14 October 2007

"Moral Reasons" Or Just Plain Nuts?

I must admit that while I often lose patience with aging baby boomers (myself included), the ones that most stoke my ire are those who not only seem to have learned nothing from the decade-long plunge into drug-fueled nihilism that tried to pass itself off as a "revolution," but who continue to this day to fuel the flames of ignorance and misinformation by insisting that there was actually something noble and admirable about the 60s generation's flirtation with totalitarianism and violence.

The worst offenders tend to be those who weren't actually there at the height of the "revolution," who for one reason or another didn't make it onto the scene until it was becoming obvious to most sentient observers that as bad at the US government may or may not have been at the time, a bunch of fantasy-driven young terrorists drawing upon the likes of mass murder Mao Zedong for inspiration, were not likely to represent an improvement. Like most kids who show up on the scene when the scene has already evaporated or moved on, they tried desperately to be even more radical, even more outrageous than their big brothers and sisters.

Ward Churchill, the phony Indian who managed to lie his way into a lucrative professorship, was one such; 30 years after the scales had fallen from most people's eyes, he was still lauding mad bombers and bank robbers from the 60s and early 70s as American heroes, and calling for the sort of violent revolution that, in the unlikely event it ever materialized, would spell disaster and death for the people - especially genuine Native Americans - he claimed to be advocating on behalf of.

Another, considerably less well known, but similarly befuddled, is Ron Jacobs, who when not reminiscing wistfully about taking drugs at bad early 70s rock concerts, waxes equally nostalgic about the bomb-planting young fascists and mental cases of the Weather Underground. He's written an entire book extolling their alleged virtues, and regularly submits articles to Counterpunch pushing a similar theme.

In his latest piece, Jacobs muses over why young people who come to hear him speak about the 60s radicals "seem to be looking for some kind of psychological flaw in the members of those movements." Um, possibly because they're not on the same kind of drugs you were, Ron? I mean, we are talking (in this piece, Jacobs cites with some admiration convicted Weather terrorist Cathy Wilkerson, who hosted the Greenwich Village bomb making party that blew three young radicals to smithereens in 1970) about people who, by most accounts, were constructing anti-personnel bombs of the sort that routinely go off in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the West Bank.

Can't kids these days see, Jacobs wonders, that yesterday's terror bombers (does he feel similarly about today's?) were motivated by "moral reasons" and "conscience?" The fact that most of them can't cheers me immensely, and the only reason that I bother writing on this subject is that there are still young people - sometimes, like their 60s counterparts, motivated by the best of intentions - who still idealize or glorify the solipsistic megalomaniacs of the 60s "underground."

As I've noted here before, I knew and was quite fond of one of the Weatherpeople who blew herself up that day in 1970. A couple different forks in the road, a slightly different combination of mind-altering drugs, and it's quite possible I could have come to a similar end. But once the drugs wore off, it was painfully obvious just how tragically stupid the whole business was, and how fortunate I and many other 60s survivors were to have gotten out before the insanity reached a point of no return.

Of course for pampered scions of the ruling class like Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorhn, there was no such thing as a point of no return; Daddy's money was able to buy their way back into polite society when the "revolution" didn't work out, but working class radicals - yours truly, for example - didn't usually do so well. Considering how much money my dad could have spared for my defense out of his Post Office salary, I might, if I was lucky, be getting out of prison right about now.

Oh, but there I go stirring up class warfare again, so perhaps I'd better cool it before someone mistakes me for a commie.


ron said...

You know, usually I ignore blogs like yours that tend towards pontification from some place in the webosphere, but I couldn't ignore your misrepresentation of my review of Cathy Wilkerson's book. My intent (and Cathy's I believe) is to help young people understand that there are no simple answers, but there are other ways of perceiving the world than those presented by the powers that be. She says as much in her book and I try to represent that in my writings and presentations. You, on the other hand, seem to have taken a raod well trod by the so-called commentators of the right. in other words, you don't argue content but choose instead to malign a person's (whom you do not know and have never even met) integrity and intelligence by suggesting that they took too many drugs or are blind followers of men you consider "fascist." That isn't intelligent argument, Larry, that's lazy and dishonest.

Larry Livermore said...

I never met Cathy Wilkerson, it's true, but I met others who supported or, as in the case of Diana Oughton, became part of the Weather Underground. I was broadly sympathetic toward SDS and even Weatherman at first, until the drugs wore off (hey, they didn't call us Student Dope Smokers for nothing).

Okay, cheap shot there, but drugs certainly did play a large part in making the intolerable and totalitarian seem downright reasonable. And yes, I do believe there's barely a dime's worth of difference between the fascists of the right and the totalitarians of the left, at least not once you get beyond hairstyles and rhetoric.

You claim to be presenting "other ways of perceiving the world," but the only viewpoint I've ever seen you present is a lionization of what was essentially a very sick and twisted movement, one that in a handful of years degenerated from the laudable (if perhaps not very realistic) ideals of universal peace and love to the gratuitous planting of bombs and shooting of cops. If there had been some coherent purpose to it all, it might - barely - have been justifiable in some contexts, but it wasn't; it was a bunch of crazy hippies jacked up on LSD and playing at revolution with real people's lives at stake. I was there, pal; you came late to the party and have been trying to rewrite history ever since.