Jose Maria Sison.
For decades, when "communist" was the worst thing the United States could say about someone, he was a communist. Now that "terrorist" is the worst thing the U.S. can say about someone, he's a terrorist.
Without labels, and indisputably: he's an intellectual ally and source of inspiration for the 9,000 soldiers still fighting for a communist revolution in the Philippines, a country of 90 million people.
He suffered for his cause, class struggle, while many others have suffered worse be-cause of it. Who but the impoverished people of the Philippines can say whether Sison represents (some of) them? Or whether they see "revolutionary taxes" as mere extortion?
The Philippines has a bloody history, thanks in part to its best and worst friend, the United States. I wonder whether Sison's conscience ever troubles him about his role in it all.
At any rate, I think he still has a part to play on the world's stage, and I felt it was my duty to interview him.
I could write 5,000 words about the contradictions and ironies of an American reporter interviewing Sison in the Netherlands.
But in summary, life's strange mutations brought two people of radically different world views to the same spot, far from our respective homes, to play our respective roles.
Superficially, he probably sees me as a numbskull, or ignorant; and I told him I see him in part as an anachronism.
The truth is more complicated.
Anyhow, I filmed a brief fragment of the interview, and here it is.
He's saying that since his (most recent) release from prison, he's "been up to good things."
And here, a special treat for anyone who kept reading past the "jump."
This is a sound clip from Sison's website, nestled among the protest songs, of him singing "I Did It My Way." With a lyric or two tweaked.
Sinatra he's not; but you certainly can't accuse him of not having a sense of humor.