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'69 Alumnus Reflects on 'Revolution'

By James K. Glassman

Truth is, I missed the revolution. When a few hundred students were routed from University Hall by Cambridge constabulary in riot gear on the night of April 9 and 10, 1969, I was extending my spring vacation to visit pals in Princeton.

It was a terrible shock to find the outside world invading your campus. Much of our class reacted with rage and chat. There were tee shirts, mass meetings in the stadium, discussions into the night. I can remember the photographs of the helmets gleaming.

We graduated two months later, and, though I wrote for The Boston Globe and The Atlantic Monthly about anti-war demonstrations that followed--including the Days of Rage in Chicago, when the Weathermen self-destructed in hail of rocks and bottles--I knew that the fun was over.

In fact, the efficient work of the police in the Yard that April night confirmed what many of us had long suspected: that what we were doing in protesting the Vietnam War, the

James K. Glassman '69, former managing editor of The Crimson, writes a twice-weekly column for The Washington Post. He is the former publisher of The New Republic and The Atlantic Monthly, and editor of Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper. Reserve Officers Training Corps, investments inSouth Africa, the lack of Black studies and thelike, was playpen stuff. It was intellectuallyengaging, exhilarating and libidinous. But itwasn't the real thing.

What was different about the late '60s was thatour elders listened to us, nodded their heads atout vulgar Marxism or whatever it was and said,"Right on!" They put us on the cover of Time. Theybelieved that Wordsworth stuff about "The child isthe father of man."

They believed that their generation had ruinedthe world and that we were its salvation. Ourparents are the ones who struggled through theDepression, who fought for democracy and freedomin Europe and the Pacific. They were the ones whooverreached, probably out of hubris and fear, inVietnam.

For their own perceived failures and for lotsof other reasons, the oldsters paid attention tous--far too much attention.

With attention came indulgence. The secondimportant fact about those heady days was that,while we thought we were doing important things,few of us took real risks.

Consider, for example, what happened to me andmy friend John G. Short '70 during the 1968 Dowsit-in. A recruiter had come to campus from DowChemical, the company that made napalm, analuminum soap made of various fatty acids which,when dropped from planes in wartime, wouldsometimes burn the backs off children. Dow bacamea symbol of greedy corporate investment in the warin Southeast Asia.

Anyway, Dow wanted to hire graduating Harvardstudents. (This was 1968 and the unemployment ratewas 3.6 percent.) The anti-war folks started ademonstration to block the recruiter form hisprospective hirees.

Short was a Crimson photographer, and I was areporter, but we weren't on assignment. WEstumbled across the demonstration and sat downwith everyone else to block the recruiter. Acollege official asked us to leave and when wewouldn't, he began taking names. And so thequestion to Short and me: Were we reporters (andin that case, innocent observers) or were weparticipants (and culpable activists)? Our choice.

We decided to be participants. But whatpunishment did we get for violating the rights ofthe recruiter and the waiting interviewees? It wassomething called "probation"--a penalty obviouslydevised for academic miscreants since the onlyreal sanction was that we couldn't be officers ina Harvard organization for a semester.

But this presented a problem. Short wasscheduled to become the next photo editor of TheCrimson, and I was the next managing editor. SoBoisfeuillet Jones '68, the outgoing president,negotiated a deal with the dean: Short andGlassman would do their new jobs, but The Crimsonwon't make it public. We'll keep them off themasthead until the beginning of 1969.

My point is that we ran no risk. what if we hadbeen told by the dean during that protest: "All ofyou blocking this recruiter will be expelledtomorrow unless you move." Would we still havewanted to stop the war machine?

We were playing--and I'm not knocking it. Itwas exactly the right time in our lives to beplaying. Then, on that April night some of us wenttoo far, and Harvard called in the world. JodyAdams '69, a Crimson reporter and now a New Yorkjudge, described what happened to her 25 years agoin University Hall when the police entered theYard:

"I turned and ran into the little room, wherepeople were jumping out of an open window...Ilooked down the 10- to 12-foot drop and saw acircle of cops waiting for me. I stared at them,unable to move for several second...Then I madeeye contact with one cop. 'Will you catch me ifjump?'

'Get off the damned window.'

'I cannot get off, there are too many peoplebehind me.'

'That's your problem, honey. Get the hell ofthe window.'"

No longer indulgent or attentive, the worlddoesn't care if you break your neck.

While time has properly diminished whathappened then, and while I remember much of thatperiod with embarassment, I have to admit I had agreat time. I remember most of all running. NotJogging, for godsake. Running up Plympton Street,a chubby guy, puffing, because I wanted so much toget to the next thing to do.

And of course, there was the Northeast blackouttwo months into our freshman year. We sat in theYard wondering whether the world had ended but, atthat point, not minding if it had. And threeNovembers, later, the greatest football game ofall time.

In between, I was with Norman Mailer at thePentagon, with H. Rap Brown at Columbia, withShort (golden curls, white jeans, black boots) atHarvard. Short, who died 11 years ago of cancer,was a gentle anarchist. He would parade withplacards whose main purpose was to confuse. Thenhe moved to existentialism and agnosticism, and Ifollowed. He ended his magnificent piece on theDays of Rage this way:

"Everyone thinks they know. I don't know. Ican't say the Weathermen are wrong. I can act; Ican make decision, and try to keep doing onlythose things that seem to make sense. But I don'tknow. I don't' think I'll ever know."

Exactly, Short.

It is so hard to describe that time. It waslike a joke where, for it to be funny, you had tobe there.

I can tell you what it wasn't. It wasn't a timelike now of individual grievance, of the grousingof this or that group. Yes, the protests wereconnected to demands--get out of Vietnam, endofficer training on campus, build low-rentapartments in Central Square. But the actionsseemed to be more important than the reasons forthem.

Whatever it was, those who were there, who werein on the joke, know two things: It was awonderful time, and it won't ever come again

What was different about the late '60s was thatour elders listened to us, nodded their heads atout vulgar Marxism or whatever it was and said,"Right on!" They put us on the cover of Time. Theybelieved that Wordsworth stuff about "The child isthe father of man."

They believed that their generation had ruinedthe world and that we were its salvation. Ourparents are the ones who struggled through theDepression, who fought for democracy and freedomin Europe and the Pacific. They were the ones whooverreached, probably out of hubris and fear, inVietnam.

For their own perceived failures and for lotsof other reasons, the oldsters paid attention tous--far too much attention.

With attention came indulgence. The secondimportant fact about those heady days was that,while we thought we were doing important things,few of us took real risks.

Consider, for example, what happened to me andmy friend John G. Short '70 during the 1968 Dowsit-in. A recruiter had come to campus from DowChemical, the company that made napalm, analuminum soap made of various fatty acids which,when dropped from planes in wartime, wouldsometimes burn the backs off children. Dow bacamea symbol of greedy corporate investment in the warin Southeast Asia.

Anyway, Dow wanted to hire graduating Harvardstudents. (This was 1968 and the unemployment ratewas 3.6 percent.) The anti-war folks started ademonstration to block the recruiter form hisprospective hirees.

Short was a Crimson photographer, and I was areporter, but we weren't on assignment. WEstumbled across the demonstration and sat downwith everyone else to block the recruiter. Acollege official asked us to leave and when wewouldn't, he began taking names. And so thequestion to Short and me: Were we reporters (andin that case, innocent observers) or were weparticipants (and culpable activists)? Our choice.

We decided to be participants. But whatpunishment did we get for violating the rights ofthe recruiter and the waiting interviewees? It wassomething called "probation"--a penalty obviouslydevised for academic miscreants since the onlyreal sanction was that we couldn't be officers ina Harvard organization for a semester.

But this presented a problem. Short wasscheduled to become the next photo editor of TheCrimson, and I was the next managing editor. SoBoisfeuillet Jones '68, the outgoing president,negotiated a deal with the dean: Short andGlassman would do their new jobs, but The Crimsonwon't make it public. We'll keep them off themasthead until the beginning of 1969.

My point is that we ran no risk. what if we hadbeen told by the dean during that protest: "All ofyou blocking this recruiter will be expelledtomorrow unless you move." Would we still havewanted to stop the war machine?

We were playing--and I'm not knocking it. Itwas exactly the right time in our lives to beplaying. Then, on that April night some of us wenttoo far, and Harvard called in the world. JodyAdams '69, a Crimson reporter and now a New Yorkjudge, described what happened to her 25 years agoin University Hall when the police entered theYard:

"I turned and ran into the little room, wherepeople were jumping out of an open window...Ilooked down the 10- to 12-foot drop and saw acircle of cops waiting for me. I stared at them,unable to move for several second...Then I madeeye contact with one cop. 'Will you catch me ifjump?'

'Get off the damned window.'

'I cannot get off, there are too many peoplebehind me.'

'That's your problem, honey. Get the hell ofthe window.'"

No longer indulgent or attentive, the worlddoesn't care if you break your neck.

While time has properly diminished whathappened then, and while I remember much of thatperiod with embarassment, I have to admit I had agreat time. I remember most of all running. NotJogging, for godsake. Running up Plympton Street,a chubby guy, puffing, because I wanted so much toget to the next thing to do.

And of course, there was the Northeast blackouttwo months into our freshman year. We sat in theYard wondering whether the world had ended but, atthat point, not minding if it had. And threeNovembers, later, the greatest football game ofall time.

In between, I was with Norman Mailer at thePentagon, with H. Rap Brown at Columbia, withShort (golden curls, white jeans, black boots) atHarvard. Short, who died 11 years ago of cancer,was a gentle anarchist. He would parade withplacards whose main purpose was to confuse. Thenhe moved to existentialism and agnosticism, and Ifollowed. He ended his magnificent piece on theDays of Rage this way:

"Everyone thinks they know. I don't know. Ican't say the Weathermen are wrong. I can act; Ican make decision, and try to keep doing onlythose things that seem to make sense. But I don'tknow. I don't' think I'll ever know."

Exactly, Short.

It is so hard to describe that time. It waslike a joke where, for it to be funny, you had tobe there.

I can tell you what it wasn't. It wasn't a timelike now of individual grievance, of the grousingof this or that group. Yes, the protests wereconnected to demands--get out of Vietnam, endofficer training on campus, build low-rentapartments in Central Square. But the actionsseemed to be more important than the reasons forthem.

Whatever it was, those who were there, who werein on the joke, know two things: It was awonderful time, and it won't ever come again

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