Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Peter Dix - Memory 04-03-18

Mirza A. Beg
March, 18th 2004

A few days ago, I had a sad telephone call from John Breitbart, informing me of passing of Peter Dix.

My uncle whose initials were the same as mine was a very close friend of Peter for more than 40 years. He passed away in 2002. He spent his retirement years in Tuscaloosa. We often talked about Peter and occasionally called him on telephone.

In 1969 I came from India at the height of Vietnam War and visited my uncle in New York. Peter was the first American I met socially. I was immensely pleased to find that he was the very antithesis of the "Ugly American", the image projected of America at the time, by the Johnson and Nixon administrations and is being revived with gusto by the present administration.

Peter was one of the most honest and benign persons I have ever known. He lived frugally and worked tirelessly for the causes he supported. He was not an arm chair liberal. All of us know such liberals, all words and criticism of others but no action, from the comfort of a well-paid job and a warm home. He had the courage of his convictions, for which he put his lively-hood, his time, his material comforts, and even his health on the line.

I remember clearly that he suffered from acute asthma that eventually deteriorated to emphysema. Ignoring the persistent pestering cough, facing biting winter winds blowing through the crisscrossing gorges formed by the towering buildings of New York, he protested, demonstrated, and stood firm against what he believed to be injustices to the common man. Images of a strong resilient lonely reed standing firmly planted against the gale force Hurricane winds come to mind.

Peter saw what to him was obvious but others refuse to see. Sight is a faculty that all posses but seeing is an art that only a few are blessed with. Honing this art is not effortless. It requires sacrifice of time, opening of the eyelids burdened with cultural baggage. People like Peter become the conscience keepers of their religions and their societies. Very seldom are they cherished by the masses, never by the establishment. If and when the establishment adopts them or their creed, it is apt to misuse or misinterpret them.

To know him was to know the beauty of a caring soul. I know my uncle would have wanted to say much more, and more eloquently. I thank him for introducing me to Peter, and I will forever be indebted to Peter for showing me the beauty of humility, the strength that comes from the courage from deep unadulterated conviction, and the will to act on those convictions under the shadow of real or imagined dangers.

When I speak of these ideas at a gathering or to an individual, I feel I am passing a little of Peter on to others. Many around the world do not know Peter but they have been touched by his idealism and they have lost a true friend.

Mirza A. Beg

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