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On the Death of Jerry Rubin : Remembrance: A man once vilified for hating his country embodied the American Dream.

November 30, 1994|FRED BRANFMAN | Fred Branfman, former director of Rebuild America, is a policy consultant living in Santa Monica. and

I had shared Jerry Rubin's rage against the Vietnam War and followed his adventures during the Chicago trial. But I met him only recently, when he volunteered to support our Making a Difference project to help inner-city youth learn how to start their own businesses. He had become a successful entrepreneur with a nutritional supplement company and a passionate advocate of multilevel marketing. He believed that such skills could be the key to revitalizing the inner city.

I quickly learned that Jerry Rubin did nothing less than 100%. He was soon inviting me to his workshops and seminars where three hours passed like three minutes, flying MAD members to his company's national convention and committing to help them spread these ideas throughout South-Central Los Angeles.

We were on our way to dinner to explore our deep interest in matters spiritual and political when he was struck by a car on Wilshire Boulevard. I will always wonder about that conversation that never happened. I was to learn much, however, in the days that followed.

I learned about his remarkable generosity of spirit, his relentless optimism, his cheerfulness, his focus on seeing the best in people, his positivism, the energy he devoted to helping others. I learned that despite his focus on making money, he was unusually non-materialistic, generous and giving not only of his money but his time. He was a doer, a talker, a person of action, a giver, a devoted father. He followed a rigorous diet, ran miles on his treadmill and wanted to live beyond 100.

And above all else, Jerry Rubin was loved. He made no secret about his needs. And those around him loved him for it.

The ironies abound. The man who gave so much needed so much. The capitalist who embraced making money cared little for material things. The health-seeker who wished to live so long died before his time. And the man who was so vilified for "hating his country" in the 1960s turned out to be the quintessential American: an upbeat, optimistic, health-conscious doer who personified the best of the American Dream, character and personality.

However much we may acknowledge the mystery of existence, we inevitably find ourselves seeking refuge in certainties, in a sense that there is a God or Gaia or a consciousness that is guiding us.

But it is hard to sustain a belief in answers when you see a man like Jerry, at the height of his power and gifts, killed crossing the street on his way to dinner.

Life may be replete with meaning or utterly meaningless. In the end, I cannot know. I am left only with questions: a deep awe, wonder and reverence for a mystery I cannot understand.

I asked myself that night what regrets I would have had if that car had hit me, and I resolved to change my life accordingly. It is a question we can all usefully ask. Now. Jerry's death above all teaches us the importance of living fully, as he did.

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