Thursday, May 7, 2015

and the man asked me who I was

-------------------- [excerpt, Schlesinger Journals] -------------


February 11

At times one begins to wonder whether there is not some sort of madness loose in the country.  On Sunday night Alexandra and I went to a preview of Antonioni's new film Zabriskie Point.

It is a hymn to violence and revolution, done in the most heavy-handed and simple-minded way.  In the course of the film I became vaguely aware of mutters in the row behind, and in a while I began to feel that the mutters were directed against me. 

Toward the end of the movie, a large house is blown up as a sort of metaphor of revolution.  The explosion is repeated a number of times, and finally I whispered to Alexandra, "This is the film that ought to have been called Blow Up."

This produced an angry reaction from the row behind. 

The next scene showed books and other artifacts hurled into the air by the explosion.  From the row behind:  "There goes bourgeois history." 

In another moment the film was over and the house lights went on.  A young jerk in the row behind suddenly launched a tirade.  "What are you doing watching this film?" he began.  "It's about you and your kind and what we are going to do to you.  It's a disgrace that you should have come to see it -- or that you can walk the streets at all -- and we're going to fix that, and very soon. 

We're going to rub you out."  These agreeable sentiments, uttered in rather shrill tones, had an arresting effect for several aisles around.  I started to answer when a man in a leather jacket who had been sitting next to me suddenly intervened.  He turned to the revolutionary and said, "You shut up." 

When the revolutionary kept on talking, the man in the leather jacket said, "Have you ever heard of the Abe Lincoln Brigade?"  The revolutionary allowed that he had.  The man in the leather jacket said, "Well, I fought in the Abe Lincoln Brigade.  I know what revolution is like.  This man [gesturing at me] is OK.  You just shut up." 

The revolutionary said, "If you fought in the Abe Lincoln Brigade, you were fighting the fascists.  How can this man be your friend?  He is one of the biggest fascists in America.  He is responsible for people being killed all over the world, and he should be rubbed out." 

The man in the leather jacket told him to shut up again, and, as he subsided, we all moved out.  This is not untypical of a sort of shrill, incoherent anger one occasionally encounters, especially among the young.  [-----------------end excerpt] --------------------