Paul Auster's "Vietnam me act crazy" article in the New York Times is that worst of confessions: that kind that is accidentally funny. Explaining his strange behavior on a certain day in the 1960s, Auster says,
Being crazy struck me as a perfectly sane response to the hand I had been dealt — the hand that all young men had been dealt in 1968. The instant I graduated from college, I would be drafted to fight in a war I despised to the depths of my being, and because I had already made up my mind to refuse to fight in that war, I knew that my future held only two options: prison or exile.
Maddened by these alternatives, Auster went off and raised comparative hell.
After the outburst in the park, campus buildings were stormed, occupied and held for a week. ... Along with more than 700 other people, I was arrested — pulled by my hair to the police van by one officer as another officer stomped on my hand with his boot. But no regrets. I was proud to have done my bit for the cause. Both crazy and proud.
I hesitate to draw any comparisons with the present — and therefore will not end this memory-piece with the word “Iraq.” I am 61 now, but my thinking has not changed much since that year of fire and blood, and as I sit alone in this room with a pen in my hand, I realize that I am still crazy, perhaps crazier than ever.
While I personally have nothing against torching buildings and brawling under appropriate circumstances, I can't understand why Paul Auster simply can't say, "I ripped out the fence because I wanted to. I rioted because I decided to." The idea that a 61 year old man might act irrationally because the mere thought of US policy in Iraq deprives him of reason is a pretty disturbing. It suggests there's a whole population of people of seemingly normal people out there just waiting to go berserk at the mere mention of politics they disapprove of.
It's my hope that the next time he goes on a rampage it's because he's decided to.
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