42 / CHRONICLESnfigures they ask for it.) Still, there is annaspect of surprise pain in real life, andnwhat these guys do in the ring (asidenfrom bull-riding and wild-cow milking,nthat is), they and other men donevery day because they must, withnmuch more to lose and less to win.nThere are parts of life that can’t bencomputerized.nSo here I sit on this Fourth of July, ancity girl who can’t even ride, sucking ancold beer and feeling suddenly,nstrangely self-satisfied. There’s no specialnmoral to this tale, except thatnmaybe Heaven isn’t a hammock in thenshade. What’s here is immediate,nstrenuous, authentic. Old Glory snapsnabove the announcer’s booth in thenharsh plains wind. Tonight there willnbe firecrackers, and watermelon, and anroom full of people who love me; andntomorrow in the shadow of the distant,nimprobable Killdeer Mountains, anythingnis possible.n]ane Greer edits Plains Poetry Journalnin Bismarck and runs a midstatenmotel for members of her husband’snfamily.nLetter From thenLand of the Freenby William A. DonahuenThe Un-Civil Liberties UnionnWhen I undertook a study of thenACLU, I had no idea that the politicsnsurrounding my investigation wouldnprove to be as revealing as the researchnitself Maybe more so.nMy first taste of the politics of thenACLU came during an interview withnAryeh Neier, past executive director ofnthe ACLU. The interview lasted aboutn15 minutes. He ordered me out of hisnoffice, complaining that he didn’t likenthe nature of my questions. I wasnasking him to explain discrepancies innACLU policies. That was something Inshouldn’t have done. Live and learn.nOther ACLU officials proved to benequally sensitive. While doing researchnat the national headquarters innNew York City, I incurred the wrath ofnemployees when I admitted,that I wasnlooking for reasons why policy positionsnhad been changed on so manynissues. They demanded examples. Inmentioned the ACLU’s adamant oppositionnto the ERA for some 30 yearsnbefore the elevation of its consciousnessnin 1970. They blasted me forntelling untruths. When shown the evidence,nthey showered me with a sternnlecture on how I ought to handle thenincendiary findings. I thanked themnfor respecting my freedom of inquirynand making me feel right at home.nIt gets better. When I told AlannReitman, Associate Director of thenACLU, that I was planning to write anbook on the organization, he asked mento supply him with an outline andnsample chapter so that he could assessnwhether he might be of some assistancento me in getting the book published.nThe ACLU was thinking aboutncommissioning someone to write anbook on its history anyhow, so if what Inwas doing fit in with what they wanted,npresto—they’d find a publisher.nJust think, I could have been thenACLU’s house author!nThe squeeze was on. My previousnaccess to the minutes of the board-ofdirectorsnmeetings was now off limits.nOnly capsule summaries could benseen. Worse still was the farce surroundingnmy access to the FBI files onnthe Union.nA copy of the FBI files on the ACLUnis available at the headquarters of bothnorganizations. I thought it would beneasier to access the files from thenACLU. I was wrong. Indeed, while thenfiles were available in the FBI’s readingnroom, senior ACLU officials werenstill debating whether other boardnmembers—never mind the public—nshould be granted access. When Infinally did get a chance to see thenACLU’s holdings of the FBI files (itntook a few years), my research wasnsubject to restrictions that the FBInrefused to levy. So much for principle,nyet again.nThe politics of publishing was next.nI started my quest for a publisher afterncompleting the introductory chapter.nOver 18 months I received 18 rejections,nsome of them saying, “While Inpersonally agree with your perceptionnofthe ACLU’s record . . . “My favoritenwas the one which agreed wholeheartedlynwith my analysis but confessednthat the book was “too chargednan attack on the organization for inclusionnon my list.” Some editors toldnme over the phone that trying to get annncritical work on the ACLU publishednwas next to impossible. Had it notnbeen for Aaron Wildavsky, who referrednme to Irving Louis Horowitz atnTransaction, the book probablynwouldn’t have been published.nSince the book has been released,nthe ACLU has tried to ignore it. Radiontalk-show hosts in five cities have triednunsuccessfully to get an ACLU officialnto debate me on the air. A live debatendid take place, however, in Pittsburgh.nAt first I thought there wouldn’t be andebate. It took nine months of proddingnbefore James Lieber, the head ofnthe ACLU in Pittsburgh, agreed to andebate. The reason for the delay hadnsomething to do with the response ofnseveral local ACLU board members tonthe suggested debate. They advisednLieber not to debate me. He finallynconsented to the debate anyway.nThe fun began before the debate gotnstarted. When one ACLU staff membernsaw copies of my book on displaynin the lobby of the building where thendebate was to be held, she pushednthem aside and put her own ACLUnbooks and pamphlets on display. Happily,nsome students took note andnlearned their first lesson ofthe eveningnin how the ACLU conducts itselfnThere were 350 people in attendancenthe night ofthe debate, 100 or sonfrom the ACLU. I had a great time,ntaking full advantage of debating onnSt. Patrick’s Day. After the debate,nthere was a question-and-answer period;nit proved to be the highlight of thenevening.nAs is their wont, radicals turn everynquestion into a filibuster. Some of thenpoor civil libertarians were practicallynin tears. Others just steamed. Allnproved my point that the ACLU is anhighly politicized organization. Studentsnlearned firsthand that when politicsntakes the place of religion in people’snlives, they react with fanaticismnwhen confronted with criticism.nThere was to be another debatenbetween Lieber and me following ournlive encounter. But he called the localnradio show and canceled. Anyone fornfree speech?nWilliam A. Donohue is chairman ofnthe social sciences department at LanRoche College and is the author ofnThe Polities of the American CivilnLiberties Union (Transaction).n