Born one hour after the A-Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Mr. Perlman provides a unique perspective on the Vietnam Era. While many of the anti-Vietnam interviewees protested for ideological reasons, Mr. Perlman strongly stated his non-ideological stance. He was neither pro-government nor anti-war, but held a more pro-not getting killed in a foreign war viewpoint. He repeatedly asked himself the question, “What can I do today to avoid being sent to Vietnam and shot?” He joined the ROTC program while at Harvard Law School, and was one of the top three graduates in his class. With that honor, he had a choice of military branch he wanted to serve in and chose the administrative and personnel branch of the Army, of which no officer had been killed in Vietnam.
Q: When were you born?
Mr. Perlman: 1945. I was one of the first babies of the Atomic Era. The atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima an hour before I was born.
Q: Where did you grow up?
Mr. Perlman: In Southeastern Massachusetts, Fall River.
Q: Can you describe your childhood?
Mr. Perlman: Uneventful. There were movies downtown; we played on the first escalator in Fall River, that kind of thing. I attended Durfee High School, a public high school. I and my wife have always been “public school snobs”.
Q: Did you have siblings?
Mr. Perlman: I have a sister.
Q: Older or Younger?
Mr. Perlman: Three years younger. She’s a special needs tutor and is married to the top Ferrari salesman in South Florida.
Q: What did your parents do for a living?
Mr. Perlman: My dad was a lawyer and my mother, in the tradition of the time, was a homemaker who never had a paying job. Both were bright and college educated.
Q: Was your father a World War II veteran?
Mr. Perlman: Yes.
Q: What did he do in WWII?
Mr. Perlman: I don’t know exactly. Nothing particularly exciting. He was not in combat. He was one of the oldest draftees in a combat unit, and by the Army’s sense of mercy, he was not required to shoot guns at people.
Q: Did he go overseas?
Mr. Perlman: No.
Q: What years were you in High School?
Mr. Perlman: 1960-1963. Durfee was a 3-year high school.
Q: What was your High School like?
Mr. Perlman: Very large. There were 1200 in my class, and half of them quit when they turned 16. A very working class environment. The thing that really animated my high school years was that Sputnik had been launched in 1957. President Eisenhower promised a huge science effort so that the US could catch up to the Russians, so there was a big emphasis on science. I and many people in my class became scientists.
Q: Did you have any hobbies or sports around High School?
Mr. Perlman: Very few sports were offered in my high school apart from the basics like basketball – Durfee High School was a big basketball franchise – football and baseball, but not much else for someone like me. So my sport was mostly hanging out with my friends.
Q: As a teenager around this time, how aware of world events were you?
Mr. Perlman: I was utterly unaware. My father would bring home the newspaper at night. I would flip it upside down, read the comics, and stop there. I didn’t watch 15-minute nightly news on television.
Q: When did you first here about the Cold War?
Mr. Perlman: I heard a fair amount about that, because mine was the generation that practiced how to survive a nuclear attack. You know, “duck and cover”, get under your desk, that kind of thing.
Q: What were your opinions of Communists in Russia?
Mr. Perlman: I took an iconoclastic view just to be provocative. Being smart then, I was also a smartass. I remember I had to participate in some contest senior year in high school for a written essay on any topic. A big phrase of the time was “Better Dead than Red”, so I wrote an essay titled “Better Red than Dead”. My high school principal decided not to enter it.
Q: How did you view John Kennedy?
Mr. Perlman: He was my hero. I remember what I was doing when the word came in that he’d been assassinated. That was the last time I was enthusiastic about a politician. I will remember every day of his presidency.
Q: What were your emotions when he was assassinated?
Mr. Perlman: I was stunned, devastated. I was glued to the television set for the several days of his funeral. I couldn’t get over it. For people my age, LBJ after JFK was an abomination. And those were the years that the war began to build up in Vietnam, so self interest also made us view him as Satan incarnated. That was a very unkind and an historically inaccurate view, but that’s how my friends and I felt at the time. We saw everything that related to the war in blacks and whites – no shades of gray.
Q: What do you recall about the general state of the country as you came of age?
Mr. Perlman: The country was prosperous and politically quiet. I was almost the last of the 50s generations, and we were influenced by parents who came of age during the depression, for whom the American dream was two cars and a television set. We were not politically active or aware. Even through our college years took place in the 60s, ours was more of a 50s sensibility, and we complied with the rules and trusted the government. The students who were in the class that was two years behind me in college were very different from us, like night and day. Drugs had a lot to do with that too.
Q: Was life good for you?
Mr. Perlman: Yes, it was.
Q: How aware of you of the Civil Rights movement and all the race issues?
Mr. Perlman: I was very aware. That movement was at its most active during my late high school and college years. Of course, in that crucible, we were all very interested in it. There were very few black kids in my high school and college, so it was more of an academic interest rather than a personal interest.
Q: Did you hear a lot about Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.?
Mr. Perlman: Absolutely.
Q: Did you agree with their views?
Mr. Perlman: Generally yes. I don’t know if you ever saw the documentary Eyes on the Prize. That’s a wonderful history of the Civil Rights movement starting with the murder of Emmett Till in the 50s. It was hard not to empathize. Urban black teenagers today dress and act in a way that would make suburban white matrons want to cross the street rather than risk confronting them. But all of the black youth in the 1950s civil rights protests seemed to wear white shirts and ties, so it was very hard not completely sympathize with this other culture that was being suppressed and badly treated. We also thought, incorrectly, that all of the civil right problems were in the south.
Q: When did you first hear about the conflict in Vietnam?
Mr. Perlman: With the big buildup in ’65 or thereabouts. We’d heard about Kennedy sending advisors to Vietnam. Then with LBJ came the huge build up in ’65. I was a sophomore in college, and I remember watching the news about that in the television room at our fraternity, and the seniors were just wetting their pants in fear of what that meant for them.
Q: Did you worry about how it might impact you and your future?
Mr. Perlman: Not then, but I came to that point very quickly. I figured that if I went on to graduate school, I’d have a draft deferment for years, long enough for the war to wind down. That’s why I went to law school, so I could keep my student deferment. Then all the student deferments were canceled during my first year of law school and I found myself very much draft-eligible. That’s when it became personal for me.
Q: What did you do?
Mr. Perlman: I called around to National Guard units to see if I could get into one of them, because at that point in the Vietnam War, National Guard units were not being sent overseas. You did your six months of service in the USA, and then that was it. But the Guard units were all full, and the waiting lists were long. My draft board in Fall River said that I was one of their oldest, and they said that they expected to have me in uniform in a matter of weeks. So I joined the ROTC unit at Harvard. I was a first-year law student.
Q: What was that like and what were you doing?
Mr. Perlman: The Harvard ROTC unit had been composed of about a dozen Harvard freshmen. The day when I lost my draft deferment and went to inquire about ROTC, I polished my speech on patriotism and I found a long line of Harvard graduate-school students who had also discovered patriotism that day and who were also looking to join ROTC. We joined, and the Colonel who was in charge saw his student enrollees blossom from a dozen skinny kids to the largest concentrations of Phi Beta Kappas in the country in any ROTC unit. He just couldn’t believe it. He also couldn’t believe that none of us wanted to go into combat the way he did. He gradually caught on to why we were there, but still we had to wear uniforms one day each week. That was when Harvard was a cauldron of anti-war student activity, much of it directed against the ROTC unit. The Harvard students even took over Harvard yard and occupied the administration building in one protest. It was not a good time to be in the ROTC, but it was better than being in uniform and in a war zone.
Q: As you became more independent did you become more conscious about the Vietnam Conflict, and how did that affect you?
Mr. Perlman: Yes, but with a different perspective. Remember, I mentioned that I and most of my friends weren’t terribly ideological. We weren’t passionate about being anti-war and we weren’t passionate about being pro-government or pro-war. My main focus -- and my first thought each day for two years -- was “What can I do to avoid being sent to Vietnam and shot?” I wanted to do most everything I could do to avoid that short of fleeing to Canada. I discovered that the top three ROTC students in the unit would have their choice of military branches. So I probable spent more time trying to excel in my ROTC course than in any of my law school courses. I was one of those top three grads, and we picked assignments to the quartermaster corps (which dispensed the uniforms and supplies), the finance corps, and the adjutant general corps (which was the administrative/personnel branch). Our Colonel couldn’t understand why none of us wanted to go into the combat branches like infantry, artillery, and armor.
Q: What were your opinions of the draft?
Mr. Perlman: I was against it, of course, because it put me at risk. The lottery came along a couple years afterwards, but I hated the draft and the concept of the draft. I didn’t think of it then in terms of fairness. I’m well aware now of what a democratic process it was –one reason why Israel’s democracy is so effective is because all people of a certain age have to serve in the military. In ancient Rome, if you had any aspiration for political office, you had to serve 10 years in the military. None of those thoughts impinged on my consciousness. The only thought that impinged on my consciousness was the thought that the draft might put me on the slope to getting shot.
Q: How did the media impact the way you saw the war in Vietnam?
Mr. Perlman: Hugely. Someone wrote a book called The Living Room War. The Vietnam War was the first war to be brought to you in color in your living room. In World War II, the publicity was through the dispatches, the newspapers and the radio. There was more of a detachment. To see it on television was very personal. During my law school years, when I was in ROTC, there was constant television coverage of anti-war protests and the Vietnam fighting. You were bombarded with the images of war and a divided country.
Q: Can you recall anything you saw on television, like the Tet Offensive or civilian casualties?
Mr. Perlman: Yes, sure. The individual fire fights, bodies being carried off the field, body count reports from General Westmoreland and other top generals. The 1968 Democratic National convention drew a huge anti-war protest. All of that came right into our living rooms.
Q: Do you remember the My Lai massacre?
Mr. Perlman: I was stunned and dismayed. As much as you read about young soldiers being afraid and not thinking clearly, nobody I knew could imagine how American soldiers could shoot women and children. The truth came out slowly, and when Lt. Calley was tried and convicted, there was a widespread belief that responsibility should have gone much higher than him. That of course didn’t detract at all from his responsibility. On the other hand, there was the heartening story of a pilot who put himself between the soldiers and the villagers to stop the shooting.
Q: After Johnson dropped out of the 1968 campaign, how did you react to the Democratic Primary?
Mr. Perlman: I thought Eugene McCarthy had it, but of course that didn’t turn out to be the case by a long shot. I then pinned my hopes on Robert Kennedy, and then he was assassinated. I don’t think there was a more depressing time in America than 1968, when Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were killed, and the Democratic National Convention took place. I remember wondering whether the country had passed the tipping point.
Q: In the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, how did you feel about all the riots and police brutality there?
Mr. Perlman: In favor of the demonstrators and against the police. I loathed Mayor Daley and his police. I saw the way the distinguished Senator Ribikoff was booed and shouted down by Daley and others. It seemed like the beginning of the end of moderate politics in America.
Q: How did the growth of anti-war activism impact you personally?
Mr. Perlman: Let me go back to my basic theme: I wasn’t ideological, and I hoped like hell that the shooting would end before I could be sent to Vietnam. I was in favor of anything that would bring the war to conclusion before I got there.
Q: What were your views on the hippies of that generation?
Mr. Perlman: Contemptuous and disdainful. The people I knew about were not people who had well-developed philosophies that trumped my lack of philosophy. They were just drugheads who found a package of superficial political statements to gloss over that they couldn’t and wouldn’t function in the same world that I did.
Q: You don’t think they were well-informed at all?
Mr. Perlman: No, for the most part, no. The depth of sophistication of most of them was in the statement “Let’s put a flower in the gun of every soldier.” That was not exactly a thoughtful ideology. That was about as well thought out as “Let’s kill all our enemies and make the world safe for people like us who are descended from the English.” Oh wait, that’s not me.
Q: What were your views on Richard Nixon and the whole “restoring law and order”?
Mr. Perlman: At the time he was president, most us had a loathing for President Nixon. First we viewed him as the Anti-JFK. Then the 1968 election kind of sealed that. The “Tricky Dick” aspect of his personality and presidency became more and more evident in this time. Who knew that, with the George Bush presidency, we might look back on Nixon with nostalgia. But at the time, not many of us were paying attention to “law and order”. It was a visceral reaction to him personally and the people he surrounded himself with.
Q: Did you think that Nixon’s plan for “peace with honor” and Vietnaminization was a good idea?
Mr. Perlman: The reality was I was 20 years old at the time and I didn’t have a basis for an informed view. “Peace with honor” sounded good, but then again he ran for the presidency saying he had a secret plan to end the war, which he declined to disclose. I was at least knowledgeable enough to be skeptical about that, and I remember when the Vietnam peace talks were taking place the country spent more than a year negotiating the shape of the table. Triangular or octagonal? Who would get to sit? A lot of us thought it was just a face-saving way to play out time and withdraw the troops. There was a Congressman at the time who urged that we just declare victory and get out. A comedian at the time ran for president. He was on the ballot and got a lot of votes. General Westmoreland’s measurement of our progress in the war was the enemy body count each week. The Watergate scandal took place around the time. The mix of all those things caused a huge loss in respect for and belief in the government. A lot of people trace the American skepticism toward the government to those days in the 1960s. Ten years earlier it didn’t exist.
Q: Students at Kent State were protesting against the bombings of Cambodia. What did you think of the Kent State massacre?
Mr. Perlman: By that time, I was a 3rd-year law student and I’d learned to apply critical analysis to what I was hearing and seeing on TV. I was appalled at the loss of lives of people who were protesting non-violently. At the same time, enough information came out early enough for us to know that the Ohio National Guard soldiers who were doing the shooting were about the same age as the kids they were shooting at, and they had no idea what the hell they were doing behind those guns. We knew that the outcome of those shooting was beyond the pale, but we didn’t know who to point to as the bad guy. And once again, there was no satisfactory investigation into the responsibility further up the chain of command
Q: How far up the chain should someone have been responsible?
Mr. Perlman: I don’t know what all the facts were, and it was the absence of any investigatory mechanism to attribute responsibility that made us unable to form judgments. Anybody who said it was the president’s responsibility is just blowing smoke. It’s just not a judgment you can form without information. Today, there is enough press coverage that you can form some impressions about who’s responsible for the major decisions affecting the country, and the reasons we’re in Iraq. But there was far less information then. I think a lot of members of the press were still repeating what the administration and military leadership were telling them rather then digging in and investigating it themselves. David Halberstam, who died recently in a car crash, wrote a book after the war, The Best and the Brightest, describing how the best and the brightest minds in America got us into the Vietnam War and mismanaged it. There was a lot of after-the-war analysis, but not a lot during it. I think people bought into the idea that it was unpatriotic to question the government.
Q: One GI’s letter that we read in class expressed frustration at the scale of the public reaction to the Kent State [massacre], while ten thousand men were getting killed in Vietnam with out a similar reaction. How do you account for the reaction to that campus shooting?
Mr. Perlman: Well, first of all, it’s a silly comparison, in my opinion. I’m not sure I want to insult whoever said that by using the word silly, but it’s just silly. That’s like saying it doesn’t matter how many people get killed in Iraq, because a lot more people die from smoking. It’s an apples and oranges comparison. It’s invalid. The difference between what happened to the soldiers in Vietnam was that they died in combat… They were in situations where risking their life was part of their roles. I don’t mean to be callous about that, but one is less shocked to hear about American soldiers being killed than about the killing of civilians who were non-combatants. But then you had other silly comparisons like more men [were] lost on the first day of the battle of Gettysburg then lost in the entirety of the Vietnam War. Does that mean the Vietnam deaths were less consequential? It’s a silly comparison. The only reason I think the Kent State killings resonated so much with people was that we saw on the TV that these were young kids like us who were protesting on US soil. They weren’t doing anything that would have put them on notice that they were risking their lives.
Q: A number of veterans joined Vietnam Vets against the War. Did you view this as selling out the troops still in Vietnam?
Mr. Perlman: I didn’t think in those terms. It’s not that I didn’t care .... I just wasn’t thinking in terms of the politics of the situation. I mean I liked it when Kerry through his medals back over the White House fence .... I thought that was cool, which tells you something about the level of my non-sophisticated reaction.
Q: Upon their return home, a large number of vets were treated with scorn and called “baby killer” and spit upon. How did you view this?
Mr. Perlman: With contempt for the people doing the spitting. We all know today – and I’d like to think I knew then – that they didn’t deserve that. They were typical kids, who were either volunteering out of a sincere sense of patriotism or people who didn’t have a choice and were drafted. Despite what went on in My Lai, and maybe other places where there were atrocities, one could hardly generalize and say all our soldiers were “baby killers” or acted in any way other then appropriately. It was unfair and it was a measure of the hysteria of the anti-war crowd.
Q: Did we do enough for the soldiers who came home?
Mr. Perlman: Probably not.
Q: What would you have done to help them?
Mr. Perlman: Well, what are we doing now? Or at least what are we supposed to be doing now? Recognizing the distinction between supporting the troops vs. supporting the war effort. In 1969-1970, there wasn’t that distinction because of the volume of the anti-war crowd. If you hated the war, then you hated the people who participated in it. There should have been a distinction. The people who were returning should have been appreciated for the personal sacrifices they made. There should have been a lot more money then there was to rehabilitate soldiers who came home impaired. I mean, it was the first war where we had a huge number of people suffer psychological and delayed physical problems. I don’t know if you have heard of “Agent Orange”, but it took decades for the physical consequences of that chemical weapon to manifest itself.
Q: Like all Ivy League colleges, there was a lot of protesting of ROTC. Did you witness any of that?
Mr. Perlman: I was on the receiving end of some of that. You’ve probably experienced that when you’re driving a car, pedestrians can be obnoxious, and when you’re a pedestrian, drivers can be obnoxious. You just switch perspectives based on which one you’re holding. I mean, I hated the protestors who made things difficult for us. My friends and I in ROTC just wanted to shout “Goddammit, were not the embodiment of anything! This is the best we could do to stay out of uniform.” I could all to easily empathize with Bill Clinton and George Bush when it was revealed that they took steps to stay out of combat. Everyone I knew was taking what ever steps they could to stay out of combat.
Q: Was there anyone that you were close to that was sent to the war?
Mr. Perlman: When I went to Fort Benning in Georgia for basic training, I became friendly with a lot of guys. Some of them went into combat, and some of them didn’t come home. After I got my lieutenant’s bars and had to report for active duty, on my first day in Adjutant General Corps training program, our captain said to us “Men, welcome to the Adjutant General Corps. As of 0700 this morning, no Adjutant General Officer has been killed in Vietnam.” There was a big cheer from the assembled lieutenants. We all shared a common self-interest.
Q: What was the experience like as an ROTC member? What was daily life like?
Mr. Perlman: We were graduate students. Our first year, we had to dress up in the uniform one day each week. Our Colonel quickly caught on to the fact that that was not how Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School students expected to be treated, so we were told we didn’t have to wear uniforms and we didn’t have to drill anymore. We just had to come take the classes and the tests, and do the occasional field exercises, which was fine. None of us was really into it, and nobody gave a damn. Nobody wanted to “play.” But when we went to Fort Benning for basic training, we didn’t have the luxury of being snide and cynical, because the sergeants who ran basic training were deadly serious about turning us into soldiers who wouldn’t get them or ourselves killed. And we quickly adapted to this new reality. I still can’t believe I used to train with a bayonet and shouted “Kill! Kill!” when stabbing it into a dummy. But it’s human nature to adjust to the circumstances you’re in. This experience blew up a lot of my stereotypes. Until I got into it, I thought: protestors good, army bad. But as I got to meet the sergeants and the officers, I found that they were almost all as decent as the people I knew on the outside, just trying to do their job and not drooling with eagerness to kill people; they had families and didn’t want to get hurt themselves. In fact, on the whole, I thought the army was more of a meritocracy than civilian life. Afterwards, I often joked that in another life, I would have made the army a career. I liked the people I met.
Q: When did you graduate from Harvard?
Mr. Perlman: That was Law School and I graduated in 1970.
Q: in 1969 students took over University hall, and you were around for that. What feelings did you have about it?
Mr. Perlman: Actually, that day, the Harvard ROTC unit -- along with other ROTC units around the country -- had been asked to send one kid to West Point to participate in a conference, and I was the designated guy from the Harvard unit. So we were all sitting in bleachers at West Point, and one general after another gets paraded before us, and everyone of them starts his speech the same way: “Is there anybody here from Harvard?” I’d raise my hand and was asked “What the fuck is going on up there?!” All I could say was that I had no idea, because I’d already arrived at West Point before the protest started.
Q: Do you see any parallels between the current Iraq war and the war in Vietnam?
Mr. Perlman: Oh sure I do. Both wars were badly thought out, badly managed, and suffered from an utter unawareness of the cultural differences we faced. Then and now, we expected other people to behave like Americans, to thing rationally and reasonably, and to love freedom. Our leaders completely overlooked the facts that the other cultures were so deeply different from ours. In Vietnam, our people were constantly amazed at the determination and stamina of the North Vietnamese regulars: leave home, leave connections, subsist on a bowl of rice a day, and just fight on and on. The North Vietnamese pulled on us the same thing we pulled on the British, who couldn’t understand in 1776 why we wouldn’t stand in formation and fight. A lot of our guys couldn’t understand why the Vietnamese behaved the way they did. Now, the Iraqis are sniping and using improvised incendiary devices, and there’s no “unity government”. There never will be ... They’re tribes with flags, and have had centuries of their own cultural hostility. We were unprepared then, and we are unprepared now, to understand the consequences of what we were getting into and to have a “Plan B” if things didn’t work out the way we were planning.
Q: We didn’t learn any lessons at all from the war in Vietnam?
Mr. Perlman: Hard for me to say. One of the reasons that Rumsfeld and the Neocons were eager to make an example of Iraq was to shake off the “Vietnam syndrome” that affected so many of the military people who had entered command positions in the 30 years since the Vietnam war, and to show how superior American fire power and an efficient on the ground operation could prevail and prevail quickly. Well, we get an A+ for the initial ground war that toppled Saddam Hussein, but that was four years ago, and we had no plan as to what to do next. Although, in Vietnam, we never had a chance to try to “win the peace”, I still don’t understand why our leaders could not have figured out that there would have to be a next day in Iraq after we’d conquered the country, that there’d be a next phase when there wasn’t a war and we’d have to provide security and to demonstrate to the inhabitants of Iraq that they were better off as a result of the war we had just launched.
Q: You mentioned earlier that you thought press coverage nowadays was much more active as a watchdog over today’s administration recently. Do you believe that media coverage over Vietnam was not as good as today?
Mr. Perlman: You have to break that question into sections. I think that the media tends to follow public sentiment more than leading it. So with the huge amount of anti-war activism in the late ‘60s, the media started becoming very critical ... of course, it was easy for them to become critical because a lot of the public was already turning against the war, so there was already a built in support audience for critical views. In the early days of the Iraq War, the media coverage was on the whole slavishly pro-administration and very matter-of-fact. I think it wasn’t until Bush’s popularity ratings went down below 35% that some in Congress and the media actually started questioning and challenging. The current administration is much more sophisticated than LBJ and Nixon were at manipulating the media, and at playing the patriotism card. For a long time that worked, but I don’t think it’s working as well today. Better late then never, I suppose.
Q: Do you think the media is wrong to try to influence the people and change their beliefs?
Mr. Perlman: I think that’s just what they should be doing, with a plenitude of voices. The media like to call themselves the “Fourth Estate”, the non-governmental watchdogs, and they’re supposed to apply critical thinking, not just pander to sell newspapers. That was the tradition established by reporters like Edward R Murrow, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. How many people can you find in today’s media who are like these luminaries, who actually stood up and insisted on telling the truth as they believed it to be? I once heard a New York Times reporter speak on a morning talk show, and he was saying the big emphasis coming down from high up in their news room was to always give fair treatment to what people said on both sides of a controversy. He thought this was ridiculous, because it was often possible to ferret out what was factually accurate even if that required expressing a viewpoint. That’s what a reporter should be doing, not merely reporting what both sides say. He analogized that if one of the presidential candidates declared the earth was flat, he would be obliged to report it as “Candidates differ on shape of Earth.” So yeah, I think we should expect more from the media.
Q: Over the years have your views of the world become changed?
Mr. Perlman: For a long time, even though I was politically unaware, I was inclined to think people in the government knew more then I did, that there was justification for drawing the line against Communism, and that there would be a “domino effect” if we didn’t draw the line in Vietnam. The perspective of history shows that that was totally bogus. I distrust accepting the story spun by our leaders, particularly now that there’s so much sophisticated manipulation of public opinion.
Of course, there is a lot of criticism to go around when you look back at the Vietnam War, including the anti-war activists. One of the huge differences that I can see now vs. then is there is not a lot of public anti-war activism now. Kids are getting killed in Iraq in big numbers, not as big as Vietnam, but still big numbers. Where’s the outrage? Where’s the protest? The difference is that there is no draft today. Self-interest is a huge motivator, for good or ill. When I was at Harvard Law School, it was highly selective and filled with very bright people. My third year was the year in which Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were killed. The students were in an uproar and they demanded of the faculty that exams be cancelled so that they could board buses and go to Washington to meet with Senators and Congressmen to protest the war. The faculty, as is so often the case, rolled over in the face of the student protest and cancelled exams. How many of my classmates do you think went to Washington? I would guess fewer than five. When the pressure was off and the exams were canceled, all these passionate anti-war critics just kicked back and had some beers. Hakuna matata. So if I had one image that told me the depth of the selfish cynicism of people -- not Harvard law students, not anti-war activists, not right wing nuts -- just people, that was it. It showed me that, unless a problem impacts people personally, it’s hard to get the outrage out.