This piece first appeared in the News on September 19, 1968.
It must have happened to you, too. I never considered myself particularly unique, so it must be a trend, some kind of national sickness.
Anyway, it happened every time I found myself either at home with neighbors, or with virtually any middle aged, arm-chair riot watcher and newspaper reader.
What happened was that I became the prototype “young radical I’ve wanted to get my hands on all year.”
And invariably the hands were used to sit me down in some inescapable spot for the inevitable harangue. The remarkable part of it all is the almost ludicrous conformity of abuse, from content to style.
“Just what the hell do you Mark Rudds want to do to this counrty of ours?” is the standard one-liner.
Among the more popular follow-ups are the “my generation fought, why can’t yours,” or the “it’s obvious to me the demonstrations are Communist-led” gambits. With the latter you get the “take it from someone who’s been around” look, while the former almost always brought on a variation of the sincere, strong-grip-on-the-shoulder startegy.
Through the whole routine you can’t help but notice that all of them, from parents to strangers on the bus, have been holding in a great deal of frustration about the student scene. All of them seemed to want a target, an object, rather than a partner for discussion. Whenever my assailant would give me rebuttal time, it was only with the intention of gathering wind for a fresh assault.
I soon discovered I had become a release mechanism for a whole panoply of pent-up aggressions.
It seems to me that the generation is not a gap at all but a delicate nexus woven of thin strands of nerve tissue. And I’ve never seen more strain than in this year of generally strained nerves.
But it all must have happened to you. I never considered myself particularly unique. I don’t really look much like Mark Rudd or Daniel Cohn-Bendit, do I?