so you don't hear much of the pacifists. It's a one-sided schooling which we give our kids, and that's why I teach that there is another side to this question of how do you solve conflict. If you don't know how to solve them, if you haven't studied the history and the methods of nonviolent conflict resolution, you're not going to know about it, and so as a result we graduate kids who are peace illiterates. I'm trying to do a little bit about that.
LAMB: Would we have a free society if it wasn't for the Revolutionary War?
MCCARTHY: Oh, sure. The Revolutionary War was nonviolent from about 1750 to 1775. The Boston Tea Party was a prime example. No guns were fired that day; nobody was shot. And then they kind of, "Well, we've been gone off for 25 years and we haven't gotten anywhere," so they gave in to guns. They could have kept going. They could have kept resisting the British government, but they gave in to violence.
LAMB: Would there still be slavery today if it hadn't been for the Civil War?
MCCARTHY: You can speculate. All I know is, we can't go back and rewrite history but we can do something about history which will be written henceforward. In other words, I'm trying to do something now that will prevent wars from happening in the year 2005, 2012. I've had kids in my class who are going to be leading and who are going to be doing some good things. Even the kids in my class, I'm trying to tell them, "When you get married or have a relationship, you're going to have conflict, and either you know how to solve those through nonviolent force or you don't." We have a high spouse rape, child abuse rate or rape, date rape, all because couples don't know how to deal with their conflict. Look at the O. J. Simpson case. Here is a guy who didn't know how to deal with conflict. Regardless of what happened or whether he's guilty or not in the trial, he was beating that woman. That was clear that he was beating his wife. He didn't know how to deal, not because he was an evil man, but because he was an uninformed person. If we'd have taught him in school, beginning in first grade, how to deal with conflict, he might have known how to deal with it. So I'm trying to teach my classes, "Hey, wait a minute now. You're not helpless, and 'conflict' is a word where all it means is we've got to change the way we're doing things."
LAMB: What would have been your answer to Hitler?
MCCARTHY: Organized in 1926 when he first ran for office. You can't stop him in 1940 when he has the guns out. You've got to put the fire out when it's a little lick of flame. Easy to go back and make that judgment. Hitlerism is still out there. It cost 50 million lives to stop Hitler. If someone came to you in 1940 and said, "We've got to stop this man but it's going to cost 50 million lives, or we can resist maybe some other way and only kill 40 million people," what would you say? You'd take 40 million. But since we never think of -- "Oh, 50 million? That's fine." We never count the number. But Hitlerism is still out there, so we've got to do something now to prevent governments from solving conflicts through killing people.
LAMB: What would you say to the 1 or 2 million Cambodians that were killed by Pol Pot?
MCCARTHY: I agree. You've got to get to the little lick of flame. That's what Gandhi said. Don't agonize over what's happened, organize over what will be happening.
LAMB: What if those people can't get this kind of a message, can't get the material that will teach them about Gandhi and somebody like Pol Pot just overwhelms them with guns?
MCCARTHY: Gandhi said, "You resist. You never adopt the aggressor's ethics." In other words, you don't stop killing by killing more people. It's a very difficult idea. It takes 14 weeks in my classes for kids even to get close to answer like this. But even before you get to the extreme case, you've got kids getting along with their girlfriends and boyfriends, mother and fathers, at home. I've had kids in my class commit suicide. They don't know how to deal with the inner rage they have, whatever it is, and so we try to talk about this.
LAMB: When did you meet your wife?
MCCARTHY: In 1966, working for Sargent Shriver. She worked for Sarge and I worked for Sarge, and we met in December 1966; then we got married about three or four weeks later. That was kind of slow for me. I wanted to marry her the next day, but she was kind of cautious and reserved and a little slow about this. "Can we wait a few weeks?" she said.
LAMB: You wanted to marry her the next day?
MCCARTHY: Sure. I knew right away. I could tell instantly. It was one of those most extra-real moments.
LAMB: Twenty-eight years you've been married.
MCCARTHY: Yes, 28.
LAMB: And you just happened to bring a picture of her along.
MCCARTHY: Now, I know you always asked about the wives, Brian, and this is my favorite photograph of my wife. Her name is Mavornee, an Irish name, and she works at our center. We work together. We have a peace center which we run. She's an administrator, takes care of the phone-callers. She specializes in phone calls from tree- huggers and high-tide, full-moon society people who call us quite a lot, want to have a conference and discuss the issues, always at high tide and full moon, of course. Rather than slamming down the receiver as I would, she says, "Well, that's a wonderful idea. We appreciate your call, and call back sometime."
LAMB: Do people get upset?
MCCARTHY: No, no. We hear from people who agree with what we're doing.
LAMB: I know, but do you get people calling up and saying, "I've never heard anything crazier than this?"
MCCARTHY: Oh, sure. You get those. After I do C-SPAN, I get a lot of those calls. I direct them to you, Brian. You're very nice with those folks.
LAMB: But three or four weeks, how did you know? What was special about her?
MCCARTHY: She was an R.N. She's very caring. You could tell right away she was a very caring woman and just was open-minded and generous. Everything I knew about her right away has been proven to be true all these years.
LAMB: Do you ever disagree on politics?
MCCARTHY: Oh, yes, frequently. I couldn't live with anybody who thought like I did. It would be a pretty tumultuous existence.
LAMB: Is she a pacifist?
MCCARTHY: She's not into -isms and -osms as I am. She has a very service-minded outlook on life. She loves our three boys.
LAMB: Excuse me, I just happen to have a picture of your three boys.
MCCARTHY: There are our three boys, and they're the joys, I know, of my life and my wife's life also.
LAMB: Okay, who are those three?
MCCARTHY: Jim has the red tie on, and Edward and John. Johnny was here with you and worked for you for a while. He was one of your C-SPAN interns. Eddie is a George Washington University student, a varsity ball player, and Jimmy got his master's degree from American University -- a Notre Dame undergraduate -- and works here for a small PR firm.
LAMB: I think I remember from some earlier conversations that they don't all think like you.
MCCARTHY: Oh, no, no. Both of us raised our boys to think for themselves, so we have lively, raucous exchanges frequently about the issues. They read my column and say, "Well, you know, you really didn't have it on this one. You're all wet there. You're way over the edge on that one." But I've written some columns about the boys. They seem to like those pretty well.
LAMB: I wanted to ask you about that, because Johnny, who was an intern here, you write about under a chapter called "Baseball Therapy."
MCCARTHY: Yes. We lived right across from the playground out near Friendship Heights, near American University and National Cathedral, and I bought a house right across from the playground. We'd see happy people all day long. We have tennis courts, baseball fields and swings for the little kiddies. And Johnny started to play baseball. All the boys played, but John really got into it. He went to Wilson High School here, a public high school, and he tried out for the varsity. The coach said, "Well, Johnny, you're a nice boy, but you're not quite good enough for our team." He went out and worked twice as hard and made the team. Then he went to school in the South, one of the big, baseball factories, Alabama, and the coaches again said, "John, you're a good kid, but you're not quite good enough for varsity baseball." He went out and worked twice as hard and made the team. He had a good couple of years pitching in college ball.
The day he graduated, the boy that every coach said wasn't good enough was signed to a pro contract by the Baltimore Orioles, and he played minor league ball for a year with the Orioles in Sarasota, Fla. He always said to me, "Dad, I'm going to be in the big leagues someday," when he was a little boy. So he got a pro contract and he played minor league ball, and the Orioles released him after a year. They said, "We think you're going to make it to AAA but not to the bigs." He wasn't at all fazed, came back home, and he went around to local D.C. inner-city grade schools, giving motivational speeches. He went to one school, Garrison Elementary School, just a few blocks from here, and the principal said, "These kids don't play baseball in our school. They really didn't know much of what you were talking about."
So Johnny said, "I'll come back and teach them some baseball," and so he's been at Garrison Elementary, organizing third- and fourth-grade children. He even went out and got some money from the American League. Dr. Bobby Brown gave him $1,000 to buy uniforms for the little kiddies, and so he's organized that little grade school. The kids had never played baseball before. It's not an inner-city game. It costs a lot of money to get uniforms and mitts, gloves and bats. There are no fields. He is now organizing a non-profit to raise money to do at all the D.C. grade schools what he did at Garrison.
And so he is in the big leagues very much in my mind, taking care of little kids who have no or really very little hope of ever getting into any kind of a league. And he works. He says, "If you don't make good grades you can't play on the team." He works with the principal. An all-black grade school. Other principals say, "Hey, can you come do it at my school?" and so he's going to do that, but starting in first grade. He said third grade is almost too late for the kids. So I wrote a lot about that. He's 25 now, John, and he runs a summer camp also. So he ended up in the big leagues in my mind, way more than he ever would out with millions cheering him.
LAMB: When was the last time you ate meat?
MCCARTHY: 1960, in college, and then I joined the Trappists and they don't eat meat, fish or eggs. I decided after I left I would not eat any meat or any animal products. I don't wear any animal products. I don't patronize circuses, aquariums, zoos. I don't go to horse races. I'm very much opposed to how we treat animals. Those shoes are not leather, but good try, Brian.
LAMB: You saw me looking at them. What's wrong with eating animals?
MCCARTHY: They have the same kind of life force that you and I do, and we have no right to inflict any suffering on another sentient being. I do it for health reasons, ethical reasons. We slaughter for food about 12 million animals a day in this country. We don't see it happening. It's always "over there." We have all these names for it -- hamburger. It's really a corpseburger we're eating. It's a little gruesome to talk like that, but once you see the animal -- I've been to slaughterhouses, and once you see that you never would do it again. It's abstract for most people. I spend about three or four weeks with my students. It's healthy also. I've been working on you for a number of years, Brian. You're a Lamb, now. You especially should not be eating meat. But to bring you along a little bit, I've brought something along from the farm. I want to give you this. This is from my garden, right here. This is a squash for you, Brian. There's your dinner right there. You can take that. I hope you'll accept that now.
LAMB: Thank you.
MCCARTHY: This also is from our garden. These are the first ones that I've grown this summer. Now, I want everybody out in the country to know that we here inside the Beltway can grow things.
LAMB: They're kind of small.
MCCARTHY: They're kind of small. These are the first ones of the season, so you take those, Brian.
LAMB: These are for me?
MCCARTHY: Those are for you, yes.
LAMB: That's very thoughtful of you. Thank you.
MCCARTHY: But, now, if you'll start eating those and lay off that meat. Lay off the dead corpses. I don't want any corpses with those, Brian, alright?
LAMB: What do you do when you go to a person's home and they don't know you're a vegetarian or you don't eat meat, and that's all laid out in front of you? Do you say, "I'm not going to eat this"?
MCCARTHY: No, I go in the kitchen. I cut up some bananas and fruit. There is usually some fruit or bananas in the kitchen, and I go in and just cut it up and get a plate and bring it out and sit down and start eating. Everybody looks at me, of course, but that's all right.
LAMB: Do you think that people -- and we've talked about this stuff enough so I think I can ask you this -- do they stand over in a crowded room when they see you and say, "The guy over in the corner, a little strange"?
MCCARTHY: Are you projecting that, Brian? Are you projecting?
LAMB: I remember, I think, one time you got the most letters ever of anybody that ever appeared on this show -- not this show, but the call-in show -- and a lot of that came through from the audience out there. What does that feel like when somebody says, you know, "He doesn't eat meat," and "Put the guns down." Does that ever bother you?
MCCARTHY: Oh, no. People get defensive. You can discuss anti-war theory -- "Well, Iraq was wrong or right" -- but you mess around with people's diets, and hey, watch out. Then they get very defensive. You're calling them to change their next meal. You can argue war, you can argue Clinton, Bush, whatever, but when you tell people that you can do something at your next meal that will decrease the world's violence, that's a clear choice. All you've got to do is look down at the plate at your next meal and ask a simple question: Did it have a mother? If it did have a mother, don't eat it. You don't need a lot of ethical theory, but you can read the ethics. Gandhi wouldn't eat meat. Albert Schweitzer. A lot of people.
LAMB: Who was Albert Schweitzer?
MCCARTHY: He was a German missionary physician who went to Africa. He knew theology, but he was also a doctor, and he was very much animal rights. The animal rights movement is growing very quickly. Law schools are even teaching animal rights law now, and so I think we have to think about that issue. It's out there.
LAMB: When did you start following him?
MCCARTHY: Oh, Schweitzer?
MCCARTHY: Well, I read about him when I was living with the Trappists. He and Gandhi were very similar thoughts, but Schweitzer taught you have to have reverence for all life, whether it was animal life or human life, and it's all one. It's a beautiful philosophy, reverence for life.
LAMB: What would you have done if you'd have been drafted?
MCCARTHY: Oh, I would have refused to go. I was before the draft in Vietnam, but I would have refused to cooperate. King in 1966 was urging kids not to cooperate with the draft system. You rarely hear that, but he gave a speech once. He said, "Refuse the draft." You don't hear that much about King. We've kind of made him into a nice -- "Oh, he's a civil rights figure." When you read his anti-war essays and writings and sermons, it was strong. He was criticized by many blacks, "Oh, don't get involved with anti-war. Stick with civil rights, Brother Martin." He said, "No, no. It's all the same. Violence is violence, whether it's race violence or governmental violence." Beautiful writing.
LAMB: You were talking earlier about being in a monastery for five years. When did you start to think the way you do? Was there someone that tripped it for you?
MCCARTHY: Well, sure. My father was very much opposed to war. He was in the First World War. My dad was 50 when I was born. I was the youngest of four boys. He used to call me his swan song. He was very much opposed to war, but he didn't preach it. He died when I was still in high school, so I never really got to speak much about it, but I knew he was very much opposed to the draft.
LAMB: What about your other brothers, though? Why didn't they follow the same interests?
MCCARTHY: Yes, it's interesting. One did and two did not. Two of my brothers were drafted and served in the early 1950s, and so one did not. I guess we have a split in the family. But I didn't think much about it because you didn't hear it in school. You still don't hear it. I spend about three or four weeks with my high school students, telling them, "Hey, you've got a right to resist the draft. You don't have to agree with the government even though it's the law." Thoreau said that. It's all in Thoreau, it's all in Gandhi and King. It's all there, but the kids never hear about it. They tell me, "Oh, I've got to sign up for the draft. It's the law." Hey, wait a minute. You've got a conscience. Don't believe me, just read what the others have said about it -- that's what schools are about -- as a choice. That's all I'm doing with my classes.
LAMB: This book, as you said, is put out by Rutgers. Do you know what it costs? This doesn't have a cover on it.
MCCARTHY: They make their hardbacks kind of high, the University Press, because they sell those to libraries. They make a lot of the library sales. Paperback is a lot cheaper. I think it's almost a third or half the price.
LAMB: What does the paperback cost?
MCCARTHY: I think about $15.
LAMB: And you can get it now in the bookstores?
MCCARTHY: Yes. It's out this month. It's out July and August. The university presses get to a lot of books that the big houses wouldn't go near. This probably wouldn't be a big house book, but that's okay.
LAMB: Who is Sister Maureen Foulkes?
MCCARTHY: Sister Maureen is a Catholic sister who runs a homeless shelter for women on Fifth and G Street, a few blocks from this office. She is a woman I wrote about. I take my classes to homeless shelters, and I remember visiting Sister Maureen once. The kids had never seen anybody in a homeless shelter before, and they were overwhelmed by the sight. I said to Sister, "Oh, I want to help out, Sister. I'll go get some food and clothing for you and bring it down this weekend and I'll give it to you." She looked up at me and said, "Well, that's really wonderful. We love it when you liberals fill up your Volvos with food for us. It touches us deeply." Sister had a little cynical side to herself.
LAMB: How old is the sister?
MCCARTHY: She's about 40 now. She said, "But if you really want to do something, skip all the food and clothing and skip the feel-good stuff and just go have a conversation with that lady over there." She pointed to a homeless woman, bedraggled, toothless, with the misery of the earth on her face. She said, "Just go talk to her and ask her how she's doing. No one ever talks to the homeless." So I did talk to her and my students spoke to her, and we learned quite a lot about the economics of this country. It happened she was doing fine about six months before, then fell through the cracks. She was a foreign service wife and was divorced. The husband found a younger, blonder, slimmer woman, and this woman is now homeless.
She couldn't keep up the rent. "Oh, I'll get back. I'll just go to the streets and I'll get back up again," she thought. And so she goes to the Catholic sisters. About 40 women go every day there. I take my classes. I get the kids to go out and be of service. I know that in schools the students graduate being idea-rich but often hungry for service. I tell them, "You've got to get out. Go work at a homeless shelter, teach somebody how to read this semester." In fact, I take my high school class to Garrison Elementary. They take my course one semester and then go into a grade school. My wife organizes that program, Service Learning, so the white upper-class kids from Bethesda, Chevy Chase, go into an inner-city area and teach those kids about Gandhi and all the others.
LAMB: Let me go back to the woman that you were sent to talk to. What did you tell her? What was your answer to her problem, or did you have one?
MCCARTHY: Oh, what was my answer?
LAMB: Yes. In other words, you sat down with a homeless woman to talk to her, then ...
MCCARTHY: I just offered whatever emotional help I could give her. I gave her some money, of course, but that's just nothing. She was eager just to speak to somebody, and I learned that you can do quite a lot because no one had ever talked to the homeless people. She was schizophrenic and heard voices, and so really, Sister Maureen said that hardly anybody ever speaks to those folks. That would be a wonderful service. I took my law school class down there one time, and these are all kids who want to do corporate law. About three or four of them went into other types of law as a result of going to those places. I take the classes. There is a chapter in the book about prisoners.
LAMB: Let me ask you, though, because we're running out of time, about James Terry Roach.
MCCARTHY: Yes, he was a death-row inmate, and I went to see him the day before he was executed. He had about an 80 IQ. He didn't know why he was being killed. He had no idea. I was the last one to talk to him. After that I got to know -- I go into death row quite a lot. I take my classes to a state prison in Virginia, and there there is a former death-row inmate. I have a chapter in the book about him. He is teaching my course there at the prison. There are 300 inmates lined up to study conflict-resolution programs, Gandhi and all the others, and the warden is thrilled to have the program in the prison. We're getting funding to get it around to other prisons around. All these guys are going to be out. Almost all get out, and either they come out worse or they come out knowing something about how to deal with their violence. These are murderers, rapists, guys who were in there for 20 years often.
And so the course has flourished. I go down every six months. We have a little graduation ceremony for the inmates who have taken this course. Each one gets up and gives a little speech. I ask, "Say a few words about what this course meant to you." Each one gets up and says pretty much the same thing: "If I had studied nonviolence when I was a kid I probably wouldn't be here today." So I think journalists need to go into prisons more. We need to go into homeless shelters more. We need to stay away from Caesar and the pharaohs a little bit more with the party line. I think the good journalists do that.
LAMB: You have a center for teaching peace?
LAMB: Because at the end of the program we don't put up addresses of that, but if somebody wants to -- what does it do?
MCCARTHY: We supply schools all over the country with syllabi, book lists, books. I have two anthologies of essays on peace writings. We supply those to grade schools, high schools, colleges, law schools, med schools.
LAMB: Listed in what city? Where is it, Bethesda?
MCCARTHY: It's here in D.C.
LAMB: In the District of Columbia.
MCCARTHY: In the D.C. phone book, and I lecture a lot of colleges around the country to organize those schools. Kids are hungry to learn about it, believe me.
LAMB: How much longer are you going to do this?
MCCARTHY: Until I have my next crash on my bicycle, Brian, and I'd be grateful if when you drive by, be very careful, okay?
LAMB: But you say you've been trying to get me to drive a bike for all these years. Why should I after you came near death?
MCCARTHY: You have more chance of being killed in that high-powered smoke wagon of yours, Brian, which costs you 50 cents a mile to ride. It costs one cent a mile to ride a bicycle. So after you start eating those vegetables, kind of wean yourself away from meat, then you can work on the car, okay. Then you can tell me what I need to work out, which is quite a lot.
LAMB: Last question: do you think you are gaining on this?
MCCARTHY: There is an old Irish saying -- you're Irish and it usually is an Irish saying -- don't worry about being successful, worry about being faithful. And so if you worry about being true to your ideals you don't need to worry about being a success. You worry about having faith in your ideals and keeping with it. You do that and I pay homage to you, having this type of a program, Brian. I wish more in the industry would do what you're doing.
LAMB: Our guest has been Colman McCarthy, and you can get it two ways. You can either get it with the paperback version -- there he is on his bicycle -- or in the uncovered, hardback edition. Thank you very much for joining us.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1994. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.