BY WAY OF CLIMBING OFF A COLUMN I wrote about how Patty Hearst should not be freed. I'd like to start by saying that for about two weeks I have been carrying around a newspaper clipping of something Andy Young said. He said that Patty Hearst should be freed because society discriminates against the poor and the very rich. What I was going to do, more or less, was take that clip and shove it down his throat.
But the trouble with Andy Young is that sooner or later he lets you down. He's done that to me several times now. Every time you take one of his controversial statements and start to write about it, it begins to make sense. In the end, all you can do is throw up your hands and say he's right.
AT one point, for instance, Young had some pretty harsh things to say about South Africa. This was interesting, because he was looking at that government as a black man or as a nonwhite man or maybe some sort of marvelous creature with no racial identification. He made you realize, though, that for years some American politicians had been seeing the South African situation as white men - a sort of say-what-you-will-about-them-they-are-white-men attitude. When Young spoke from the other perspective he was denounced for it, even though what he said, essentially, is that this is not a black-white situation but a right-wrong situation.
He did somewhat the same thing with his statement on political prisoners - the one about how we had them too. The thing of it is that we do, not in the sense that the Russians do, but in our own way. We have always sent people to jail for essentially political acts or for political reasons. Do you think Martin Luther King was in the Birmingham jail for being a scofflaw?
Recently Young said what he said about Hearst. Young is beginning to bore the newspaper editors of America, a sure sign that he has lost his ability to shock. The Hearst statement got buried in both Washington papers, which was more attention, initially than I thought it deserved. It had seemed to me that simply to say that American society discriminates against the very rich is equal to admitting you know nothing about American history. The very rich, as Fitzgerald once said, are different, but they are nobody's idea of victims.
So I started to carry the clipping around with me. I have to tell you, I have had something of an obsession with Hearst, thinking that she is far from a tragic victim. She is rich, was raised rich and will always be rich and she therefore has had all the benefits of American society - all the perks. Poor people don't have that. And poor people don't get million dollar defenses at their trials, enough shrinks to paper Vienna, not to mention one of the foremost criminal lawyers in what used to be called these United States - F. Lee Bailey. She got the best and she lost, not because she was rich, but because she was guilty. No lawyer with bad breath came off the street and told her to cop a plea. That's what happens to the poor.
The thing about Hearst is that it is precisely because she is rich that there is a movement to free her. Recently, for instance, there was a picture of her and her intended on the cover of People magazine, a story inside. People magazine does not do stories about poor people in jail - nothing about people named Juan or Manuel or Jefferson. The differences with Hearst is that she's not just another felon - she's a celebrity. She's a celebrity because she is very rich. Of course, you have to concede also, that it's because she is rich that she was kidnapped.
Anyway, I started to work on yet another Hearst column - one that would start with Andy Young. I talked to some people about it and slowly my argument started to fade. Is Patty a menace to society, someone asked, and I had to say no. Would she rob another bank? Probably not. Will she learn a trade in jail? Maybe, but, she doesn't need one. Why keep her in jail then? Because she's guilty.
But that's not the only reason. There is something else and it has to do with what Andy Young said. It has to do with her wealth. It has to do with the fact that she and her family are using it to try to get her out of prison. And there seems to be something unfair in this. It is almost as if you have to get past this business about money to deal with Patty Hearst - deal with her on the issues. Given the same set of circumstances, for instance, would another woman, a middle-class woman, be freed after two years in prison? The answer, probably, is yes. That's what parole is for.
So in the end Andy Young is right. The best you can say in favor of keeping Hearst in jail is that the rich should suffer because the poor also suffer. It makes no sense. Neither one should suffer and it does no one any good to keep Patty Hearst in jail. She has suffered enough.
Listen to Andy Young. Free Patty.