April 28, 2004

The Weather Underground

Domestic terrorism is not new to this country. We first started dealing with it back in the 60's. Violence was all over the place then, as young people started raising hell about the Vietnam war.

A certain terrorist faction known as the "weather underground," which based on this film, appears to be a bunch of spoiled rich kids feeling guilty about their fortunate family situations who decide to rebel against the status quo. The film, which aired on PBS last night and is reportedly coming out on DVD in a few weeks, interviews several of the principals from that group and that era, along with descriptions of the various calamities that they created.

For the most part, these former revolutionaries express much regret for the things they did. The exceptions here are Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers; they're still proud of their efforts at undermining American freedoms. The others look like lost souls. Karma's a bitch, and these post middle-age folks seem to be experiencing that. I was startled to find out that one of them, Mark Rudd, is teaching at TVI here in Albuquerque. I would honestly like to talk with him, not in an aggressive way, but just to ask him directly about what was going through his mind in those days. The trouble with documentaries is that they have to be edited.

In recent years, I have become an outspoken conservative, however, I spent all my younger years on the liberal side, even in some radical factions. The basic truth of my being (at least as I see it so far) is that I am a natural born revolutionary. This used to mean being a liberal, now it means being a conservative. If I was about 10 years older, I'm certain I would have joined in the anti-war movement, and in a big, perhaps violent, way. Therefore, unlike many of my conservative colleagues, I will not rush to judgement of these individuals.

This is what the film, The Weather Underground, has done for me: reminded me of my basic nature. I feel empathy for these people, but I do not feel sympathy for them. I do condemn their actions, I just don't condemn them so much. I know that makes little sense to some people but I don't know how else to say it. (I'm really glad I slept on it before I wrote this.)

These people were kids who wanted to rebel. Most young people want to rebel. The war gave them a vehicle, something they could bitch about in a big way, probably abetted by their college professors. Apparently they got a little too caught up in it, and couldn't get back out.

I was struck by the film of the weather underground members once the Vietnam war ended, and they all started turning themselves in. They should be jumping for joy. Not only did the U.S. get kicked out of Vietnam, South Vietnam was overrun by communists and became a communist nation. The radicals got exactly what they wanted. Yet, they all look bummed out, like a kid who has grown up and can't play with his toys any more. It's like, "what are we gonna do now...?"

While most are regretful, Ayers and Dohrn stick to their rebellion. It speaks to the leftiness of our academic system that these people are now college professors. They got off, deservedly so, because the FBI broke the law in pursuing them. However, that doesn't mean a college has to hire them to teach, especially an institution as prestigious as Northwestern University.

You have to be amazed at the weathermen's conviction, attempting to overthrow the U.S. government with their little group. Or, you have to be amazed at how crazy dumb they were.

Posted by Wayne at April 28, 2004 11:23 AM

"These people were kids who wanted to rebel. Most young people want to rebel. The war gave them a vehicle, something they could bitch about in a big way, probably abetted by their college professors. Apparently they got a little too caught up in it, and couldn't get back out." I believe you have completely missed the mark in this comment. As you have qualified that you are about 10 years younger than those involved in the 70's activist movements, I understand why your remark is off base. I can speak with knowledge of these times as I lived them. First of all, the hippie movement and drugs were the vehicle for rebellion against a materialistic, capitalist culture, with hundreds of billions of dollars used in the development of efficient killing machines. The leftist radical movement grew from a rational reaction to irrational behavior of extreme reactionary and militaristic power. In the 50's, we grew up having to dive under desks as a drill to prepare for nuclear war, we went through the Cuban Missile Crisis with uncertainty about any future at all in the midst of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). Can you even imagine your father digging a bomb shelter in the backyard when you are 10 or 11 years old? We had more material goods than we could ever consume, our parents were the children ot he Great Depression and worked hard to purchase a home, car, and all the goodies that modern industrial society could produce. But we saw divorce, domestic violence, absent parents, and alcoholism exponentially explode amidst our afluent society. We saw hypocrisy in our politicians, we were shocked at the daily news coverage of the death, carnage and terror of the war we waged on a 3rd world nation (Vietnam). Young people my age were drafted to die and could find no honor or justification for the deaths and maimed lives. Introspective and questioning students were often far more ahead of their professors. It started in Salem and Birmingham,AL, and Oxford,MS. where the KKK and fellow thugs beat, tortured, and killed Blacks and civil rights advocates. We were radicalized by what we saw. I was radicalized in the 60's and remain so to this day. Along with the majority of student activists of the 70's, I was never a member of the SDS or Weather Underground. But they certainly had our sympathy because of our clear understanidng that they were fighting the real enemy. What is going on right now in Iraq and in the Pentagon and in the White House is deja vu for those of us who grew up in the 60's and early 70's. The way our country split down the middle with so much vitrolic hatred for the other half is how it used to be in the seventies. The real lesson from this film was that young people can react to the unjust application of State or military violence so passionately that they will justify any means necessary including giving their own lives to fight back. This fanatical devotion to the cause seen by the Weather Underground participants is no different from that expressed by other modern day terrorists including Timothy McVeigh, the extreme Zionists in Palestine in the 1940's, or young Islamist suicide bombers. All feel compelled to pursue any means possible to oppose what they perceive to be "evil". Presidents and Defense Secretaries who also perceive evil do not hesitate to make the same mistakes in their impassioned efforts, using any means possible and the entire US military arsenal.

Posted by: Vicki at February 4, 2005 08:00 PM
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