a warm, fuzzy look at the weather underground
Violent activism is not something new. Back in the 60's, a radical group known as the Weathermen - an offshoot of Students for a Democratic Society - decided to protest the violence in Vietnam by being equally violent.
The first national action of the Weather Underground occurred on October 8, 1969 in Chicago, in a four day protest against the Vietnam War known as the "Days of Rage." Hundreds of members used clubs and chains to vandalize shops and cars in Chicagoís business district.
In the basement of a memberís Greenwich Village townhouse in New York City, members had created a bomb factory.
Three Weather Undeground members died while preparing a bomb.
Bomb manufacturing heightened, and in May of 1970, the Weather Underground issued a 'declaration of war:" "Within the next fourteen days we will attack a symbol or institution of American justice. This is the way we celebrate the example of Eldridge Cleaver and H. Rap Brown, and all black revolutionaries who first inspired us by their fight behind enemy lines for the liberation of their people." The groupís declaration proved to be true, as they soon bombed the headquarters of the New York Police Department and the barber shop at the U.S. Capitol Building. Twenty more bombings occurred between 1970 and 1975.
In Friday's Washington Post, staff writer Desson Howe reviewed a documentary, The Weather Undeground. It wasn't so much a review; it was more like eight paragraphs of an apologetic look at the radical group and one paragraph about the film.
THEY HAVE weathered, almost Mount Rushmore-like faces: Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers and Mark Rudd. Without even listening to their words, you can read auspicious histories in their middle-aged faces. What they did in their youth -- the terrible follies and short-lived glories -- is the intriguing subject of "The Weather Underground," a documentary about a social protest group that literally declared war on the United States government.
"Follies" would be the understatement of the century. Bomb making and inciting riots hardly qualify as youthful follies. Nor do they qualify as glories. To compare the faces of these extremists to the faces on Mount Rushmore is evidence of either a seriously overwrought writing technique or very telling of which side of the law the author would have cheered for in 1969.
Make no mistake about the goals of the Weathermen. In this Reason article from June 2003, Mark Rudd, a former member of the band of merry bombmakers, says:
When Vietnam comes up, my students will ask me: 'What did you do in the 60s?" Rudd says. "Well ... I helped found an organization dedicated to the violent overthrow of the United States government." [emphasis mine]
In the Post piece, Howe states:
But under the leadership of mostly upper-class white kids, the breakaway movement was mainly a tragic, disaster-prone endeavor as the Weathermen conducted guerilla-style bombings around the country, targeting government and other establishment buildings (including the U.S. Capitol). Although they took great pains to ensure those buildings were empty of people, they soon became pariahs to more people than they bargained for.
They took great pains to ensure those buildings were empty of people....
I suppose this is meant to invoke some sort of sympathy for the bombers. The qualifying word there is although, making it appear as if the author would want us to believe that they were humane bombers.
But for their uncompromising idealism, they paid the price of Rip Van Winkle. Emerging after years of hiding (when they surrendered, individual by individual, to federal authorities in the late 1980s and 1990s), they returned to an America that had long since passed them by.
Ah, uncompromising idealism. The hallmark of extremists everywhere. As long as you are fighting for your ideals, not compromising with say, the law, is justified.
I certainly would like to know more about the film itself and the makers of the documentary piece. I know nothing about it except that it will make you appreciate the bittersweet vision of hindsight.
Yes, something along the lines of "Gee, maybe blowing up federal buildings wasn't such a great idea after all."
Perhaps some day in the future there will be a similar documentary about ELF, ALF, PETA and all the violent protesters of the WTO and their window-smashing activism. And from certain media outlets we can expect a sympathetic look at the plight of the misguided youth who were only setting fire to buildings because of their uncompromising idealism.