Four young 'uns
The first were two twenty-year old West Pointers. I was sitting on a bench near the center of Central park when these two somewhat bewildered guys, Jacob and Adam, came by. They explained that they were midwesterners, who had had little experience of the big city. They couldn’t find their way out of the park!
Over the next couple of hours I guided them through some of the sights of the West Side, citing my own bewilderment when I arrived in the Gotham fifty-one years ago. In turn they gave me pertinent details of their West Point training. They stoically accepted the fact that in all likelihood they would be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan on graduation. Otherwise we did not discuss politics. These two guys were all the more impressive for being “ordinary” cadets at our military academy. Of course my views about the Iraq war have not changed. But I now see, from the direct experience, the value of supporting the troops. They truly are the best we have ever had.
The second experience was quite different. At Columbia I had attended a panel consisting of thoughtful conservatives, including Phyllis Chessler and Ibn Warraq, the critic of Islam. On leaving the hall I was approached by a young woman who sought my views. Her approach was superbly understanding and noncontroversial. With empathic sensitivity she probed my thoughts, with little indication of her own approach to the panel, though I sensed that it was less approving than my (qualified) one. Verily we reasoned together. I was not actually surprised when, at the end, she identified herself as a member of a Maoist Revolutionary group.
Over many years of experience I have become deeply disenchanted (if that is the word) with such marginal political groupuscules. By the same token, though, I remember the crucial role played by Trotskyists and other leftists in organizing protests against the Vietnam war. These “fanatics” were there when the New York Times was still cheerleading for the war in Southeast Asia--as it did again in the run-up to the Iraq fiasco. Truly we need these “marginal” people.
The fourth encounter was with another leftist, a self-proclaimed "revolutionary" who was distributing leaflets on Broadway opposing bombing Iran. Our colloquy was brief, yet his sincerity, burning but calm, was manifest.
So there you have it. Two gung ho right-wingers and two left sectarians. All four were fine people, finer ones I cannot imagine. Collectively they give me hope for the future of this country.