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We Won’t Go

In response to:

"We Won't Go" from the May 18, 1967 issue

To the Editors:

Paul Goodman’s report in the May 18 issue was an absorbing description of the events, emotions, and motives surrounding the anti-draft protests. It was also quite irritating. The writer’s unabashed admiration for these young people, an admiration bordering on idolatry, made embarrassing reading. Will there never be an end to this uncritical worship of the young? That the young themselves assert the worthlessness of anyone over thirty is bad enough. That we accept this ridiculous verdict as a piece of revealed wisdom is absurd. Mr. Goodman must have written some passages with tongue in cheek. The general tone of his remarks, however, was consistent with his message, and it was this message which proved most unsettling to one reader who is also opposed to the administration’s Vietnam policy and war. Mr. Goodman sympathetically describes the idealistic attitudes of the young protesters. Well and good. But he also fits their seemingly ad hoc actions into his own scheme of a populist social revolution in America, together with black power advocates and labor union movements. At times one cannot shake off the uncomfortable feeling (surely not intended) that he would use the student protesters, willy-nilly, for his own preconceived vision of a “decent society.” Or is such a suspicion really preposterous in a fantasy world where White House guards mow down demonstrators and a militaristic CIA imposes martial law? God knows, the present situation is enough to cause frustrations and even severe doubts as to the utility of formal democratic processes. Here in Mr. Goodman’s article, by the way, Professor Aiken might find the answer to part of his question. Neither Mr. Goodman nor his student allies would be much interested in demanding the vote for eighteen-year-old draftables, since they see (to some extent rightly) that the election of congressmen or even of the President does not guarantee the triumph of their ideas. No doubt, Mr. Goodman has some theoretical basis for his political views, but even he had to confess, in passing, the difficulties involved in attempting to build a social and political order on the unstructured basis of fraternity and individuality. Here he has touched on the basic problems of all society and government, but he has given us no reason to think that the affairs of our country or the world would be any better off it left to the alleged intelligence, beauty, or honesty of his youthful protesters, fragile reeds indeed to substitute for even a suspect “formal democracy.”

James D. Shand

Loyola University

Chicago, Illinois

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