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IT WAS in the air when we came back to Cambridge this fall. There is a pervading sense of futility and meaninglessness and hopelessness and all those adolescent hang-ups, and there is a war that just won't go away.
So we are going to Washington today or tomorrow for a big parade with thousands of radicals and pacifists, peace symbols and Viet Cong flags, troops and parade permits. Few know precisely why they are going; many who support immediate withdrawal are not going; some of those going are fairly conservative.
Violence is in the air. Agnew and his friends from the animal farm have stirred it up as much as possible. Nixon's speech shot down our feeble hopes and drew the battle lines, as it was surely intended to do. He defined anti-war protestors, in effect, as traitors to reason and the democratic processes of the greatest nation in the history of the world.
The gap between Left and Right now seems utterly unbridgeable. Nixon and the Mobe each has its strategy, each dismayingly obscure. We are pawns in a game with uncertain rules and rewards.
It seems right that this incomprehensible march should be the focus of the second month of the Moratorium. The calmness and rationality died with the idea of canvassing for a true majority against the war. How could a few hundred thousand kids convince millions of adults to support actions that would result in victory for an army which has killed thousands of American boys? It can't be done. All the anti-war talk of the last few years seems either naive or dishonest now. We want to stop the war not because it is too expensive, but because it is a bloody holding action to stall a victory by the legitimate though repressive government of the people. Tell that to a woman whose son was mangled by punji sticks or a terrorist attack.
IT WOULD take a hopelessly long time to convince a majority of the nation that the NLF is right, and we don't see how we can wait much longer for the war to end. The political games of 1968 pushed the shame out of our minds only temporarily-we had been licked in the streets and convention hall of Chicago, but that couldn't put us off forever. Now we are spoiling for a new fight.
But we don't quite know what kind of fight we can wage. "Surely." Tom Wicker wrote in Tuesday's Times, "Mr. Nixon does not wish the world to see protesting Americans clubbed in the streets with the White House as a backdrop." Why would Nixon not want a good bloody knock-some-sense-into-their-dirty-heads streetlight to show the Viet Cong and the world that Nixon is in the driver's seat? And why should he be afraid of further alienating the anti-war movement? The fact that we have to beg for a parade permit after four years of this war shows our impotence.
The whole point of Washington is the symbolic confrontation, the possibility of violence we detest but feel we must not run from. The public still isn't interested in what we have to say: Politicians and the press talk about parade permits and troop concentrations; they still find it newsworthy that the demonstration will give aid and comfort to the "enemy." Violence may make the public close their ears to us, but nothing we can do will make them listen.
So why are we going? We can make a witness to America and the world that not everyone approves of what the government is doing at this moment in history, that not everyone went along with the manipulated majority-but that is a sterile exercise in working out our own frustrations. The march is the social event of the season-but that isn't enough to justify the long drive (below the speed limit, so as to give no pretext for arrests).
WE ARE going because the war and the things it symbolizes have warped our lives, because there is almost nothing for us to do but march. We may hate the violence if it comes: we may stand by disapprovingly while others charge the troops and attack the Orwellian Justice Department: we may wish the Weathermen spent more time listening to Dylan. We may even formally dissociate ourselves from the violence; we may do that with the utmost sincerity.
But we go fearing that hatred and violence-even senseless violence-is the sour culmination of our indignation at America's brutality. We know that we have to find something to warp us back, something to make us think of America as something other than a battleground. We hope Washington will be that something.
It won't be; it will be boring and fruitless. And we may not go back again.
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