Letter: Hoffman column triggers memories
To the editor:
Leonard Quart's July 5 oped piece on Abbie Hoffman and Lenny Snyder brought back a flood of memories from that era. I had just joined the faculty at SUNY Geneseo in 1968 when Hoffman staged a nighttime rally on that campus. Vietnam vets were requesting to be excused from attendance in classes and written assignments to protest the ongoing war; drugs and sexual freedom were also a big part of the mix (remember Woodstock?).
I consider Leonard Quart a good fellow sociologist, but in my opinion the book that best captures the craziness of that period is "Operation Chaos" written by a British journalist named Matthew Sweet (Holt, 2018). He interviewed many U.S.military deserters who had been granted humanitarian asylum by the Swedish government, some of whom were later repatriated under an amnesty agreement signed by President Jimmy Carter, and two of whom were prime suspects in the assassination of Prime Minister Olaf Palme on February 28, 1986.
In 1969 I went to Sweden under a grant from SUNY to study American deserters but their political organization (ADC) decided that I was a CIA spy, so I encountered difficulties. Sweet describes on Page 129 of "Operation Chaos" what happened to me.
The point I am trying to make here is that sometimes a journalist does a better job than a sociologist in describing social reality because sociologists are always looking for regularities, and in a chaotic period there are no regularities. As Dickens said long ago, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
Michel Paul Richard,
The writer is Professor Emeritus, SUNY Geneseo.
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