Monday, October 13, 2008

A view of the Weathermen unlike any other

Last July, I wrote an essay called "A God Among Men" about the Cleveland Thinker, which was substantially damaged by a bomb in 1970. The perpetrators of the crime were never caught, but it was widely suspected that the Weathermen had staged the explosion as part of their elaborate protest campaign. As I researched and wrote my essay, I had never heard of Bill Ayers, a notable member of the Weathermen who has garnered his share of press during these volatile campaign days.

My first drafts of "A God Among Men" included incendiary language about the bombers. But the more I read about the Weathermen (whom I imagined as the bombers per public opinion), the more I wanted to portray how The Thinker himself might view them. I changed the descriptions surrounding the Weathermen to language that I thought Rodin's creation may have used. Here are the pertinent excerpts from the essay:
Then beneath the cloak of a fair spring night came other men who embodied the fears of your doting protectors. You beheld them with your pensive gaze. After all, these were your people as well. But anger and danger and heat coursed through their veins, and they’d come to slay you in defiance of privilege and war, of inequity and power. With hands as human as those that lovingly massaged you with wax, they laid a fierce weapon between your muscled thighs, where all men are vulnerable, even those fashioned from thick metal.

In the dank, deep darkness, the terrible explosion rang …

Your attackers disappeared into that long-ago night –- anonymous and small, never facing retribution. They are alive, dead, aged. They are mothers, fathers, politicos, artists and thieves: molecules in the sea of humanity.
"A God Among Men" is one of my favorite works in my portfolio. And now after all that has transpired in the past weeks, I am stunned by those excerpts. When I reread them, it's one of those few moments when I feel as though I grasped something that was beyond my power as a writer. It is nearly spiritual.


Anonymous said...

That is a very fine piece.

As an artistic statement, I think the damage actually created a more powerful work.

This election has been difficult for me and I suspect a lot of baby boomers who came of age during the Vietnam era. My political philosophy was irreverseably shaped by the evnts of the late 60s early 70s.
In no way do I condone violence. Antiwar movements by necessity are nonviolent.
I do think when discussing The Weathermen it is relevant to remember the context of their behavior.
An old ROTC building was burned at The University of Alabama by antiwar protestors and random acts like this were occuring all over America. Again I am not defending the destruction of property but this was the mood of the times.
Remember the "peaceniks" were heavily influenced by the philosophy of Martin Luther King. But later, some decided that turning the other cheek, nonviolence was not the most effective way to change.

In the past few weeks I have wondered what Wall Street might have experienced if the meltdown had occured in 1968-69. I'm guessing at the very least effigies of CEO's would have been burned outside the stock exchange.


Anonymous said...

No sooner than I had written the comment above I run across this:

Did Obama Write "Dreams from My Father" ... Or Did Ayers? [Andy McCarthy]


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, historically ANY movement that had any sort of gravitas in creating change, has had violence as its impetus.

Zen Wizard said...

Why would anyone want to blow up the Thinker?

It is totally beyond me--and I guess since they were never caught, we will never know.

hoosierboy said...

One could argue that the acts of Timothy McVeigh and the boys of 9/11 were representative of the "mood of the times."

No matter what nostalgia says, the people blowing up stuff and even the protesters were a small MINORITY of Americans.

Zen Wizard said...

Obama's explanation of Ayers--"Since I was born in 1960, I am really not that cognizant of the stuff that happened in American history prior to 1975; when I first started to pay attention"--should inspire a lot of mediocre
7th grade History essays, I predict.

Anonymous said...

As I recall hoosier, the Romans thought the Christians represented a small minority as well.

But you're right, me and the boys occaisionally gather 'round the barbecue and wistfully long for the days of burning and bombing.


The Scribe said...

great piece. :)

1) defend language
2) for what it's worth

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Minority Mood Disorder.

In the aftermath of the American Invasion of Cambodia on April 30, 1970 and the killing of four students at Kent State University on May 4 1970 in Ohio and two at Jackson State College in Mississippi on May 14/15, more than 450 university, college and high school campuses across the country were shut by student strikes and both violent and non-violent protests that involved more than 4 million students.[1] It was the only nationwide student strike in U.S. history.

While opposition to the Vietnam War had been simmering on American campuses for several years, and the idea of a strike had been introduced by the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, which advocated a general strike on the 15th of every month until the war ended, the Kent State shootings seemed to provide the spark for students across the US to adopt the strike tactic.

On 8 May, ten days after Nixon announced the Cambodian invasion (and 4 days after the Kent State shootings), 100,000 protesters gathered in Washington and another 150,000 in San Francisco.[2] Nationwide, students turned their anger on what was often the nearest military facility—college and university Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) offices. All told, 30 ROTC buildings went up in flames or were bombed. There were violent clashes between students and police at 26 schools and National Guard units were mobilized on 21 campuses in 16 states.[3]

For the most part, however, the protests were peaceful — if often tense. Apocalyptic rhetoric, however, was the order of the day. Students at New York University, for example, hung a banner out of a window which read "They Can't Kill Us All."[


Anonymous said...

RJ, I guess you are either giving me a history lesson I do not need, or trying to prove me wrong.

In the case of the latter note the poulation of the US in 1970 was 203,302,031 (according to Wikipedia -- while not a good source, I am sure that is correct).

Quick History major math says 4,000,000 is 1.9% of 203,302,031.

I am pretty sure that constitutes a minority.

If your point is anything else, it escapes me.


Anonymous said...

HB, I have decided you must be a troll. Just creating argument for arguments sake.
The only other alternative is that you are a dilettante whose self love rivals that of Narcissus.


hoosierboy said...

Whatever you think. ahem, you keep argueing as well. How ya doing kettle?

Being right is a tough burden.