Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Weather Underground

I’ve been reading Destructive Generation, Second Thoughts about the ‘60s, by Peter Collier & David Horowitz. I haven’t quite figured out the format yet. It begins as though it might be a collection of essays, but the description on the back describes it as part memoir and part political analysis.

The first story is about Fay Stender. She got her law degree and chose to defend black prisoners. She was especially involved in the defense of George Jackson, but they had a falling out. She published a book supposedly written by him, but it describes him as a victim; whereas in reality he was one of the most powerful people in the prison where he was serving time. She felt she could get him off with the defense approach she was using, but he resented it. When he proposed a more violent solution, she abandoned him. He was subsequently killed in a prison shootout. Her legal replacement was accused of slipping him a gun. And then sometime later a hit was put out on her for turning against Jackson, but she wasn’t quite killed. She was crippled and in severe pain and eventually committed suicide. Her disillusionment is described. She believed the people she defended were victims of society, but came to understand that they were violent criminals – truly scary people that terrified her. The world wasn’t quite what she imagined it to be when she graduated from college.

The second story is entitled “The Rise and Fall of the Weather Underground.” In the middle of this story I stopped and watched the documentary (they have it on Netflix) “The Weather Underground”. The main players in the Weather Underground came out of American Universities with a well-developed hatred of America. How they acquired this hatred isn’t discussed in the documentary, but they all had it and they all wanted to be involved in the revolution, that is, since America was as evil as they believed it to be, surely enough people would be willing to join them such that they could change America into what they wanted it to be. In the Collier and Horowitz book, one of the Weather Underground revolutionaries, J.J. is described as believing that “people shouldn’t expect the revolution to achieve a Kingdom of Freedom; more likely, it would produce a Dark Ages.” [p. 77]

The documentary describes a point in time when the leaders such as Ayers and Dohrn realized that their revolution wasn’t going any place. They considered themselves the Marxist-Leninist-type vanguard that would move into the hinterland and gather up the workers as the next step in their revolution. So they advertised a huge meeting in the land of the workers but hardly anyone showed up. They expected thousands and got 150. They went ahead and smashed some windows and caused some destruction, but they knew the American workers weren’t ready for their sort of revolution.

Some, like Ayers and Dohrn gave up and rejoined society, but others continued on with individual acts of violence and ended in jail. At the end of the documentary most said they would do it again, only do it better if they could do it all over again. One fellow said he felt guilty for what they had done, but none of them had given up their presuppositions. That is, the anti-Americanism that they came out of college with was still part of their belief system. America was an evil place and its wars were unjustified and evil.

Some of us can read about their symptoms and diagnose their disease. We have heard the arguments. We have read the teachings and we know how they got that way. They were indoctrinated with the propaganda of America’s enemy, the Soviet Union, such that they favored Communist causes and opposed American causes. The American strategy was developed by George Kennan during the Truman administration and, in short, advocated opposing Communist military aggression wherever it occurred. We did that in Korea. The North Koreans got approval from Moscow and Peking and invaded South Korea. We came to their defense. When that happened in Vietnam we applied our strategy once again. We now know it worked because the Soviet Union eventually collapsed; so looking back, the strategy can’t be faulted. Why did we fight in Vietnam? To oppose Communist aggression. Did we need to oppose Communist aggression there? Yes; that was our strategy and it worked.

In retrospect, who is it that can today look back and say that we shouldn’t have opposed Communist aggression? People like Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn and most of the rest of the Weather Underground survivors who still long for a revolution that will destroy America.

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