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Eighty years of editorial freedom
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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 1970
NIGHT EDITOR: ROBERT KRAFTOWITZ
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"Guaranteed to reduce casualties .@.0."
LEAVING THE United States for a
summer vacation is like waking up
from a bad dream. Somehow, as the
American border recedes, one feels sooth-
ingly divorced from the political mess in
Washington which determines the nature
of one's life.
Of course it is impossible to genuinely
forget that all the problems are still
there. But it soon becomes obvious that
leaving the range of the nation's electric
media magically weakens Nixon's hold
on one's consciousness and allows a
larger and more philosophical conception
of the senselessness of our political lives.
For some strange reason, as soon as I
left, I relaxed. But it wasn't until I had
already returned that I realized what it
was that affected me so pleasantly.
I discovered that learning about the
affairs of one's country through week-old
Newsweeks deadens the impact of daily
emergencies w h i c h threaten to over-
whelm people in the States. Events like
the dumping of nerve gas into the ocean,
killer smogs threatening the entire East
Coast, the bombings at the University of
Wisconsin and the shoot-outs on the
West Coast seem less shocking. Reading
the magazine you find yourself nodding
your head-you're here and they're there.
BEING IN A foreign country, I was able
to feel that I was separated from
those colossal problems. After dinner
there were no Walter Cronkites to make
me nervous, and it became difficult to
accept the fact that in a matter of weeks
it would be time to return.
So, it wasn't hard to be apprehensive
about crossing back to the States. As our
car drove through the Mexican brush to-
ward the Laredo border crossing, I didn't
know what to expect. But I should have.
Even before we reached the border, our
radio was receiving Nixon's voice, and our
minds quickly filled with the latest in-
formation about the President's decisions
and the Vice-President's trip to the Far
LOOKING BACK, things were less up-
setting when LBJ was in office. A
sulking hulk with his Southern drawl and
stitched-up gall bladder, Johnson was so
easy to stand-up to and protest. He was
real, he could be hated. More importantly,
politics worked then. Johnson could be
forced out of office by a political dem-
onstration and a nation shocked by see-
ing Americans lose the Tet offensive on
But this is not so with Nixon. The
President, with his cool efficient image
and his pretentious sincerity seems un-
hateable. Who is he, after all, but an
image on TV? For if something goes
wrong with the American Way, our Pres-
ident will quickly appear on television
to tell us what has happened and appoint
a commission to asuage our fears.
AND WHEN the American Way needs
to be changed, it never is. Instead,
Nixon appears on the screen and sooth-
ingly convinces us that it has, while
leaving us the status quo. Of course, this
doesn't always happen smoothly. Some-
times there is a little confusion.
But in the end we always learn what
really happened. Nixon didn't call all
college students bums; he really didn't
say that Manson was guilty; and the
locating of the Viet Cong communica-
tions center wasn't really the basic rea-
son for our invasion of Cambodia. We
just thought these events had happened.
When we go to bed, we can sleep with
the assurance that it is useless to predict
-or even anticipate-what will boggle
our minds the next morning.
Now I realize that students across the
country who hoped to touch the con-
science of the American people through
political action were acting under the
illusion that this was .a valid method of
reaching people. But what did, they really
do? They only played politics while Nixon
played television. And he reached the
American people, and they didn't.
I'm upset that before I left I didn't
know the only way to deal with Nixon
politically is through the media. And it's
upsetting to me that political relation-
ships in this country must be seen in
relationship to the media. When I left
the United States I thought I was waking
up from my dreams. But now I realize I
wasn't fully awake until I had returned.
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"If when the chips are down, the world's most important
power, the United States of America, acts like a pitifui,
helpless giant.. **
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