Sunday, September 6, 2009

i didn't do it but i dug it

I've become fascinated with The Weathermen.
The Weather Underground in particular.
It's the philosopher's doing really.
He was thumbing through a book
contrasting the weathermen and the RAF
which inevitably led to an evening on the couch
watching The Weather Underground,
a documentary about the group.

You know how you can go through life
oblivious to various things in daily surroundings
until you suddenly come across some new information
or have a revelation of some kind
and then start noticing random things all over the place
connected to the new information or revelation in your life?

It happens to me all the time.

Anyway, a couple of days after seeing the documentary
L and I were browsing through books at Half Price.
Lo and behold, totally random, was Bill Ayer's book, Fugitive Days.

A couple days before and I probably wouldn't have noticed.

It is a seemingly strange idea that the weathermen pushed:
violence and bombings as irenic gestures.
But I get it. Honestly, learning more about the group,
and the way they operated, I think it makes sense.

It makes me think about V for Vendetta.
"If our own government was responsible
for the deaths of almost a hundred thousand people...
would you really want to know?"

And, perhaps more importantly, if you did know
that our government was responsible
for the grotesquely horrifying deaths of millions,
what would you do?

What options are left
when one small group has a monopoly on power,
when they don't allow any other voices to be heard?

Why is it that violence by the state is so often assumed to be
justified, legitimate, legal, and right
while violence from the fringes is assumed a priori to be
unjustified, illegitimate, illegal, and wrong?

The Weathermen bombed symbolic buildings
in retaliation for actions the U.S. government took.
They always explained the reason for the bombing and,
most importantly, they always made serious efforts
to have the buildings cleared before the bombs detonated -
an attempt to make sure people were not harmed or killed.

And yet.
They are given the label "terrorist",
burdened by the media's unceasing demands for apologies.

I don't know. I don't really believe they should apologize,
or be expected to. I'm no expert, but as far as I can tell,
the days of rage were among the most senseless of their actions.
It seems to me to be among the closest approximations of lived terrorism.
But... well... the police brutally beat the shit out of them in the process.
Where are the apologies from the men wielding nightsticks and guns?
Though the media insists on remorseful reminiscence,
I agree with Ayers on this one.

There is a lot of misinformation about the group out there.
Especially after Palin's accusation against Obama.
But research on the group supports Ayer's account.

You've heard the saying "treason is a matter of dates"...
I feel like this is pretty similar.

"The important questions, of course, remain unsettled: What does the dream of social justice ask of us? What are the obstacles to our humanity now? And how shall we live?

I can't quite imagine putting a bomb in a building today --
all of that seems so distinctly a part of then. But I can't imagine entirely dismissing the possibility, either. To say, We want justice, makes utter sense to me as it always has, but to add, But of course not by any means -- is, it seems to me, to put your neck right on the chopping block. As a tactic, perhaps, but as principle, no.

Say the unjust are particularly powerful, as they so often are in our world, and enforcing a wide range of painful social relations, and say they make it clear that any serious opponent will be jailed or shot. They insist on only "peaceful" protest, prescribed and entirely in-bounds, and they enforce that dictate with clubs and guns and rockets. They grant themselves a monopoly on power, an exclusive franchise on violence, and they use it. What then?"
Fugitive Days, 284-5.

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