When Youth Runs Amok

13 August 2011

Last Tuesday, as London’s streets were filled with young people vandalizing stores and beating up innocent bystanders, I came driving up my street to an alarming sight: three kids walking across my front lawn at dusk, one holding what looked like a semi-automatic pistol in her hand. My heart stopped. Was it spreading to Bethesda?

The three kids crossed the street to the house in front of mine,and it was then I recognized one of them as my neighbor’s son. The pistol in the girl’s hand fired laser beams instead of 9 millimeter hollow points.

It threw my mind back to the “Days of Rage” of the Spring of 1970, after Nixon invaded Cambodia, and four students were killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State. Campuses around the country went wild. I remember visiting Stanford that summer, and seeing grafitti smeared buildings with their windows still broken.

It got crazier. In 1974, a home-grown terrorist organization called ther Symbionese Liberation Army, kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst and turned her into an accomplice in a bank robbery in San Francisco. The membership of the SLA was an improbable mixture of former inmates of Soledad prison and radicalized Berkley residents. The most unlikely member of all was Willie Wolfe, an East Coast boy who had gone to Mt Herman prep school with one of my fraternity brothers at Brown, and who became Patty Hearst’s boyfriend while she was in captivity. He perished along with several other SLA members in the final raid on their hideout in a suburb of LA.

Some of the members of the SLA set a record for remaining on the lam. Kathleen Soliah was arrested in 1999 in Minnesota where she had developed a new identify as the wife of a doctor. James Kilgore was captured in South Africa in 2002. Both have since been released.

Years later, a colleague of my wife’s who had been a young mother during those wild days told me: “You kids scared the hell out of us.”

Rupert Scofield


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