Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer: On "The March I"

Now who would be certain the shades of those Union dead were not ready to come on Lowell and Mailer as they strode through the grass up the long flat breast of hill at the base of the Washington Monument and looked down the length of the reflecting pool to Lincoln Memorial perhaps one-half mile away, "then to step off like green Union Army recruits for the first Bull Run, sped by photographers . . ." was what Lowell was to write about events a bit later that day, but although they said hardly a word now, Lowell and Mailer were thinking of the Civil War: it was hard not to.

. . . .

 After hours of waiting, after the military exuberance of listening to a rallying trumpet had faded into hours of speeches, and the blanked-out unavoidable apathy of the Great Left Pall (troops up for battle, troops dropped down) now at last, two hours after the yeast of a happy beginning had been punched in (it was to rise again) -- the order to form into ranks was passed around the roped enclosure, and Lowell, MacDonald, and Mailer were requested to get up in the front row, where the notables were to lead the March, a row obviously to be consecrated by the mass media. Newsreel, still, and television cameras were clicking and rounding and snapping and zooming before the first rank was even formed.

. . . .

"Listen, Mailer said, "let's get arrested now." Stating the desire created it, and put a ligature across the rent in his nerve.

"Look, Norman," said Lowell, "if we're going to, shall we get away from here? I don't see any good that's going to be accomplished if we're all picked up right next to a Vietcong flag."

This was not to be contested. Mailer had never understood how demonstrating with an N.L.F. flag was going to spark a mass movement to end the war. He could not argue with Lowell. The remark was sensible, and yet he felt uneasy, as if one should never be too sensible in war. Still -- it was difficult enough for people to take him seriously without standing next to that flag.

So they moved on, looking for a line to cross, or a border, or a fence at the extremity of the parking lot, and came upon one in not time at all. To their left, perhaps fifty yards from where the attack had jammed, was a grassy field with United States MPs stationed in it. To their front was a low rope, not a foot off the ground. Protestors from the parking lot were standing behind this rope, two or three deep. Lowell, Mailer, and MacDonald worked into position until they had nothing in front of them but the rope, and the MPs.