Combat to the bigger risks I took among the addicts were not the real trials for me. There is an exhilaration in taking risks. In a firefight you join with others. For me, that was a relief. All my life I fought alone.
One major thing that happened to the Obedient Generation was that they learned that nothing is RIGHT unless you do it in a mob. As Mencken said military thinking is the worst kind of training for free men. It teaches them not to do anything unless it is Groupthink.
“You learn to give orders,” the cliché goes, “By learning to TAKE orders.” That is fine for a slave overseer, but not for a free man.
Ann Rice was talking about her youth being what they called a Free Spirit in California. She said, somewhat wonderingly, that these Free Sprits would ask each other, “Are WE still boycotting grapes?” I doubt most of her readers got the full impact of that.
Those in the sixties who thought they were rebelling against their Obedient Generation fathers did not have any idea how exactly like their fathers they were. As Rice pointed out, in order to be a Free Sprit, you joined the Free Spirit Movement. You thought just like every other Free Spirit, just like a good soldier.
You even wore a uniform! We all knew “hippies” from their clothes. You could tell someone’s hippie politics from a block away, exactly the way you knew a soldier or a sailor.
When the media refer to the Youth Movement, they mean a group of people of a certain age who they insist think exactly alike. Those who insist they are anti-stereotype always refer to young people as “idealistic,” meaning they think like the old lefty who can’t admit he’s getting old.
In the Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn kept repeating that a free man had to have “a personal point of view.” In his years Soviet concentration camps, he got an idealistic vision of Americans. Actually, he would have been at home among Americans before his generation.
But when he got here, he raised hell. He was shocked to find that the last people who have a personal point of view in America was our self-described “free thinkers.” He said t hey were kind of free thinkers he had seen in the KGB.
One of the greatest compliments I ever got was from Bill Rusher. He said that at the weekly editorial meeting someone had commiserated with Buckley, “You have gotten jumped on this week by both Solzhenitsyn AND Whitaker.”
I couldn’t quite believe that someone, someone hostile, had actually put me in THAT category!
In one way, miles distant, we were alike. Solzhenitsyn had done his fighting ALONE. He had been a dissenter in a totalitarian state. He had been in World War II, and on the Eastern Front, the one that made France look like a picnic. But he saw that as a good time in his life, before he was arrested on the front and sent to the Gulag.
Solzhenitsyn looked at others as the World War II Generation looked at everybody else. The obedient Generation said, “Nobody else could join thousands of others in an attack?”
As a matter of fact, MILLIONS of other did that, and some of them were pre-teens.
But Solzhenitsyn asked something rare, and even rare among SURVIVORS of tyranny: “Could this person be where I was and maintain a PERSONAL point of view in a situation which makes the hardest combat seem like a wonderful dream?”
He quickly came to DESPISE Modern Age Americans. He was right that if Americans put on Soviet costumes they would make good KGB.
I will never quite get over being put together with that man, however briefly. And the guy who did was not aware he was complimenting me.