nibals who gorge on common sense, routinely confer thenvocable “people” upon the most unexpected specimens.nA friend of mine, a lady of flaming liberal persuasion,ntook part in the historic Chicago flare-up during the 1968nDemocratic Party convention. She marched against the war,nthe system, Amerika—meaningless formulations—and fornrefreshing revolution, social change, inebriation with progressn—even sillier suggestions. Her radical storm troopers werenconfronted by a squad of Chicago police, defenders of thenestablished order known for their rather brusque mannernin dealing with opponents. There were black constablesnamong them, and some other husky men with distinctlynSlavic features. My friend, who is rather diminutive, whennfaced with the possibility of being prodded with a club—nan unforeseen offense—is said to have exclaimed with furiousnindignation: “Don’t you dare raise your hand against thenpeople, you pig!” Now, it must be made perfectly clear thatnthe lady in question was a multimillionaire, daughter ofnpatrician New England stock, the descendant of three generationsnof high government officials. I remember asking hernmeekly: “My dear, are you certain that in an encounter withnPolish-American or black officers, loathsome as they mightnhave been to you, you were the appropriate representativenof the people.’* In that case, who were they? Members ofnChase Manhattan’s board of directors or the KnickerbockernClub.”” She seemed to be scandalized: “They were fascists,”nshe asserted firmly. “I was people. At least, at that moment.”nIt was then when I realized that in the 60’s America hadncome so close to the brink of an abyss that it should be consideredna miracle that it did not tumble down forever. ThenAmerican civilization had been, for more than four centuries,nstructured on reason: in the 60’s, its fundamentals, groundednin rationality, logic, empiricism, broke down as if undernthe pressure of a tectonic catastrophe. Lie was declared tonbe truth, and was consumed by many like a communion wafer.nGenuine human desires were supplanted by phony cravings,nand these—propounded through the dank sewers of massncommunication by the giants of journalistic riffraff—camento be declared salvation. The Stalinist wickedness of Vietnamesencommunists became the official morality of the SamnBrowns, their vile ticket to future riches. The most nourishingnconventions, which once made the human conditionndistinguishable from barbarity, collapsed. A new reality innwhich nihilism meant freedom and sensibility equaled oppressionnwas in the making. We know now that it did notnprevail, but how close were we to a holocaust, how much didnit reduce the dignity of our existence, dwarf our sense ofnpurpose?nI . stood on Fifth Avenue watching a parade of the Veteransnof Foreign Wars. Superannuated, tired legionnaires withnwooden rifles marched sloppily but cheerfully, pretending tonbe still jaunty and vigorous, while knowing well, but obviouslynwithout resignation, how far over the hill they really were.nNext to me a trio of two men and a woman, all in their earlyntwenties, brimming with routinely standardized rebellion,nas was customary in those days of all-encompassing sham,nheckled the legionnaires. The men were bearded, beefy, unwashed,nvisibly well-fed and drugged, dressed in dirty ponchos,nbeads and those poor-cowpoke’s duds which their ilk usednto purchase for hundreds of dollars in Greenwich Villagenboutiques so they could look like starving Bolivian peasantrynor army deserters in Sweden. They were shouting: “Powernto the people!” having, of course, themselves in mind, and:n”Death to baby killers!” having, of course, the veterans innmind. The marchers smiled helplessly, as if they were uncertainnwhat to think about such a travesty, or idiocy, not knowingnwhether these three were really aware of what they werenshouting. Those legionnaires were small-town mechanics,ngrocers, car dealers who, in all likelihood, had considerednthemselves to be people throughout their entire lives. Theynfought in wars to defend the people, people’s institutions,ntraditions and sentiments, all of which seemed to them theirnonly unquestionable and inviolable reality. People’s freedomnhad meant to them freedom even for these dregs of poshnAmerican suburbia, who were masquerading as victims ofnsome unnamed injustice, and who were right then execratingnthem from a New York sidewalk. In the perplexed gawkishnessnof the legionnaire’s stares I saw a mixture of despairnand defenselessness—the simple people’s everlasting inferioritynwhen it comes to dealing with those who usurp thenword “people” and employ it in the most ignominious fibbingnin order to subjugate people.nThus, amidst the world’s most famous skyscrapers, oncenso stubbornly defended by the poor veterans, I asked myselfnnagging questions. Why is it that the dowdy marchers,nwhen juxtaposed with those who are denigrating them,ntransmute—at least in my eyes—into sublime idealists, mankind’snprice and virtue—and they do not even know it? Whynis it that those who perversely proclaim liberation fromnimaginary fetters, snort cocaine, have always had everythingnin profligate abundance and were never hungry, strive sonrecklessly to decide what suffering and sacrifice are, whonshould eat and how much? Why won’t they ever realize,nand even less admit, that those who live by the left-radicalngospel are and always have been the most ignoble causalnfactors of the worst miseries, oppressions, woes, cruelties,nagonies and persecutions to befall humanity? What givesnthem the right to feel morally superior to the legionnaires,nand why do they perceive this repulsive arrogance as loftynrectitude and use their P.R. propagandists to inject it intonthe national consciousness? Surely Messrs. Mencken andnSinclair Lewis looked quite sinful from my observation pointncontinued on page 43nnnMarch April 1980n