Now officially known as Muhammad Ali, he was about to face a greater fight
than the one in the ring. He was furious at what America was doing
in Vietnam--the slaughter of innocent men, women, and children. He
True Strength in a Man
with a discussion about Muhammad Ali
had seen a series of pictures in a magazine showing mangled bodies of dead
Viet Cong laid out along the highway like rows of logs... The only enemy
alive was a little naked girl, searching among the bodies, her eyes wide,
frightened. I clipped out the picture and the face has never quite
left my mind.
Because of his deep ethical objection, which I respect tremendously, Ali
said he would not serve in the Army. He was threatened, called "unAmerican
and a traitor" by the press and boxing establishment. He was offered
deals of special treatment in the Army. Ali did not waver.
He refused induction and was convicted and sentenced to five years in jail.
His title was taken away and he was barred from boxing. Eli Siegel,
who courageously opposed the Vietnam war from its beginning, composed this
poem about Ali in May, 1967, titled "Correction":
Despite the unjust action taken against him, Ali remained strong
because he was fighting for the well-being of people. He said: "I
felt better than when I beat the 8 to 1 odds and won the title from
I regret tremendously that during the 1960's I was not against the Vietnam
War. I wanted my comfort and what I saw as my right as an American
to be superior to people. I felt Ali was reckless, stirring up people
needlessly, and rooted against him. I didn't think about justice
and I loathed myself for this.
In an Aesthetic Realism Class of 1974, I asked Mr. Siegel about a dream
which had troubled me. It was about Muhammad Ali and his upcoming
second fight with Joe Frazier. Mr. Siegel, with great kindness, showed
how the dream commented centrally on where I was against myself.
He asked me: "Do you identify with both of them?" I replied, "More with
Frazier, Ali brags too much."
should brag even more. I can't think of a nicer heavyweight.
Do you think he has sincere religious feelings?
answered. Said Mr. Siegel, "He's a muscular and intellectual heavyweight."
Mr. Siegel that Ali lost the fight in my dream. He asked:
you sad about the result? Don't you think you had a preference?
Who is more external, who doesn't care more for his deeper feelings?
And he continued:
like most people who don't want to think they have any
inner life. It's annoying and a nuisance. You don't want to
be a sissy. Do you think the purpose of life is to put on
a good show? Public and private, inner and outer, do you want
to take care of both of them?
then asked me:
there a depth that got you to be born? Would you like the deep to
explain the superficial or the superficial to make fun of the deep?
As soon as you explain the superficial, you have to be deep.
Strength in a Man in How He Sees Love
Ali, like many men, has had pain in love. He has been married four
times. Yet I am moved by how he wanted to see the mistakes he made
with his first wife, Sonji. They had been divorced for several years,
but he interviewed her on tape for his autobiography, wanting her side
of what happened in their marriage to be in it. He said he wanted
had really happened to us? Who had been right, who was wrong?
What had living with me been like for her? How much had gone unsaid?
Maybe she could say now what she had never said before? ... maybe I could
listen to her as I had never done.
Later as they spoke, Ali expressed regret to her for not wanting to understand
her. This was true strength and shows how hungry he was, and is,
to know how to have good will for women.
In an Aesthetic Realism Class taught by Ellen Reiss, I heard questions
about what good will includes, which brought out the best in me.
They are now published in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known,
issue 900 under the title "Good Will For Any Person." I had
asked what good will would be for the woman I love, Lynette Abel, who,
I am glad to say is now my wife, and Ms. Reiss presented these questions.
They read in part:
The first thing
in good will for Lynette Abel is to ask: Who is Lynette Abel? What does
she say about the whole world, and what does the whole world say about
her? With that, and arising from it, is: What would it mean for Lynette
Abel to be all she can be? What does it mean (and this is a synonym) for
Lynette Abel to be as strong as she can be?; as good as she can be?; as
beautiful as she can be? What can be the means to encourage that — including,
Where could I, Michael Palmer, be a means of encouraging that to be?
Studying these questions together with Lynette, I understand her more deeply,
see more keenly her relation to the world and what she is hoping for.
I like thinking about what will strengthen her and acting upon it.
I feel stronger, kinder, and have greater respect, and there is new, exciting
feeling between us. I thank Ellen Reiss for her kind imagination,
her knowledge, and good will.
Must Know What Will Make Him Strong
being banned for three-and-a-half years, Muhammad Ali was able to return
to boxing and regain the title in 1974, but he was not the fighter he once
In 1984, three years after his last bout, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's
Syndrome. Despite his illness, he still speaks out against injustice
in the world. He has received the United Nations special "Messenger
of Peace" citation. In 1990, prior to the Persian Gulf War he went
to Baghdad, Iraq and gained the release of hostages. He spoke movingly
of Baghdad, saying:
is the land of the Garden of Eden, and the land where Abraham was born.
How could it be bombed.
This stands for the best
thing in a man — which I'm glad to be learning about--the desire to be
kind and just.
Editor's note: Michael Palmer, who had 36 years of experience in
radio broadcasting, news and sports, is an Aesthetic Realism associate.
He has written important articles — including about racism in sports —
which have been published in cities across America.
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