The Weathermen were a militant group of white college student anti-war activists who had the motto “Bring the War Home”. They sympathized with the Black Panther party and other liberation movements going on around the world. As they saw it, the world was on the brink of revolution and either you were a member of the revolution fighting oppression or you were an oppressor. Peaceful protests and sit-ins were doing nothing to end the Vietnam war or other crimes being perpetrated by the U.S. Government. When their movement changed from protest and activism to violence and terrorism, they initially sought to target and kill placid whites to wake them up. However a miswired bomb killed three of their group and the remaining members decided that the violence against civilians was the wrong tact to take. Of the twenty something bombings the group carried out, the only deaths were those three.
I was struck by the documentary, The Weather Underground, that the world described sounded very much like the world that we’re living in today. I felt sympathy for their frustration in being unable to bring about change in a world where the US was involved in the murder of civilians and the destruction of Civil Liberties. The interviews with the now much older and wiser members of the Weather Underground showed people who felt passionate about injustice yet conflicted, guilty, yet still defensive about the paths they took. As one member put it, at the time he was frustrated about what to do with all his feelings about the war and the atrocities being perpetrated and is still frustrated to this day. They didn’t and don’t know what the right answer should be.
They show us a window into how easily one can slip from being one of the good guys to one of the bad. These were white, privileged, college educated, idealistic kids who were two steps away from becoming Al-Qaeda-esque terrorists. They weren’t blowing things up because God or Allah told them to. Their frustration wasn’t motivated by poverty. They saw themselves as revolutionaries fighting for just causes. Some would say they were terrorists because they went beyond civil disobedience to outright violence. One of the members later joined another group that ended up killing police officers during a Brinks robbery gone bad and is now serving a life sentence in jail. While he feels culpable for the deaths of the officers, he also feels he’s a political prisoner who shouldn’t be in jail.
If we look at our history though, weren’t we the terrorists at one time? Weren’t we the insurrectionists? I don’t know what the right answer is about the current conflicts going on in the world, but I do know we’re stuck in the middle of the wrong one.