I was in my green hole on May 4, 1970 when I heard four students had been killed at Kent State by the National Guard. Usually, I think about such things and then swallow it, but that day I felt like I just had to talk to somebody, so I drove 15 miles or so to this gas station where a guy I knew was pumping gas.
We weren’t really friends. But we had known each other in high school. He was a year behind me and when he graduated he went off to Harvard. He was real bright, the son of a postman, and had red hair like me, but more orange. He had heard about the Kent State thing, and while I went on about it, he didn’t seem much affected. Finally, he said, leaning up against my car, “You are fucking innocent.”
That sort of stuck in my like a burr. I don’t know what he had seen at Harvard, but he had seen stuff I had not seen and guess I never will. I guess he had seen with his own eyes how people at the top act and talk about people that are not at the top. For years after, he worked with an international leftist, marxist, trotskyite, union movement; he lived in a commune and worked in factories so he could organize workers. When he applied for a job, he never put down that he had been graduated from Harvard because if he did, they were sure not to hire him.
Somebody back then said, he had learned more about politics from resisting the draft than he had ever learned or would ever learn from any political science class. I had learned as I think Max Weber said, Society is God. Or as Sartre said, Society decides who lives and who dies. And politics is about the use and distribution of power within that society. Or as Mao said, power comes from the barrel of a gun. I had learned that when push comes to shove society doesn’t give a flying fuck about the individual, at least not about individuals who have no power and can’t defend themselves. For such people there is no recourse. They are like that kid in Tiananmen Square. The tank just rolls over them and you’re just a red spot on the pavement.
Maybe at Harvard my friend had met the people who drive the tank, for whom the draft and the war was a matter of inconvenience because they had doctors and lawyers and connections and ways to get in the National Guard with no sweat. And not like it was for so many a ball crushing major mother of a titanic fuck up that altered their lives in significantly destructive ways.
At Harvard I suspect, he met the real draft dodgers.