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April 19, 1980 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1980-04-19

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Page 4-Saturday, April 19, 1980-The Michigan Daily

On the road to Armageddon

A literateur would call it romantically
ironic. The precise moment I concluded
my own life was unequivocably worth
living now seems to be the moment I
am most in danger-along with all the
rest of us-of having life blown out from
under me.
I won't burden you with my own per-
sonal soap opera-we all have enough
sob stories in this trembling interlude
on Planet Earth to go around several
times over. I'll limit matters by reluc-
tantly presenting myself for member-
ship in the ranks of the Historical
Pessimists: Simply put, I'm afraid
we're all about to die-if not through the
bunglings of the Georgia farmer, then
surely through the subsequent macho
myopia of the LA cowboy. And despite
all our yearnings for tranquility,
despite the voluminous sum of
knowledge stored through mankind's
seartch for The Good Life, there seems
to be nothing anyone can do to halt the
swiftly approaching midnight hour. We
can only sit in our houses and wait,
perhaps weep, over how it all came to
be, how all four billion of us evolved
toward this helpless, desperate
moment in time.
HOW COULD IT have so suddenly
come to this? If I were religious (and
many of us will doubtless go that route
quite soon) I might conclude that God is
opening the wrathful gates of the new
Flood, with the Ayatollah and his-
shreiking minions serving merely as
cogs in His machine, acting as a
triggering apparatus to detonate the
final Armageddon. It would be a fine,
last irony: A non-Christian fanatic
carrying out God's judgment; an in-
cediary madman carefully placed at
just the right pivotal moment in history
to send a reluctant human race hurtling
to apocalypse.
And there seems to be no one to stop
him. The whole world watches
helplessly as events spin inexorably

".r r

By Christopher Potter

toward a diabolical mix of
"nationasl honor" and energy
pragmatism. .The dawning of the
chilliest American-Soviet relations in
two decades has precisely- coincided
with the international setting most con-
ducive to armed conflict; the two
behemoths rumble and thunder at each
other while Khomeini sits implacable,
grimly content to martyr himself and
the rest of us to satisfy some twisted,
semi-forgotten notion of personal
vengeance.
It does little good to curse the foreign
policy incompetence of the man we put
in office four years ago, or bemoan the
fact that the man likely to succeed him is
even worse. We make our own political
bed, and hindsight can serve only as a
. nostalgic, bittersweet paean to what
might have been, what should have
been. We're witnessing the age of the
great liberal dissolution. We gaped as a
retired small-businessman named Jar-
vis provoked the traumatic, lightning-
swift, unravelling of forces and
philosophies spawned by the New Deal
that governed, America for five
decades-forces that collapsed with
such incredible suddenness that our
political structure has ruptured into a
practical and philosophical void, with
nothing remaining but the inadequate,
venomous bleatings of the Reaganites
to try to fill it.
ONE COULD SENSE the ap-
proaching chaos years ago. The
miraculous, always tenuous
Democratic alliance of the intellectual.
left and the blue-collar right was slowly
ripped apart by the trauma of Vietnam,
and the only man then capable of
holding the party or the nation together
was gunned down in a hotel kitchen.
The "new politics" righteousness of the

McGovern misadvanture four years
later sealed the schism for good.
1976 arrived, and the Democrats
postulated that a new revisionism was
in order. They wanted to be back in
power, but it seemed you couldn't elect
a liberal anymore. Still, there was that
candidate down in Georgia with
possibilities; no one really knew much
about him, but he seemed sincere and
upright-a refreshingly new, non-
Washington face perfect for an age
when anti-Potomac politics had become
all the rage. OK, so he wasn't the liberal
they might have wanted, but half a loaf
was surely better than none. Besides,
most importantly, he looked electable.
Thus came Jimmy Carter, who rode
into Washington on the wave of an
evangelistic, neo-populist zeal, then
proved over the next three-and-a-half
years that he was a well-intentioned
country boy tragically out of his
element, bogged in the treacherous
marshes of domestic economics and in-
ternational intrigues. As he drifted, so
did we. Even as he maintained his
religious faith, we lost our temporal
faith, both in government, and in our
own ability to change things for the bet-
ter.
ALAS, THE ONLY progressive figure
willing to pull us out of our quagmire
was himself a tarnished Lancelot,
ruinously besmirched both by the aura
of personal scandal and perhaps by a
subliminal public resentment when
sizing him up beside the ghosts of his
two murdered brothers. Our other
political choices consisted of a pair of
posturing, politically disdainful
theorists named Anderson and Brown,
plus a cadre of grinning, inter-
changeable gladhanders.
Which now leaves us. with Ronald

Reagan-affable, well-meaning,
hopelessly incompetent to handle the
job of shaping our destiny. He is the
Angel of Death come out of the West to
bury our hopes in their graves.
Everything has fallen into place for this
reluctant Beelzebub: In 1964, Barry
Goldwater was foolish and funny-in
1980 Ronald Reagan is sober and
serious. The time is ripe: Our resour-
ces, our dreams, our sense of pride
crumble-there stands Reagan,
waiting. We are desperate, fed
up-Reagan is available. He is Yeats'
rough beast made human and fear-
some, slouching toward Bethlehem
with only the best of intentions.
HE WILL ASCEND his throne next
January, and we will wait, trembling,
for his impulsive finger to pull the
trigger-one month, two? Does every
second of a day turn infinitely precious
when weighted in finite, ever-dwindling
terms?
It may prove to have been God's final
jest at human authority-at a time
when we most needed heroes to guide
us, we found nothing but pygmies. It's
impossible to lay blame, to point a
canonical finger-no one truly wishes to
die, the Ayatollah's grand passions
notwithstanding. Events are either
rigidly pre-planned or else they simply
evolve, and either way there ultimately
comes a time when there's nothing
more one can do-when one can only
silently prepare, and perhaps pray.
As this newspaper wraps up
publication for another school year, I
-offer the hope that we may all meet
again when the leaves turn brown. If
not-well, we had a hell of an adventure
while it lasted. Godspeed.

Christopher Potter,
the Cold War, is a
tributor to this page.

a veteran of
regular con-

Nirrtv rFre~ir (4 Editoria'l F reedom,

Vol. XC, No. 159

News Phone: 764-0552

Fcliecl nclmnnned stdens atthUn~ ier*s *iy o Mch. a

A Axhe o l
c IT IS INTERESTING to see the first
project of the new Michigan Student
Assembly (MSA) president turning out
well. Marc Breakstone, who started
work on MSA's first course evaluation
program last fall, can soon begin to
collate the 7,000 evaluation forms
completed by students at CRISP in the
last two weeks.
While the evaluation forms are not
: ideal-they ask only a few multiple-
choice questions about each class a
student has taken-they represent a

7CIljS tat III V111v=1 ally VI;rvsl,%.lIltjvel

ew MSA.

0 0

significant beginning. If students use
the compiled results when registering
next fall,the way will have been paved
for a more extensive evaluation
program in the future.
Student course evaluations provide
essential information for thousands of
students who choose their courses
judiciously. It is hoped that as more
students realize their importance, they
will participate in larger evaluation
efforts involving every class in every
school at the University..

I

...andaboofortheold

LTHOUGH IT is often easy to find
fault with MSA, it is always un-
fortunate when the Assembly actually
-lives up to its frequently negative
image.
Last week, just as former MSA
president Jim Alland was preparing to
finish his term, it was revealed that the
Assembly had failed to distribute
thousands of copies of "Getting 'Round
Town '79," a campus guide for which
MSA had taken distribution
responsibility. More than 15,000 of the
booklets are still packed in boxes in the

basement of the Union, and they will
probably never get around town.
Alland grudgingly accepted
responsibility for the failure- to
distribute the booklets-which contain
$33,450 worth of advertising that
students will never see-claiming he
had instructed an MSA member to
pass them out. The MSA member in
turn passed the guilt to MSA staffers,
who she claimed failed to help her.
It's too bad the new MSA must start
off with this strike against it.

When her divorced mother
moved into her new lover's home,
Laura was 15, an age when-her
mother remembered-a girl likes
privacy and a place of her own.
So a garden shed in the large
back yard was remodeled into a
cabin for her.
Laura was thrilled, except that
as a result, there did not seem to
be a real place for her in the main
house anymore, and when she
came in she felt more the guest
than the resident.
She became one more teenager
rendered peripheral to her
family's household. Nobody
complained when she came in
late, and nobody noticed when
she began to come in drunk.
The experience of becoming
peripheral is part of growing up
in America today. It may be
blamed on the changing nature of
families, or the shrinking of the
economy and public ser-
vices-especially schools. But
wherever the blame lies, the fact
is that many young people now
feel marginal-and that creates
casualties.
"THESE ARE the kids we get
here, observed Tim Garthwate,
deputy probation officer and
counselor at Marin County,
California's Project Reunite,
speaking of adolescents who find
they no longer have a place in the
lives of their parents.
"The message they get is: 'You
can come with me but you're not
going to disrupt my life.' "
That's chilly news, especially
to a teenager whose body is ex--
ploding chemically and whose
mind is in a turmoil, trying to
catch up with changes. But with
divorce so common that in some
communities a youngster who
lives with both parents is more
Oe exception than the rule,
children can no longer take home
for granted.
Some, like Laura, try to con-
tinue on the edge of home, others
drift between households or set
up separate quarters. Still others
are left behind by parents.grown
tired of parenting and more in-
terested in new avocations and
careers. While in low income
households teenagers might be
squeezed out by economics, in
suburbia many are cast loose by
parental liberation.
THE abandonment creates
turmoil. "We find that, in-
creasingly, a kind of irrational
anger exists," remarked Ken
Helms, coordinator of a com-
munity school program in Marin
County, a wealthy suburb of San
Francisco. "Kids who are middle
and upper middle class strike out
blindly."
The "striking out" often leaves
disaster in its wake:
" Suicide is now the second
most common cause of death
among teenagers (ranking after

wide between 1959 and 1977. The
combined homicide and suicide
casualties of youth total perhaps
10,000 a year;
* Illegitimate births among
white women between 15 and 19
have nearly tripled, from 5.1 per
1,000 in 1950 to 13.6 per 1,000 in
1977; and,
* Numerous surveys have
recorded dramatic increases in
teenage drug use, drug dealing,
and, burglary-increases which
cross all racial and class boun-
daries.

much," he said, Vodka is sneaked
in mixed with juice or soft
drinks. I
Tamalpais High counselor
Chuck Crawford observed:
"Based on the amount of drinking
I see I think we are going to have
a whole generation of alcoholics
in ten years or so. Kids are star-
ting so much younger."
Alcohol is the number one drug
of use and abuse nationwide
among young people. Some
parents tend to be tolerant of
drinking, reasoning, "Thank God

Young, white,
p trosperous-
and disposable
By Rasa Gustaitis

'Our children and adolescents are in-
creasingly engaged in killing, hur-
ting, and abusing themselves and
others'.

happen more quickly. A couple .f,
beers give . a facade of closenes
But the net effect is mote
isolation."
Rendered peripheral at, home,
unable to find more than illusoiy
closeness and intimacy thr6ugh
alcohol-blurry encounters, many
young people also find that other
structures now offer less support.
Tax cuts have hit education and
other youth services hardest. And
as budgets are trimmed to th
bone, music programs, fieldtrips,
and other popular programs are
cancelled, young people get the
message: Their interests don't
count for much.
THEIR ISOLATION is aggra-
vated by the reluctance of
relatively affluent communities
to confront the* fact that their
young people are in trouble.
"Middle class areas are
secretive," said communit
worker Ken Helms. "In the lowe
income area you will hear direc-
tly: "My kid smokes dope. What
can I do?' But at the point the
problem hits the upper middle
class it becomes defined as 'a
social problem.'
Authorities in schools, and even
the police, tend to look the other
way when possible inMarin.
"Kids can disappear,"
remarked a county mental heal"
worker. "You may nbteven fii
out for a long time he's been cut-
ting school. There's no leverage,
no teeth. Everything has
relaxed."
But the new, looser attitude has
a drawback: many youngsters
who need help' get none. "The
ones who get attention are the
ones who ask for it," says
probation officer Garthwaite.
Left to their own devices, son
young people are finding new a
ingenious survival techniques.
But those who get caught in the
vortex of change aid do not have
the inner resources or good luck
to find a path become casualties.
Being peripheral means feeling
powerless-and angry. "I'm 30,"
said Bly. "In the '60s there was a
sense of believing we could
change things. Even though Vi
nam was horrible and thin
were senseless. Now there's not
this sense of, 'This is awful, why
not make it better?' I just get:
'This is awful. Might as well
enjoy it now.'"
Rasa Gustaitis teaches jour-
nalism at the University of
California at Berkeley. She
wrote this article for th
Pacific News Service.

par'PEST O &HIM!
HE'S MLsy LOOKING7
FOR? WAYS TO SAVE
FEEAL ITAX
DOLLARS !

OUR CHILDREN and
adolescents are increasingly
engaged in killing, hurting,
and abusing themselves and
others," says Edward' Wynne,
professor of education policy
studies at the University of
Illinois Chicago Circle, who
analyzed the data as measures of
alienation. "The growing trend
toward alienation raises the cen-
tral question of social continuity.
Is our society rearing adults who
can keep the country going?"
Wynne asks.
What used to be a syndrome
characterizing lower class youth
now also describes more affluent
youth. A report by community
workers and residents in Marin
City, which is Marin County's
only black ghetto, found
"hopelessness, anger, and
boredom, and the most destruc-
tive behaviors to be
passive-depression, scapegoat-
ing, apathy, withholding (of
communication, information, af-
fection, etc.), suspicion, and sub-
stance abuse."
Drinking, other drug use, and
sex begin earlier. "Eighty per
cent are sexually active by the
time they are juniors and
seniors," said Lucy Van Hi$e, the
Tamalpais High School nurse.
"They are starting at 11, 12. And
unfortunately, sex education

he's not on dope," said Van Hise.
AGAIN, THE trend is nation--
wide and cuts- across income
groups. Youth counselor Nel Bly
previously worked with - low-
income youth in Oakland. The
big difference, she said, is that
"There I didn't hear of kids get-
ting drunk on Grand Alarnier or
Courvoisier."
Bly sees the drinking as linked
to pressures that cpmpel
teenagers to grow up faster, to
the general loosening of social
structures, and "much more of a
trend for isolation in general,"
among youth.
"A lot of kids feel real chaotic
in adolescence and they reach out
for limits," she said. "The lack of
structures now contributes to the
chaos. Fast stimuli-TV,
disco-suggest that everything
should move fast. But develop-
ment happens more slowly.
Decisions-that's a
process-don't come quickly.
Alcohol makes them seem to

LU~NCH II

_ ..
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LETTERS TO THE DAlI Y:
Movie review blasted

To the Daily:
Chalk up another one for jour-
nalistic stupidity. I'm referring
to Christopher Potter's "Will

opinion of others, Sellers delivers
a powerful performance in the
difficult role of a subtle, soft-

I

%44I UA '74

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