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Editorials printed in The
THURSDAY, JUNE 6, 1968
Michigan Daily exp ress the individual opinions of staff writers
editors. This must be noted in all reprints.
NIGHT EDITOR: DANIEL OKRENT
and the American dream
FOR A FEW brutal moments yesterday
morning the elusive goal of national'
reconciliation, constantly on the lips of
leading political contenders in this cata-
clysmic election year, was achieved.
But it was a nation united by television
to mourn over another grotesque install-
ment of a personal, family and national
tragedy of almost unbearable dimensions.
While the shooting of Senator Robert
Kennedy may have been a fiendishly per-
verted political act, it is a tribute to this
spiritually beleaguered nation that we
faced this new calamity for a few mo-
ments without regard to-the deep-rooted
political passions which divide us.
DESPITE THE frightening increase in
the number of assassinations in this
country in the past five years, all these
actions had a perverted logic of their
own rendering any attempt to neatly fit
them into a larger philosophic context
seem callously contrived.
However, to the American people un-
dergoing a crisis of faith, these events
take on a symbolic importance embrac-
ing all of our national dilemmas.
Many saw in Senator Kennedy a verit-'
able messiah able to grapple successfully
with the enigmatic problems of our cities
which have become armed camps and of
disentangling ourselves from a filthy
war which we can neither continue nor
Even the most bitter of the Senator's
critics questioned not his dedication to
salve these festering sores, but his abil-
ity and freedom from outmoded cant in
order to do so.
As a consequence of this almost uni-
versally acknowledged dedication to face
America's twin dilemmas, the wound
which Senator Kennedy has received is
not merely a grievous personal tragedy,
but a challenge totheslast, lingering
gasps of American idealism as well.
Perhaps this will be the senseless and
irrational act of violence which will shake
the American people out of the reverie
of business as usual and institutional
selfishness and inspire this nation to
make an'equitable adjustment of our un-
- Perhaps this one further act of de-
struction will inspire America to realize
that the destruction rather than the
spread of global conflagration must al-
ways be our highest end.
OOMANY AMERICANS have suffered
in vain both on the battlefields of
Vietnam and the streets of our cities. Too
many leaders trying to arouse the Amer-
idan conscience have been felled by as-
sassins. There will be no respite for this
all-consuming horror if we allow our-
selves to slip through another cataclysm
with pious words and timid deeds.
The personal tragedy of Robert Ken-
nedy, as he lingers tenuously between
life and death, is an event which
stretches the vocabulary of despair past
its outermost limits.
But if each American fails to feel
shame for his own personal role in bring-
ing this nation to this peak of violence
and extreme egocentricity, then perhaps
it is time to administer the last rites to
the American dream as well.
The dreams of a perhaps more naive and hopeful era died amidst
an act of irrational fury in Dallas just four and a half years ago.
It is difficult to express precisely what quality of ours was felled by
an assassin's bullets so few and yet so many hours ago in a Los Angeles
Perhaps it was hope, an ever dwindling commodity, for a new begin.
ning. Perhaps what snapped was the thin cord of belief in the promise
that seemed to be America. Perhaps this mindless act was the executioner
of any slim faith that rationality has a place in human affairs.
If Robert Kennedy was personified by one quality it was youth.
This too may be outmoded in face of our care-worn grief at witnessing
what America has brought forth on this continent.
Hubris is a classical concept, but only Greek tragedy can equal our
numb horror. The fatal pride of the Kennedys may have been their life-
affirming and exuberant confidencein the manageability of the affairs of
Robert Kennedy died amid the beauty and the flower of late spring.
But this grotesquely untimely passing has locked our souls in the depths
of the dark winter night.
Robert Kennedy died this morning. And perhaps the last of "our in-
nocence perished with him.
-The Michigan Daily
"THE ASSAILANT, apparently standing on a box or a can for better
vantage, swiftly pumped ill eight shots of his revolver at Kennedy.
"None of the other wounded was hurt as critically as the senator.
'Those who were ;in the corridor had differing accounts of the
"Some told of hearing him shout: 'I did it for my country.'
"Others said he cried as he shot: 'I can explain. Let me explain.'"
I CAN REMEMBER what I learned about political participation
in Amierica in an introductory poly sci course - a "learning" which
was more a statistical reaffirmation of a truth I had always uncon-
sciously known. Everyone who lives in the real world instinctively
grasps the extent of the American public's political apathy. The ex-
tensive 'statistics showiig how few people vote, how fewer :vote' on
a rational basis,and what an infinitesimally few take part in the
tedious work of cultivating votes for one .or the other of the political
parties - these statistics are merely another way of saying that, in
America, fooball or even basketball gets better Nielsen ratings than
Ours is indeed a politics of compromises between clashing groups
with conflicting interests. The individual who is a member of a group
which carries political weight need not worry about politics himself,
for he has the group to worry about it for him. Indeed, even if he
did wish to affect national policy decisions, he would be likely to ram
his head against a wall.
HIS CONGRESSMAN is likely to regard his letters of advice as
something less than oracular; his chances of meeting, with the Presi-
dent would make a burned out'light bulb seem bright. He can vote,
but his is only one vote among many millions, and it can only be cast
for men who say they will do some things and deny they will do others.
Once the votes are counted and the rewards divided up, how can that
one vote hold the office holder it helped elect to his promises?
Not only is the individual irrelevant to and powerless against the
workings of the established political machinery. The shop rules demand
compromise; they are rooted in utilitarian assumptions, designed for
squabbles of interest and power. The citizen who approaches the
automaton with a moral principle, who .demands uncompromising ac-
tion in the name of morality violates the rules, poses to the system
a dilemma it isn't equipped to handle..
* * *
PERHAPS THIS is why the draft resisters, the "disruptive" dem-
onstrators who lock themselves in buildings, the revolutionary students
so irrationally infuriate those with positions ,of power and influence
in the establishment. Far from snake-eyed conservatives, these exec-
utives and administrators are the rationalists, the liberal pragmatists:
they believe in civil liberties on utilitarian grounds; they work for
inchworm social change, because it keeps the social order, intact. To
fight for something because it is right, to commit oneself'to a prin-
ciple, to live one's conscience - as the draft resisters and demon-
strators are doing -is something beyond their ken.
Indeed, in their dedication to principles, the draft resisters are
far closer to the conservatives (who are always demanding that we
"go back to first principles") than to the liberal pragmatists. Slowly,
the liberals are being squeezed between the two; the machinery is
blowing up in their face.
* * *
"KENNEDY FELL to the floor. Blood gushed from his head.
"His wife, Etpel, had been at his side during the victory pro-
nouncement. Walking from the microphone, Kennedy had looked
around, as if searching for her.
"The shots brought pandemonium. There were shrieks of 'God,
God, not again.' There were curses, too.
"'Get a doctor,' someone shouted. 'Please get a doctor.'"
IT HARDLY SEEMS a coincidence that this politics of principles,
commitment, idealism should be heralded in by university students
during the 1960's. At the root of the new politics is an economic fact,
an economic fact which has created and is creating a middle class
radicalism with an ideology which is fundamentally different from
radical ideologies of the Old Left.
This economic reality colors everything the students do. The found-
ing statement of Students for a Democratic Society speaks of the char-
ter members of SDS as men and women "raised in at least moderate
comfort." Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the charismatic French student leader
was asked his opinion of the old-line labor unionists who later joined
the rebellion started by the students. "Stalinist creeps," snapped Cohn-
Bendit. The workers wage demands? "Outrageous," he said.
The SDS sociological profile and the economic pooh-poohing of
"Danny the Red" illustrate the point graphically. These students of
the '60s are indeed moderately comfortable. And only the economically
secure are in a position to insist on absolute moral purity, to reject
out of hand the politics of compromise. Only an economically secure
individual can afford "to lead his own life, according to his conscience
and to those values that guide his life" as one draft resister has put it.
* * *
WALTER SHAPIRO -
It 's never worth.
Gun laws: No panacea
ANYONE WHO WANTS to kill a Presi-
dent can do so. All of, the elaborate
procedures employed to safeguard him
from attack by enraged and deranged in-
dividuals or devious conspiratorial groups
are useless in protecting the lives of our
And legislation controlling the sale and
ownership of firearms, as it is now being
drawn up, would be no more effective
than the current precautions in this re-
A substantial portion of the weapons
which have been used to commit acts
of violence in this country, both by as-
sassins and rioters, have been obtained
illegally. And those who object to fire-
arms legislation on the grounds that in-
dividuals determined to use these wea-
pons for destructive purposes will not be
deterred by legislative prohibitions are
to some degree right in their premise.
For every law that is passed is no more
than an attempt by some to legislate
morality for others. Even those measures
which incorporate the most stringent
penalties and which provide for the
most elaborate procedures for enforce-
ment are ultimately futile against the
determined individual's will to act.
But legislators must be given credit
for a modicum of practicality. Laws are
THE ATTEMPTED assassin of Robert
Kennedy may further isolate the
American politician from his public.
The deaths of President Kennedy and
Martin Luther King, Jr. seem to bring
the fear of assassin to the point of reality.
Immediately after both assassinations,
the nation withdrew in alarm, pledging
better protection for public officials. But
safety seems an impossible thing, for
there is always that one man who suc-
ceeds in the irrational act of violence.
Politicians then are faced with the al-
ternatives: the constant fear of death or
withdrawal from the public scene. The
frightening heritage of the Kennedy
shooting may be the extended isolation
of political figures - the move from the
streets of the nation to the television
sudios and its newsrooms. The man, the
flesh and the spirit of the politician, will
recede furher into the world of Madison
Avenue, into celluloid images. Issues and
the individual voice will be smothered in
rarely passed when it is known before-
hand that they will be totally ineffec-
tive. Most of them at least aim to make
an undesirable action more difficult for
those who are likely to commit it.
FIREARMS LEGISLATION can only
hope to control irrational acts of vio-
lence by imposing rational limitations on
the accessibility of weapons. Although
every act of violence is ultimately irra-
tional, not all assassins or rioters are of
the "trigger happy" breed which might
be at least slightly inconvenienced by
But legislators and citizens who con-
tinue to debate the effectiveness of such
legislation are too'obsessed with tangible
results. For the major value of any fire-
arms control legislation which Congress
might pass lies not in its preventive po-
Rather its significance would consist
in an indication that the perennial cru-
sades of certain congressmen and con-
cerned citizens have brought fruition
in the form of a more widespread dis-
approval of the perverse violence and ir-
rationality which characterizes the ef-
forts of some individuals to achieve an
unrealistic and immoral control over the
A QUIET, cool darkness covered
the campus at four yesterday
morning. Walking along the cam-
pus down South University one
was moved by the dignity, the al-
most concealed beauty so often
lost in the pace of daylight.
This solid and subtle grandeur
was a reassuring buttress against
the horror of the shooting of Sen-
ator Kennedy. These fruits of
abundance were as real and far
more tangible than the gunfire in
Fleeing the stabbing, pulsating
drone of the television one was
comforted to find a beauty, a
goodness, an existence far re-
moved from the political arena.
An America far away from the
jarring headllines of the press. It
is on this level most of us live out
our lives, only tangentially affect-
ed by the flux of politics.
EVEN IF THE attack on Ken-
nedy was not in itself a political
act, it is still incontestable that it
was the political and therefore
public Kennedy who was shot yes-
The news media's stress of poli-
tics is not because man's attempts
at self-government are more im-
portant than the mundane, yet
personally engrossing reality of
daily life. Rather the emphasis
reflects the accessibility and lar-
ger than life dramatic quality of
politics. Just like the stock market
is the race track of the affluent,
politics is the stage of the socially
This deceptive importance of
politics most cruelly affects as-
sassins and all the other romantic
or embittered souls who regard
violence as a justifiable political
tactic. If history holds any moral
it is that man's personal problems
remain staggering regardless of
his economic or political condi-
tions. Each change of status re-
moves some burdens, but always
creates others. And thus regard-
less of politics, life goes on much
as it has been.
ONE MAN, be he a Kennedy or
a King, cannot change the on-
going private reality of this tre-
mendously affluent country.
Few, if any men, can move in-
transigent social forces and fun-
damentaly change even that small
aspect of men's lives which is af-
fected by the political.
The impotence of politics to
significantly alter the private
misery of the many emphasizes
the vilenessand the absurdity of
yesterday's perhaps successful as-
sassination attempt. Since politics
alters few, if any, lives, violence,
especially the politically motivated
variety, can only be shockingly
worthless and destructive.
AS THE dark night wore on
toward dawn one began to wish
that the shock of the second tragic
shooting in two months would in-
duce a recalcitrant Congress to
But even if passed by Congress,
it would still be impossible to en-
force a moratorium on arms en-
acted by legislative fiat. One falls
victim once again to the enticing
glare of politics, forgetting the
inability of political action to
single-handedly transform the
collective American conscience.
One can only numbly note the
degree to which violence is em-
bedded in our national fabric. This
is deeply frightening against the
historic backdrop that rarely, if
ever, have political changes been
worth the violence which spawned
them. On an individual level this
is especially true for with all the
flux of life, existence remains a
static and private, not a public,
THE BRIGHT sunlight of the
morning after seemed for a mo-
ment almost obscene. The typi-
cal morning traffic jam, on Main
Street formed by the work-bound
was a reminder of indestructibility
of the continual hum of the hum-
drum. Tragedy soon became rou-
tinized in a kind of "horrible,
isn't it" litany. Even the genuine-
ly grief-struck recognized that
life must go on. And life obliged.
In a way this is right. And it
is also just this which makes the
shooting of Senator Kennedy all
so wrong. We adapt, so little is
really changed, despite it all. But
one man, who symbolized so much
that really meant so little, is all
The man on the street at 4 a.m.
evitable conclusion when the
early Wednesday morning are
FOR MANY people in the United States,
government and politics long ago
ceased to be a personal experience. Poli-
tics are foreboding, imponderable, almost
mechanical in outcome; a mysterious en-
tity to be awed and feared at the same
time. Complexities of society overwhelm
and confuse, and lead to a resignation, a
resignation to let the "betters" decide,
to let the specialists run their show.
A constant criticism of the Johnson ad-
ministration remains that the President
seems deaf to those outside of his own
political camp, that the authority of the
federal expert hides the realities of poli-
cies within a barrage of statistics. And
the fear of big government seems jus-
tified. The one lonely vote means nothing
now. Only the vague collective, the face-
less, massive whole counts in the final
ei-n1n-s rmhi ir-raa - +h -rap c o
By LUCY KENNEDY
MAYBE in a few weeks Amer-
icans will be able to file the
Better Homes and Garden article
on "The Courage of Ethel Ken-
nedy" alongside their article on
Mrs. Martin Luther King and
Jackie Kennedy with only a
Even by yesterday the owner
of the Sheraton Cadillac in De-
troit could announce calmly that
a doctor would be on hand when
any public figure was staying in
the hotel. Detroit Mayor Jerome
Cavanagh, Gov. George Romney,
dignitaries all over the world were
able by 'yesterday to speak au-
thoritatively of "deficiencies of
law and order."
It almost seems that the horror
of three assassinations in five
years can be put in a logical con-
But the fragile balance between
the logical ability to comprehend
the attempted assassination of
Sen. Robert Kennedy comprehen-
sion and insanity is closer to being
upset after the attempted as-
sassination of Sen. Robert F. Ken-
nedy than it was in the case of
either of the others.
For those of us who were awake
at 3:15 Tuesday night the strength
with which sheer animal shock
worked to reject the idea of yet
another irrational tragedy was ap-
Many of us heard of Sen. Ken-
nedy being shot through the
broen_ ncredulo1u vics f ra_-
shocking event as we knew it was
still going on.
We stopped for gas at 4 a.m.
on our way back" to The Daily.
When told, the gas station attend-
ant said "horrible," then stared
at a passing train for about 5
minutes as'if to grab some tang-
ible thing in a world that seemed
to be slipping out from under
Shock was clear in the delayed
reaction of this man and others.
One friend of mine, a McCarthy
supporter, had to be told eight
times before she would believe I
was not kidding. The mind re-
jects alien conceptions.
Mental assimilation is even
more difficult. One middle aged
man we stopped on the street
"thought it was terrible" and had
little else to say. Twenty minutes
later we ran into him again -un-
able to sleep and talking of an-
Late at night, in a time of deep
shock, the human mentality can-
yet talk of "maintaining law and
order." In the first state of shock
the brain is not ready to give out
suchunhesitating directives. Pre-
dawn shock reactions are more
personal - and more apocolyptic.
"It's sin and hate," an older
black at University Hospital
claimed. "I don't think that man
hated Robert Kennedy, but some-
body paid him to hate. We've
sinned and hated and we're going
to pay for it - this world and
this United States."
came a greater concern than per-
sonal sense of loss or horror.
Some reactions on learning of
the shooting were:
"I was surprised but not shocked.
I guess this can happen these
days . ."
"You can't help but wonder
who did it. Was he a hyper-liberal
or a nut?"
"They should be straightened
out. Something ought to be done."
"We've just come to the point
in our country where nothing af-
fects us anymore . ."
"I don't care where it's hap-
pened this country is going to
Malaise over civil disobedience,
however, was a gut reaction for
t2.ese people rather than the stud-
led reaction it was for many the
News of the shooting was un-
equivocably taken personally; of t-
en with a sense of loss - especial-
ly for the blacks.
One black in overalls at the
doughnut shop said, "Why shoot
him. It's wrong. He might have
Although personal and based on
inbred rather than thought-out
conceptions, first reactions to the
shocking horrible news carried
enough strength to wipe out the
importance of the day to day once
It took a while for my friend to
bring his roommate to full con-
sciousness of what had happened,
IN THE UNWILLINGNESS of these middle-class radicals to back
down from their principles and by their determination to translate
their political principles into action, they provide a solution to the
quandary of the individual powerless against the political machine.
They also threaten the delicate balances which keep the machine
running. Perhaps the liberal pragmatists are right after all: if they
make concessions to the new tactics, they risk not so much the sub-
stance of the concesions but the habit of conceding, so that others,
with different goal and less noble motivations, will have open to them
the same tactics.
On the other hand, the threat to society posed by such tactics as
draft card burnings or turn-ins and liberation of buildings has been
greatly exaggerated. They provide the means for these idealists to
force the people of America to face up to the need for genuine changes,
without compromising their moral principles. They allow those with
passionate political convictions to make serious demands without
The alternative was all too tragically enacted in Los Angeles yes-
terday morning. There an individual decided to confront the political
machinery; there a man of deep political beliefs, frustrated by his
inability to affect national policy, a man who could explain, decided
to wreak changes through his own methods.
In an age of draft-card turn-ins and administration building
take-overs, the attempted assassination takes on an added, anachron-
istic dimension of cruelty. Where before the only way to do what the
draft resisters are doing was assassination, now economics have al-
lowed the middle class to "live the life of conscience." At the same time,
the middle class are still middle class; political murders are outside
the span of their imaginations and their capabilities.
* * *
THE PROBLEM which the assassination, coming as it does against
a backdrop of social unease for the past few months, vividly depicts
is this: it is a good thing thatso few Americans have any- passionate
interest in politics, for the system as it is now contrived could hardly
withstand any more pressures than are already being heaped upon it.
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