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Bombing on the Mind

In those glum hours between rallies, the intestines of competing, incipient leaders churn. Big Marv sits alone outside the Lion's Den, receding into a bank of mirrors. A small freshman boy spots him.

"You should have trashed the building on the way out. You needed to get those non-militant people hungry for action."

"Yeah," says Marv. "We shoulda trashed the building."

By nine at the Sundial, Big Marv is in punching form.

"I'll make this brief. You gotta speak to the Man in the language he understands. We've gotta use the language of rocks and the language of guns. We heard a great man named Hoffman today. He has a friend named Rubin. And what was the name of Rubin's book?"

"DO IT!"

"Now, how many midnight raiders have I got in the crowd?"

Big Marv leaps off the Sundial in a mid-air run.

That night two hundred, maybe three hundred—people and press spend hours arguing about the numbers later—smashed the glass of the ruling class. And waited to see how many liberals liked the noise.

Marc walks down Morningside Avenue in his Army surplus jacket, but his cop-out from military service is no comfort. He didn't even burn his draft card. Just refused to go to ROTC. "It wasn't an anti-military thing. I just refused to keep my shoes shined." When he was bounced from his first college, a friend got him into a Midwestern school where his roommate was a self-styled Communist. The largest influence on Marc's swing leftward, the Communist is now divorced and hunting—literally checking out applicants all over New York—for a Japanese girl to serve him. "A most extraordinary chauvinist," as Marc speaks of him now. But in Marc's face, when he talks of the Communist, the down lines pull up and his mustache spread-eagles over a smile.

"I have this almost complete disgust for his ideas, and at the same time . . . this almost love for him."

At the edge of Morningside Avenue is a black iron fence. Marc looks over the rim into the bowl of scrapgray buildings called Harlem. In them live the scrap people whose walls are cemented with sand and roaches and whose streets are pop-up garbage pails. Marc is beyond the reaction of knee-jerk irrelevance. Fenced in on all sides. What options are open to a self-respecting Jewish radical these days? Can he be happy as a Scarsdale dentist? Medicine, law, government advisory service—the traditional fields are tainted ruling-class blue. The dress business? One must employ workers. Become a worker? Say, a waiter at Ratner's. Has anyone seen an angrier man than a Ratner's waiter?

Marc is bombarded by feminists for being a male sexist . . . by his parents for not being Norman Thomas . . . by the Panthers for not being black . . . by PL for not getting chummy with cafeteria workers . . . by ultra-militant friends for not being Ready To Die. Scorned on all sides for not being poor enough, liberated enough, violent enough, Marc is deprived of being genuinely deprived.

Perhaps never have Americans, particularly New Yorkers and most especially white-middle-class radicals, been more free to create a private life style. White boys can wear Afros, black men can be hippies. Liberated women can lock editor John Mack Carter in the Ladies' Home Journal bathroom and tell their tale on the tube . . . Jerry Rubin smokes pot on Channel 11 . . . marriage is something hip parents try to talk their 23-year-old daughters out of ("Why don't you live with him for a while, dear?"). Communal living, denounced only two years ago as the final depths of our moral anarchy, received the kiss of a Life magazine cover last summer. Vermonters took communal livers to their hearts almost immediately, drawn to their flinty individualism and respect for privacy. At this rate John and Yoko could probably do it in the road by next Christmas. While eating a hamburger. This is oppression?

At the same time, for real reasons beginning with the shock of John Kennedy's assassination in continuous performance on TV, Americans have struck up a romance with civilian death. The Woman of the Year is most likely to be a widow—Jacqueline Kennedy, Ethel Kennedy, Coretta King, preferably an assassination victim's widow, though just a widow will do. This year it will probably be Rose Kennedy. Rich white brain-laden students idolize black radicals because they have plausible reasons to die. For some young white radicals it is enough to participate in the chic of rage and the ecstasy of despair. Moments after the excitement of trashing Columbia, a radical student found himself sitting in another tactics meeting. He dropped his head into his hands. "We'll never have a revolution in this country. Too many people are happy."


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