Thursday, May 21, 2015

Just so absurd

.... "People have completely forgotten that in 1972 we had over nineteen hundred domestic bombings in the United States," notes a retired FBI agent, Max Noel. "People don't want to listen to that. They can't believe it. One bombing now and everyone gets excited. In 1972? It was every day. Buildings getting bombed, policemen getting killed. It was commonplace." ....

Imagine if this happened today: Hundreds of young Americans—white, black, and Hispanic—disappear from their everyday lives and secretly form urban guerrilla groups. Dedicated to confronting the government and righting society's wrongs, they smuggle bombs into skyscrapers and federal buildings and detonate them from coast to coast. They strike inside the Pentagon, inside the U.S. Capitol, at a courthouse in Boston, at dozens of multinational corporations, at a Wall Street restaurant packed with lunchtime diners. People die. They rob banks, dozens of them, launch raids on National Guard arsenals, and assassinate policemen, in New York, in San Francisco, in Atlanta. There are deadly shoot-outs and daring jailbreaks, illegal government break-ins and a scandal in Washington.

This was a slice of America during the tumultuous 1970s, a decade when self-styled radical "revolutionaries" formed something unique in post-colonial U.S. history: an underground resistance movement. Given little credibility by the press, all but ignored by historians, their bombings and robberies and shoot-outs stretched from Seattle to Miami, from Los Angeles to Maine. And even if the movement's goals were patently unachievable and its members little more than onetime student leftists who clung to utopian dreams of the 1960s, this in no way diminished the intensity of the shadowy conflict that few in America understood at the time and even fewer remember clearly today. ....

The story she [Kathy Wilkerson - a member of the Weather Underground] tells is like many I heard from those who joined Weather and other radical underground groups of the 1970s, who mistakenly believed the country was on the brink of a genuine political revolution, who thought that violence would speed the change....

"It's all so fantastic to me now," [Cathy Wilkerson] says as we rise to leave.. "It's just so absurd I participated in all this."

"The challenge for me," I say on the sidewalk outside, "is to explain to people today why this all didn't seem as insane then as it does now."

"Yes," she says, stepping into a morning rain. "That's it exactly." ....