My original draft was much snottier, with references to Simpsons jokes about Hayden, and calling him “one of the many former Mr. Jane Fondas”. But it ain’t my magazine.
That opening paragraph sets the tone for the rest: oddly chosen scare quotes, plenty of question marks, and plenty of self-obsession.
Those first-person pronouns are real. Musing upon an old photo of himself, Hayden can’t resist claiming, for example, that he’s gained a mere ten pounds in the intervening thirty-five years. But Hayden’s questions are mostly rhetorical. He still subscribes to the stale Marxist theory he first swallowed whole in his early twenties. As he finds out to his dismay, however, most Vietnamese don’t.
The natural desires of ordinary people, be they American or Vietnamese, to trade in goods and services, to enjoy decent food and housing and to exercise their basic human rights, are summarily dismissed as “chaotic” and “unpredictable” by an obviously shaken Tom Hayden. (No doubt Adam Smith would be mystified and perhaps amused to hear capitalism compared to quantum physics.)
More ‘big news’ was made shortly thereafter by another playwright. Writing in the Sunday Times of London, Tom Stoppard issued a remarkably similar declaration. Even in its soixante-neuf heyday, admits Stoppard, he considered the Left ‘politically dubious,” writing that he “was embarrassed by the slogans and postures of rebellion in a society which, in London as in Paris [in 1968]. . . seemed to me to be the least worst system into which one might have been born — the open liberal democracy whose very essence was the toleration of dissent.”
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