Jennifer Dawn Levin died in Central Park in Manhattan at about 5 a.m. on Aug. 25. She was 18. Robert Chambers Jr. reportedly told the police that he accidently strangled her. In his videotaped confession, Mr. Chambers is alleged to have said that he didn't mean to hurt Miss Levin. They were engaged in rough sex on a grassy knoll behind the Metropolitan Museum, he reportedly said, and he had merely meant to pull her off him to stop the pain she was

inflicting. Robert Chambers is 19.

The two had dated previously. They met the ill-fated morning of Aug. 25 at Dorrian's Red Hand, a bar frequented by so-called preppies, kids who have or are attending private college preparatory schools. Both had been drinking. Both were under age. You must be 21 or older to drink liquor in a bar in New York. At about 4:30 a.m the two left the bar hand in hand walking toward Central Park.Dan Levin, Jennifer's uncle, gave the eulogy at Riverside Memorial Chapel on Aug. 29. She was only 18 and anyone who has been 18 knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at such an age, he said. She would enter a room and your heart would leap at the sight of her. She was passionately alive and she had style. Mr. Levin said that a family friend had said of Jennifer: If she had any fault at all it was that she was too innocent, she was too pure.

But was Jennifer Levin innocent or was she simply naive?

That Jennifer died is tragic. Whether Jennifer willingly or unwillingly cavorted with Mr. Chambers is not known. But it would be an even greater tragedy for us to confuse ourselves about what innocence is.

Innocence denotes a certain purity. Adherence to moral standards, even chastity. I don't mean to denigrate the young lady or bring greater sorrow to her family. But it is important for us in this country not to delude ourselves that the standards our nation has looked up to for centuries are still adhered to. Even worse, they are not being held up to the young as worthwhile. Some don't even consider them relevant.

I was raised in San Francisco. I read the highly literate and very gossipy columnist Herb Caen every day. I read how it was sophisticated to cheat on one's mate. Affairs were what the smart set did. Using drugs, in moderation, was cool. It was Herb Caen who named the Hippies. They were hip or with it. He named the Beats the Beatniks. He made all of them intriguing to me and other young people like me. I wanted to be like that. I wanted to be sophisticated. Herb Caen helped me establish my moral standards.

It took me awhile to discover that Herb Caen was naive. But even more that his bathos was destructive. I learned that as a reporter covering the Haight- Ashbury section of San Francisco. I reported on the young Hippies, those Mr. Caen gloried in. How they died from overdoses of amphetamines, so-called speed. The young on speed revert to the moral and emotional ages of three to five.

In the communes these kids lived in, a pecking order would be established very similar to a hen house. The weakest was the slave to all. He or she was abused in every which way possible until he or she was destroyed. Then the next weakest became the slave and ultimately was destroyed. The Hippie movement did not end, it died.

As I lived longer, I found that the moral standards set up by most of the major religions made life better and easier for people. That chastity before marriage was something to uphold and honor. That decency, honesty, kindness, obedience were wonderful things. Things that deserved to be held out as good goals. Not that we can always attain them. And not that we should be too critical of those who fall below those standards. But those standards need to be recognized as something worthwhile by our young people.

Before the Puritans, no colony in this nation lasted very long. Living in the wilderness of America was hard. Most of the adventurers returned to the Old World. Many died or were killed off. The Puritans suffered and died and stayed and ultimately triumphed. I believe the high moral standards they believed in and attempted to practice made them strong and able to establish this country.

The word Puritan has a perjurative connotation today. But a historian, Perry Miller, has written extensively about the Puritans. And they come off a lot better than most of us today.

Puritanism would make every man an expert psychologist, writes Mr. Miller, to detect all makeshift rationalizations, to shatter without pity the sweet dreams of self-enhancement in which the ego takes refuge from reality. A larger quantity of Puritan sermons were devoted to...exposing not merely the conscious duplicity of evil men, but the abysmal tricks which the subconscious can play upon the best of men. The duty of the Puritan in this world was to know himself - without sparing himself one bit, without flattering himself in the slightest, without concealing from himself a single unpleasant fact about


I feel sorry for Jennifer Levin and for Robert Chambers. From all accounts they were nice young teen-agers who just wanted to be accepted by their peers. They just wanted to be part of what many of the Hollywood movies portray as a with it life style.

They apparently just accepted what Johnny Carson explains to us every night: The trick in life is not to break the Eleventh Commandment: Thou Shall Not Get Caught. Herb Caen could not have said it better.

The United States is facing a tough time today economically. There are many reasons for that. But a good part of it, I suspect, is that we have lost some of our innocence. We have lost that quality that seeks excellence, that maintains high standards.

High standards do not begin in the manufacturing plant or the office. They begin inside people. The Puritans knew that. Our young people need to know that. And the older ones of us have to set the example so the young will think that trying to be decent, trying to be moral is the in lifestyle. We owe it to future Jennifer Levins. They're too precious to lose.

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