Burke’s Reflections were prescient,
and unforgivably true.
The French lost their heads
trying to “adjust” our fallen natures.
Vandalizing Rheims didn’t make men equal.
Hate and hysteria destroyed the souls of the sans culottes.
Finally, Bonaparte had to give them a dose of grapeshot:
a useful prescription for the fever of anarchy.
We live again in a time of self-righteous posturing;
heirs of ’68.
“Hey, hey, ho, ho — western civ. has got to go!”
“Power to the people!” “Off the pigs!”
Screeching suburbanites, sounding like a rusted iron door pried open.
November ’69, high-water mark of the “movement.”
In Washington to end war and injustice.
The villain Nixon barricaded in the White House.
How pure we were! We would march and face danger.
On to the Vietnamese Embassy! (These were the bad gooks,
anti-communist Catholics and democrats).
Let them feel our wrath!
Our path blocked by the D.C. police —
the black working class.
A moment of hesitation, and then: “off the pigs!”
Molotov cocktails, burning police motorcycles;
fiery little folds of street clouds.
The patient blue-garbed response:
a steady drumbeat of batons on shields, a military advance;
disciplined, determined. Then came the gas.
It settled on us like interplanetary dust.
The vanguard defeated by the workers.
We scattered like mice, humiliated.
Luckily, our retreat led back to the Georgetown mansion.
Furnished with antiques, decorated by Picasso.
A true revolutionary headquarters.
The irony began to penetrate my tear-soaked head.
These privileged babes with their servants, their anger,
were having a tantrum; a generation of spoiled brats.
Their self-regard outweighed the burdens of history.
Burke would recognize this death of moral imagination,
the “rapacity, malice, revenge” of the post-Christian cults.
Far gone in utopian speculations,
the once rabid demonstrators are now running the madhouse.
Jim Levell grew up in the Boston area and graduated from Northeastern University. After attending graduate school for a year he spent two years teaching history and three years working in the National Archives. After 23 years of travel, work, and living, Levell and his wife have settled in Princeton.