One of his passions was collecting political posters, the artistic messages that articulated social justice issues like ideological laser pointers. Michael collected 25,000 of those posters over 30 years, eventually donating the entire collection to a museum upon his death in 2008.
In my walks around the Old Quarter, I stumbled into a poster shop. Not just any ordinary poster shop, but a propaganda poster shop. It wasn’t very big. None of them are. But the walls were plastered with Vietnam War era silkscreens on rice paper. There were so many there were stacks of smaller ones on a table and racks on the floor. I recognized some of them.
At the time, some of these must have been the most popular propaganda art ever produced. How many college dorm rooms had the iconic poster of Ho Chi Minh?
It also brought back a rush of memories…a time of inner and outer turmoil, awakening political awareness, personal transformation, alliances, the formation of lifelong friendships. One of those friendships was with Michael Rossman, a leader of the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley (1964), and its chronicler. As a writer, poet, musician, biologist, mentor and friend, he was beyond compare. A root teacher in the purest sense.
As I stood in that shop in Hanoi, his ghost rose up inside me for a visit, pulling my heart into my throat for a moment–just to say hello.
Dear Michael, you are so sorely missed.