WASHINGTON -- They are beginning to die out or, at least, to retire. So long, suckers. Surely the Clintons, Sen. Jean-Francois Kerry, Al Gore and dozens of others who presented themselves as reasonable alternatives to the radicals of the 1960s thought they were suckers. I thought about all of them this week as problems mounted for Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks thief.
Late in June, death took Dwight Armstrong, the anti-Vietnam War protester who blew up a building at the University of Wisconsin, killing an innocent physics researcher, Robert Fassnacht. I always have wondered about Fassnacht. He supposedly was opposed to the Vietnam War, too. I wonder what his life would have been like if he had not been in the building at the time the bomb went off. Armstrong and his accomplices eventually were caught. None had much promise, but there was a tremendous legitimacy to them at first, at least in comparison with those of us who favored the war.
Armstrong was sentenced to concurrent seven-year terms in prison and was paroled in 1980. On a less idealistic note, he later was apprehended for running a methamphetamine lab in Indiana and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He lived his last years driving a cab and caring for his mother. "My life," he told Madison's Capital Times, "has not been something to write home about." Well, maybe at the end, the light began to dawn.
Then there was Fritz Teufel, who turned room temperature July 6. He began his career less spectacularly. Auspicating it as a "fun guerrilla," the German equivalent of Abbie Hoffman (a suicide) and Jerry Rubin (death by jaywalking) demonstrated against the Shah of Iran and planned to ambush Hubert H. Humphrey with cake-mix "bombs." His politics were 1 part Maoism and an equal part psychoanalysis. He claimed to resent his parents' softness toward Nazism. It led him to softness toward Mao. In time, he moved to Munich and joined a radical commune, eventually enlisting in the Red Army Faction, which carried out assassinations, bombings and kidnappings. He spent a couple of years in prison in the early 1970s. In 1975, he spent another stretch in prison. He devoted his last years to giving interviews to journalists nostalgic for the 1960s and 1970s, but first his guests had to play him in table tennis.