Why is the Weather Underground Still Making News?
When Malcolm Cowley wrote about the "quaint mania of passing one's life wearing oneself out over words," he was referring to the temperament of the artist, to the burning love of literature that has called forth so many writers to give themselves over to their craft. But the phrase suits right-wing bashers of the Weather Underground equally well. Will there ever be a day when conservatives pass up a news peg that gives them a chance to denounce - for the umpteenth time - the ultra-militant New Left splinter group of the early-1970s?
This time the occasion is the announcement that Chesa Boudin, a 22-year old Yale senior, was recently awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. As a recent New York Times profile laid out, both of Boudin's biological parents - who were once members of the Weather Underground - are in prison for their role in a 1981 robbery of Brinks armored car that went badly awry; two police officers and a security guard were killed in the debacle. Boudin, who was barely a year old when his parents were sentenced, has since been raised by Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, themselves former Weatherleaders with two children of their own.
"Perhaps al-Qaeda should have blown up Yale or the New York Times" David Horowitz recently proclaimed. If they had, "then our treacherous elites" might better understand "the forces that are arrayed against us" -- the "pro-Communist, pro-terrorist anti-American left [that] is entrenched in our elite universities, and has won the support of the award committees of our highest academic honors and our most influential newspaper."
It's hard to believe that anyone could be more alarmist about Boudin's prize than this, but the creepy website propagandamatrix.com has Horowitz beat by a mile: "Son of Communist Terror Leader Given Keys to the New World Order," ran a recent headline.
That the Weather Underground was a violent and reckless organization is beyond dispute; throughout the early-1970s they claimed responsibility for about two-dozen bombings as they eluded capture by the FBI. Save for three of their own members who died in 1970 while building a bomb in a West Village townhouse, they never killed anyone; but their actions - along with their inflammatory rhetoric and mud-pie theories -put them at odds with the vast majority of the antiwar movement. In response to the Dylan lyric-cum-Weather slogan "You Don't Need A Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows," peace activists printed buttons that read "You Don't Need a Rectal Thermometer to Know Who the Assholes Are."
Why the far-right continues to make hash about the Weather Underground when most of the American left wrote the group off 30 years ago is something of a mystery. What Chesa Boudin has to do with any of this is an even greater puzzle, seeing as the group dissolved long before he was even born. But writers are making the connections.
Several have complained that Boudin has not sufficiently repudiated his parents. "Being the child of a leftwing domestic terrorists means never having to say you're sorry," writes Michelle Malkin in Jewish World Review - although just what Chesa Boudin ever did that he needs to apologize for is never explained. Emily Yoffe, at Slate, observes that Boudin once published a brief essay in Salon about the indignities of visiting his father in prison without explaining "what got his father put away in the first place" - as if the former story can't be told without the latter. In an essay for the History News Network, Edward Renehan Jr., grumbles that Boudin "downplays" the transgressions of his "four radical parents"
Presumably, one of the reasons Boudin won the Rhodes is his commitment to social justice. In addition to being Phi Beta Kappa at Yale, he's been a member of the peace movement, studied in Chile, worked for prison reform in Latin America, and he plans to pursue international development studies at Oxford University. He's expressed interest in a career in politics or U.S. foreign-service -- that is, in working within the system -- but to today's Weather-bashers this is all just evidence that Boudin is a dangerous clone of his parents. Yoffe alleges he has "embraced their ideology"; Malkin avers that Boudin "stands by the Weatherman's revolutionary agenda." Renehan says Boudin displays his parents' "unmistakable imprint." All three writers base their claim on a single quote in the Times. Boudin said: "My parents were all dedicated to fighting U.S. imperialism around the world. I'm dedicated to the same thing."
Of course, many millions of people have been against American imperialism; only a few hundred ever joined the Weather Underground.
Boudin's antagonists aim to stir up resentment at the violent tactics and sectarian arrogance of the "lunatic left," but in fact they only showcase their own vindictive cruelty. It's absurd to suggest that Boudin owes anyone an apology for events that occurred when he was an infant, and it scarcely takes a bleeding heart to recognize the painful dilemmas faced by children of incarcerated parents. Ironically, the publication that commented most appropriately about Boudin's Rhodes is People magazine, which framed the event perfectly ... as a touching human-interest story.
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passerby - 10/29/2003
I.t 9:30 a.m. on October 20, 1981, Kathy Boudin took her fourteen-month-old son Chesa to his baby-sitter, while her husband, David Gilbert, waited in the car. She planned, like any working mother, to pick up her child around 5 p.m. This was not the most realistic of expectations. Kathy's main task for the day was scheduled for 4 p.m. in Nyack, New York, about forty-five miles away. Even were she to finish her work promptly, it would be impossible to drive back over the Tappan Zee Bridge during rush hour, return the van that she was about to rent, and hop on the subway, all within an hour. At the very best, Chesa would have to be collected in the early evening.
But Chesa was never picked up by either of his parents that day. After dropping off their child, Kathy and David drove to the Bronx, rented their truck, covered the windows with contact paper, and crossed the river, where they met up with their colleagues. Those colleagues were a group of hard-nosed criminals and self-professed revolutionaries who had just robbed a Brinks truck and killed Peter Paige, one of its guards. Four sacks containing $798,000 were thrown into Kathy and David's truck; some of the robbers jumped in as well, and they began to drive back toward the bridge, followed by another van containing another $800,000 and the rest of the gang.
But their rendezvous had been spotted and the police had been alerted, so by the time the group arrived at the entrance to the New York Thruway five minutes later a roadblock had already been set up. The van was stopped, but at first the police were not sure they had the right vehicle. (They were looking for a van driven by blacks.) "Tell them to put the gun back," Kathy said to one of the officers who had begun to question them, and so they did. Unarmed, he and his colleague were sitting ducks for the bank robbers in the back of the van, who jumped out shooting. Officer Waverly "Chipper" Brown was killed immediately. Sergeant Edward O'Grady was killed while trying to reload his gun. Kathy started to run, but she was caught by an off-duty parole officer. In the confusion, David managed to drive away, but he was apprehended in Nyack along with the driver of the other vehicle.
Chesa was still at his babysitter's apartment; his planned pick-up time was almost precisely the moment when his parents were apprehended. Nine hours later, at around 2 a.m., Kathy was allowed to make a phone call from jail. She rang the home of William Kunstler, the radical lawyer, not the home of Ana Vasquez, the babysitter. Kathy had not forgotten about her son; the next day she finally reached Kunstler, who then called Kathy's father, and, together with their wives, they immediately drove to Nyack. Meeting them in her cell, Kathy asked them to pick up Chesa. It was now almost two full days after the bloody events. We do not know from Susan Braudy's terse, tough-minded, honest, and thoroughly absorbing book when and how Ana Vasquez was relieved of her charge. But we do know that Kathy's parents, understanding that their daughter was likely to be behind bars for some time, considered themselves too old to adopt her child. "We'd never heard of Pampers," Kathy's mother said. "We didn't know how to undo the stickum. The baby was crying." Kathy's fellow revolutionaries Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers decided to adopt Chesa on the spot. Kathy, to her dismay, learned that as a prisoner she had no right to see Chesa, and it was not until January 1983, when he would have been twenty-nine months old, that Kathy, recently transferred to a new prison, was finally allowed to touch her baby.
The events in which Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert participated left many painful questions. How did a group of high-achieving kids find themselves in the midst of such violence? By what processes of reasoning could intelligent people conclude that criminals were revolutionaries? How could individuals who claimed to be on the side of the working class participate in the murder of a local policeman? In what ways is the search for racial equality advanced by removing the only African American policeman in a town from his job, let alone from his life? And to all these can be added the question that I have the hardest time understanding: how could the parents of a baby drop the bundle of happiness off with a stranger in order to choose death over life?
ew parents would have made the choice that Kathy Boudin made, but then few of us have fathers who worked so assiduously to sleep with the people whom we invited over to the house. Leonard Boudin, possessed of a famous name in Jewish and radical circles--his uncle Louis Boudin had been one of the founders of the U.S. Socialist Party, a lawyer who defended radicals of one stripe or another, and a scholar of Marxism--impressed nearly everyone he met with his energy and his intensity of commitment. Many of those impressions were tinged with sexuality. Leonard seduced one of his daughter's friends (who happened also to be pregnant) while she was staying in her room. When Kathy's brother Michael dated Constancia Romilly--the daughter of the progressive writer Jessica Mitford and the future wife of the black activist James Forman--the father intervened again, inviting Dinky, as she was known, out for tennis dates before climbing into bed with her. Leporello's aria would barely do justice to Leonard Boudin, since Don Giovanni, at least in the opera, seduced only females. Leonard had no such inhibitions. He had a youthful love affair with Paul Goodman, shared a mistress with Fidel Castro, pursued (without success) Joan Baez, and was capable of leading a young legal associate to bed during a dinner party while his wife, accused by one person in the Boudin circle of pimping for her husband, looked the other way and smiled.
Kathy's mother, as the dinner party incident suggests, had problems of her own. Although Jean Roisman was not born wealthy, she found herself taken in by the aristocratic Leof family, whose Rittenhouse Square mansion in Philadelphia attracted prominent leftists (Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, Earl Browder) and artists (Franchot Tone, Luther and Stella Adler, Horace Pippin, Marc Blitzstein, Clifford Odets). Jean's sister Esther, while in college at Penn, met and then married Izzy Feinstein, who under the name I.F. Stone would become the most famous radical journalist of his time. One member of the Leof circle, Bert Gross, who would later help to draft the Employment Act of 1946 and still later author a quirky book called Friendly Fascism, fell under the spell of the drop-dead gorgeous Jean and had a brief affair with her, but, knowing that she was out of reach, introduced her to Leonard Boudin, his high school classmate. Their marriage lasted fifty-two years, until his death in 1989.
An odd marriage it was. In 1953, Jean, depressed in part because of Leonard's numerous liaisons, tried to commit suicide, after which she underwent electroshock therapy. Leonard's reaction was to propose marriage to another woman. (His reasoning was that Jean had been unfaithful to him by trying to take her own life and therefore he no longer even had to keep up the pretense of being faithful to her). Rebuffed, Leonard welcomed Jean back, using her trauma to advance--and then to terminate when he tired of them--his sexual conquests.
Braudy is not always reliable in her reporting; she gets a few names and affiliations wrong. But even if half of what she says about the Boudins is true, and chances are that a good deal more than that is, this was a family circle from hell. Had Scott Fitzgerald been Jewish, he would have written about Leonard and Jean Boudin. Fighters on behalf of the underprivileged, families such as the Boudins and the Leofs lived lives of remarkable privilege themselves. (Anyone who has ever seen The Cosby Show will recognize the façade of the Manhattan brownstone in which Kathy Boudin grew up.) After adopting Chesa, Kathy's friends from the Weather Underground sent him to P.S. 9, attended mainly by blacks and Hispanics. After all, no one of means, no matter how leftist their sympathies, sends kids to public schools in Manhattan (Kathy attended the private Elisabeth Irwin High School, whose affiliated elementary school is the Little Red School House). Leonard exploded at the notion that Chesa would attend school with the unwashed. "My grandson must attend a traditional school," he announced to Dohrn and Ayers. "The little children are roughnecks and have no manners." For Boudin, nothing was too good for the Boudins. The family life of the Boudins was as marked by snobbery and competition as it was by sexuality and betrayal.
Some people thrive under such circumstances. Kathy's brother Michael did. At Harvard College, where he was a first-rate student, Michael came under the spell of Judge Learned Hand and eventually became a conservative, a Republican, a lawyer, and a judge. But others found it harder to live up to such pressure--including, it would seem, Kathy. People were always praising her brother. Her cousin Celia Stone had married a brilliant scientist (who would later win the Nobel Prize in biology and become a founder of Genentech). And then there was her father, a man capable of inviting one of Kathy's boyfriends for a swim for the purpose of checking out the size of his genitals.
"It seemed to Kathy that everyone in the Boudin family had 'Harvard-approved' stamped on their foreheads, except, of course, Kathy herself," writes Braudy. This was an illusion: Leonard, for all his fame, had been rejected by City College after high school (before his father pulled strings to get him in) and had attended law school at the not terribly exclusive St. John's. Still, Kathy followed in her father's footsteps. Unable to win acceptance to an Ivy League university, she went to Bryn Mawr. (Braudy was one of her classmates.) "The Boudins saw Bryn Mawr as Kathy's failure," Braudy remarks, a failure that would only be exacerbated when Kathy was rejected by Yale Law School. Aside from being a revolutionary, and not a very successful one at that, Kathy never had a career, which was as close to a cardinal sin as one can commit in the circles in which her parents traveled. (In prison, Kathy would earn her master's degree in education.)
"I'm so angry," Jean Boudin said during the pre-trial hearing for the Brinks defendants. Her anger, needless to say, had nothing to do with the taking of innocent life. "Why is Kathy doing this to us?" It is not easy to find your own self when you have a mother as codependent as Jean and a father as egomaniacal as Leonard. Braudy makes much of the narcissistic dysfunctionality of the Boudin family. Since Leonard was the attorney defending radicals such as Benjamin Spock and Daniel Ellsberg, Kathy--if she were either to shine in her father's eyes or to establish sufficient distance from his suffocating presence--was effectively disbarred from the practice of law. (She would briefly attend law school at Case Western Reserve University.) More, Kathy also rejected the very idea of law itself; her insurrectionary politics were intended as a repudiation of her father's decision, as the language of the day put it, to work within the system.
Thanks to the FBI, Braudy was able to listen to tapes of some of Kathy's conversations with her father. Leonard tried to impress upon his daughter what a great man he was for defending the antiwar activities of people such as Spock. Kathy would have none of it. "Either admire me or get the fuck out of my way," she told her father. "I'm the one doing serious work, manning the barricades in Chicago. I'm not interested in admiring your high jinks right now." Leonard delivered his own rebuff in return, dismissing Kathy's radical actions as "unserious pranks" and refusing to fly to Chicago to help his daughter after the Weatherman-sponsored "Days of Rage." No wonder Kathy's first call from prison was to Kunstler, her father's rival in the practice of radical law.
t least some of Kathy Boudin's rather odd choices in her life were the product of the family circle in which she was raised. As Braudy's book makes abundantly clear, the Boudin-style combination of economic privilege and leftist politics is toxic. Wealth invariably gives those fortunate enough to possess it the sense that society's rules are meant for others. What good is money if it does not come with the ability to buy one's way out of the lines, inconveniences, and obstacles that ordinary people come to expect? ("I'll pay you come the revolution," Jean would tell bill collectors before hanging up on them.) Leftist politics are supposed to counter this sense of entitlement, but they often intensify it, especially in Manhattan. Persuaded that their causes are just, their motives pure, and their deeds appreciated, radicals such as those in the Boudin circle found an additional reason for assuming that the conventions of everyday life simply did not apply to them. Leonard's sexual escapades were not just the product of a man with an over-active libido. They were also the expression of someone haughty enough to believe that he could do anything he wanted and leftist enough to expect praise as his just reward.
Kathy never really rejected Leonard, for she, too, wanted to flout authority and to win plaudits for doing so. Her sexual adventures were perfectly continuous with those of her father; the Weathermen aimed to smash monogamy and went through periodic binges during which everyone slept with everyone else, irrespective of gender, before veering off into binges of chastity. (Leonard at least seemed to enjoy his sexual freedom; Kathy's libertinism comes off as a duty.) And just as Kathy broke the law, Leonard bent it to defend his clients. He was standing next to Daniel Ellsberg, for example, while Ellsberg informed the FBI that he was not the person who liberated the Pentagon Papers. If Leonard and Jean ever sat down and told Kathy in no uncertain terms that the end does not justify the means, especially when the means are violent, there is no record of it in Braudy's grimly fascinating book. Instead Braudy writes that friends of the family "wondered if Kathy and Michael were ever categorically refused anything"--including, one presumes, parental acquiescence in Kathy's political fantasies.
or this reason, it is hard to take seriously the cries of betrayal issued by the Boudins at Kathy's increasingly radical actions. When Kathy entered a guilty plea for the Brinks robbery, which Leonard had taken the lead in negotiating, her father, Braudy tells us, "was wracked with alternating pain and fury: Why had Kathy thrown away her life? Was it to ruin his reputation and life?" Yet Leonard must have understood how faithful Kathy had been to his life and his work. Growing up in his household, she had learned that radicals were superior people, and she had carried herself like one ever since. Kathy's generation was frequently taken to denouncing "white skin privilege." How convenient for Kathy to include among the privileged everyone who shared her complexion, thereby allowing her (and maybe even them) to ignore the extra privileges that she enjoyed owing to her comfortable lifestyle and her do-no-wrong politics. Struggle though she might, Kathy would always be Leonard's daughter, adopting his old left sensibilities to new left strategies.
Not all of the rebels were red-diaper babies, but Kathy's diaper was the reddest of them all. Following the Freudian script with unerring accuracy, the radicals of the 1960s and 1970s called themselves a "new" left to pronounce dead the musty Stalinism of their parents. In reality, matters would prove more complicated. Unwilling to ally themselves with what they perceived as the unbending anti-Communism of American politics, new leftists often kept their criticisms of the Communist Party to themselves, and as the war in Vietnam escalated and their anger increased, they began making common cause with an earlier generation of Communists who, in their eyes, came to seem heroic.
For a Boudin, the question of what to do about the old left must have been particularly awkward. Braudy asks us to imagine what it must have been like to be a student at Elisabeth Irwin, whose graduating class each year sent ever newer recruits such as Kathy and her classmate Angela Davis into leftist causes, and in addition to be known as the daughter of the lawyer who represented Fidel Castro and the sons of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, especially when one of those sons, Michael Meeropol, was teaching Kathy to play the guitar. Those who stood in awe of Kathy's leftist pedigree were unlikely to know that Leonard, who had advised his clients not to cooperate with investigatory committees by refusing to answer whether or not they had been in the Communist Party, himself had answered the question under investigation. (It turns out that he had never joined the party and therefore did not have to provide the names of others who did.) Nor were they likely to realize that, although Leonard had defended the Rosenberg children in their custody fight, he had in fact turned down Julius Rosenberg's request to be his lawyer. (Boudin probably realized that the Communist Party wanted the Rosenbergs to be executed, the better to make them martyrs, and he was not about to be on the losing side of a famous case.)
Although the world may not have known of Leonard's ambivalent relationship with the old left, Jean and Kathy Boudin did, and they castigated him for it. "You took Judy Coplon instead of the Rosenbergs because she was so pretty and so famous," Kathy would say to her father, and she was most likely right. Judith Coplon's was one of the first great trials of what we now call the McCarthy period. Coplon had been a Justice Department clerk who was charged with stealing government documents and passing them on to the Soviet Union. Boudin won her freedom on appeal by discovering that the evidence against her had been collected illegally by the FBI. Yet for Kathy such victories, however important, could not bring Michael Meeropol's parents back to life. Braudy speculates--without evidence, but quite plausibly--that Kathy chose the next best thing: she would put herself in the shoes of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg by making herself a martyr for the cause.
It is not that Kathy wanted to be caught and put on trial; she and her Weathermen friends took pains to change their identities and to cover their tracks. Still, their ability to escape the authorities may have had more to do with the latter's incompetence and indifference than the revolutionaries realized. Kathy and her friends took unnecessary risks, such as speeding, that could easily have resulted in their capture. They cooperated with radical film-makers, evidently unwilling, despite their life on the run, to be out of the limelight. There was the decision--reached, it would seem, collectively--to have children, which is not the thing to do if you have to lam out of town quickly. Kathy herself maintained contact with her parents, the kind of communication that an FBI more interested in catching terrorists than protecting its bureaucratic turf would have been monitoring. And then there was the last desperate act, a robbery and a murder so badly planned and so ineptly executed that capture was all but inevitable.
here was one way in which Kathy certainly did act like the Rosenbergs: they abandoned their children for their cause, as she abandoned her child. But in another way Kathy must have thought she had outdone them. Julius had passed secrets to a county that was, at the time, one of our allies, one can imagine her thinking. She, by comparison, found herself in the house in Greenwich Village when one of her bomb-making comrades blew it to bits, and helped to liberate Timothy Leary from a minimumsecurity prison in California (only to have Leary squeal on them a year later), and planned and carried out some twenty bombings (including one in a Pentagon bathroom) and participated in numerous robberies, and assisted in the prison break of the black radical Joanne Chesimard--and all this in addition to the three lives taken at Nyack. Not for Kathy and her circle the meekness of old leftists who quietly accepted their fate.
Kathy's Rosenberg complex was understood by Rita Jensen, with whom she had shared a co-op apartment on Manhattan's Morningside Drive. Kathy asked Rita to refuse to cooperate with the grand jury investigation into Kathy's crimes. One of the few people in this saga who actually chose to protect her children rather than give them up for the cause, Rita spurned Kathy's plea and accused her friend of trying to follow in the Rosenbergs' footsteps. The same comparison occurred to David Gilbert, although he took a quite different course of action. Leonard asked David to mitigate Kathy's punishment by claiming that she and David had been manipulated by the criminals who carried out the robbery. Julius Rosenberg had refused to cooperate with the government that had put him and his wife on trial by not testifying to his wife's innocence, even though by so doing he effectively condemned her to death, and David thought Julius had done the right thing; when he was offered the opportunity to sacrifice others (and himself) for principle, he did not resist. He chose not to turn his back on his militant co-defendants, and as a result Kathy had no choice but to plead guilty. The best that Leonard could negotiate on her behalf was twenty years to life. Whether David Gilbert ever figured into his calculations the effects of his actions on his wife and his son is known only to him.
hate you, I hate you for leaving me behind and for getting in jail," Chesa informed his mother on one of his visits to Bedford Hills. Braudy writes that he was "a violent, troubled boy." It is not difficult to understand why he beat his head against walls and was diagnosed as autistic by specialists. His mother had abandoned him and his father had chosen gang solidarity over parental love. Chesa must also have been aware of the jealous rivalry between his birth mother and his adopted mother. "It is not right that Chesa be raised by Bill & Bernardine with all decisions made by them," Kathy wrote to her father. But Kathy was in prison and Bernardine was free, and so it is not surprising who prevailed in this struggle; Chesa's adoptive parents moved him to Chicago, and out of Kathy's reach. According to Braudy, the move was crucial to his ability to get his life together.
Kathy Boudin had been a precocious youngster. In 1960, when she was seventeen, her radical political activities were featured in articles in The New York Times and the London Daily Mail. How appropriate, then, that Chesa, now a college senior, would be the subject of a profile in The New York Times in December 2002, after he won a Rhodes scholarship. "When I was younger, I was angry," he told Jodi Wilgoren, the Times reporter. "Now, I'm not angry. I'm sad that my parents have to suffer what they have to suffer on a daily basis, that millions of other people have to suffer as well." Held under maximum-security conditions, Chesa's birth parents were unavailable for interviews. But Chesa had four parents, and his adopted ones were only too happy to prattle to the newspaper. "Cecil Rhodes, I don't know what he would think if he were alive today; he'd probably be horrified," Bernardine Dohrn chipped in. "You know what I love about listening to Chesa?" Bill Ayers asked. "He confirms the natural cycle that your kids are always so much smarter and better than you are."
There is no gainsaying Chesa's success in overcoming the anger induced by his separation from his parents; but a rags-to-riches story this is not. Chesa, in fact, inherited the Boudin advantage. There is, first of all, his talismanic name: Chesa Jackson Boudin, each portion of which was carefully chosen. "Chesa," Swahili for dancer, was meant to celebrate the baby's feet-first birth and his links to the Afrocentric black revolutionaries whom his parents admired. (Their leader, Jeral Wayne Williams, called himself Doc Mutulu Shakur, and his stepson Tupac would later die a famous and violent death.) Chesa's middle name, honored George Jackson, who had been killed trying to shoot his way out of prison. And his last name came not from the undistinguished Gilbert side of his parental heritage, but from the illustrious Boudin side. It was as if the application to Yale was being written the day the baby's names were chosen. It seems somehow typical of the Boudin charm that by the time Chesa applied to college, Ivy League schools had decided to reject huge numbers of straight-A students in favor of youngsters who seemed interesting, and there could have been no child in America more interesting to all those 1960s radicals turned academic administrators than Chesa. A century and a quarter after Louis Boudinovitch was born in Russia, his name, shortened and transliterated into English, could open doors in America that had been closed to the Jews of his era.
hesa also shared the self- centeredness of the Boudin clan. His concern for the world's victims never seemed to extend to the victims of his mother's actions. "I haven't talked to my father in twenty years," the orphaned Kim O'Grady commented when she read Chesa's account of how difficult it had been for him to inform his parents of his good fortune. And when Chesa had the gall to advise the families of the men his mother had helped kill to get over it--"I also was a victim of that crime. I know how important it was for me to forgive"--it was as if Leonard and Jean had come back to life. Where else but in the world of the aristocratic left is it possible to equate the sufferings of nine fatherless children with the tribulations of being a Rhodes scholar?
Not for Chesa, moreover, the decision of his uncle Michael to find his own understanding of how things work. The young man's politics are all one would expect from the red-diaper baby of a red-diaper baby. "I don't know much about my parents' tactics," Chesa informed Wilgoren. "I'll talk about my tactics." His denial of what his parents were really up to is about as credible as his mother's statement to the New York parole board that the money obtained in the Brinks robbery was going to be used for health clinics and recreation facilities in black neighborhoods. Of course Chesa knows all about his parents' tactics: why else would they have been in jail? At less guarded moments, Chesa wants the world to know that just as his mother's politics followed from her father's politics, his politics would follow from the politics of his mother and his father and Bernardine and Bill. "My parents were all dedicated to fighting U.S. imperialism around the world," he said of the four of them. "I'm dedicated to the same thing."
Chesa, though, differs in one significant way from his parents. For all her sense of superiority, Kathy was anything but upwardly mobile: from brownstone to Bedford Hills is not the usual course of upward mobility in America. But even at his tender age Chesa understands how to use leftist politics to get ahead in the world. "As a child, I relished my personal freedom and tried to compensate for my parents' imprisonment," he wrote in his application for a Marshall scholarship, on the off chance that the folks in England did not know who his parents were. "Now, I see prisons around the world: urban misery in Bolivia, homelessness in Santiago and illiteracy in Guatemala." It worked. Chesa got the Marshall, only to turn it down after he got the Rhodes.
o a new Boudin has appeared to defeat imperialism, and this returns us to the question of why Kathy and her friends decided to fight imperialism by linking themselves so completely with violence. Their actions can never be excused or explained away; other people were equally as freaked out by the Vietnam War or the urban riots without resorting to armed attack. There is no denying, of course, that many were pushed to the limit by America in the 1960s; I found myself in Washington in 1969 in the streets in front of the Department of Justice--Kathy, David, and Bernardine, dressed in helmets, were there, too--swallowing tear gas as the wife of the attorney general, watching from the balcony, compared us to the Russian revolutionaries. Since then, some of my generation have had second thoughts about the Vietnam War; they now believe that we really did need to stop Communist expansion, and Vietnam was as good a place as any to do it. I do not share those sentiments; the lies that my government told and the untold number of deaths that its ideological blindness caused are still capable of arousing my fury. Now another administration has told lies in another war, even if it is a more defensible one, and it is not hard to imagine a scenario in which an even newer left will turn in frustration to new days of rage, just as it is not impossible to foresee a beleaguered administration delighted to have domestic radicals whom it can blame for America's difficulties. Chesa Boudin, in other words, may find himself in a situation not unlike the situation of his parents when they were his age. And Kathy Boudin, who was released by the parole board this past summer, will soon have the opportunity to give her son the benefit of her motherly advice. (The more unyielding David Gilbert, sentenced to seventy-five years, may never see freedom.) One can only wonder what she will tell him.
LeoCasey - 10/23/2003
Yikes, holy non-sequiteurs. Methinks this poster has some issues, and they don't have anything to do with the Weathermen:
Richard Thompson - 1/15/2003
Thanks to N.K. Land for the interesting comments and websites. There are several other websites pertaining to both McMillian and his partner, Tim McCarthy, but I was going to give it up. Attempts at dialogue with pro-violence extremists is not going to prove useful.
Timothy Patrick McCarthy. Wonder what he would be doing if he were back on the auld sod? He exposes himself in a lengthy article by David Silva from the Crimson Online, which can be seen here:
Here's an interesting quote:
"When there's a mob mentality, the cops attempting to impose order just perpetuate it," McCarthy observes. "Cops are the mediation between the power structure and the powerless. So they're immediately the other side. In the Giuliani protest, I think there was a chant: ‘Racist, sexist, anti-gay! NYPD go away!'"
Tim, if you really want to infuriate them, kill a few!
He later talks about the "mature protestor," a comical non sequitur worth remembering. As the story is so revealing of McCarthy's character, I am providing several paragraphs so that parents of Harvard undergrads can see who is teaching their children.
From the Crimson Online (picking up the story midway):
Most of the time, though, protesters face more unknown and variable consequences. Tim McCarthy, a tutor/instructor in History and Literature, has been involved with a number of protests in the South and in New York City. In his experience, the more disorganized a protest, the more dangerous it can become. "I was at a protest in New York, in 1995 or 1996, against Giuliani," he recalls. "The protest was for 150 things against Giuliani. The risk came from organizational incoherence. In those cases, things have a tendency to get out of hand more quickly. The police react more quickly than if there's one objective and a constituency of people unified behind this objective. A pregnant woman was thrown to the ground by a cop because she stepped over a police line to get away from the crowd."
To avoid such chaos, McCarthy recommends one-issue protests with careful planning. He cites the example of a time at Columbia when he was involved with a group taking over the law library. "We said, ‘O.K., in the morning, we're going to block all the entrances to the library.' It was clear we'd be asked to leave or be arrested," he says. "We had a very careful discussion over who would get arrested. We needed some visible people, and diverse people, being arrested. If the president of the Black Students' Association was in jail, campus newspapers would notice. But we had to leave some important people behind to plan the next move. They made themselves visible, got on radio stations the next night before people were let out." As in the SOA protest, McCarthy says planned arrests can be invaluable. "The protest doesn't stop when people get arrested, it changes," he explains. "There's a shift in thinking, in tactics. It goes to another level. The stakes are raised."
Part of the problem in multi-issue protests comes from the impossibility of teaching the motley supporters in advance how to deal with police. Anna Falicov, a junior, suggests protesters go to non-violence training sessions. "We learned how to lock down a space, block an entrance, deal with the police," she says. "In training you learn how to come to consensus and make decisions around the possibility of arrest, as well as options once arrested." National protests usually host their own non-violence training sessions immediately prior to the event. Two local groups, the Boston Campus Action Network and the Center for Campus Organizing, also sometimes run such sessions before a major national protest.
When people lack such training, emotions can quickly get out of hand. "When there's a mob mentality, the cops attempting to impose order just perpetuate it," McCarthy observes. "Cops are the mediation between the power structure and the powerless. So they're immediately the other side. In the Giuliani protest, I think there was a chant: ‘Racist, sexist, anti-gay! NYPD go away!'"
For those who can't get professional training, Falicov and McCarthy have plenty of advice. In spite of the need for careful planning, it's important to realize how unpredictable police reactions are. "In L.A. this summer, at the Democratic National Convention there were 198 arrests made," Falicov recalls. "People were arraigned with bail from $500 to an astonishing $70,000. I was there, and the number of police in full riot gear was absurd and completely inappropriate to the number and nature of the protestors. Almost everyone was non-violent, the general atmosphere was one of festive resistance, with puppets, music, costumes, etc. All police action was excessive and exaggerated." Tim calls attention to the individual unpredictability of cops. In his experience, he has found there is no one way to deal with them. "To get arrested, you can fight a cop, throw a rock, act out," he explains. "People can be arrested for what they look like, what they're saying. There are no rules." A healthy fear of cops wouldn't be out of order. McCarthy says that in New York especially, police officers can get away with anything when it comes to dealing with protests. "If the cops are racist, if they're prone to violence, than you're in more danger," he warns. "If you're aggressive and go after a cop, or even resist arrest, depending on how high the emotions are, you could get shot."
When people get arrested, protestors need to make sure there's an old-timer in the group to show them the ropes. "There's a great fear among young protestors," McCarthy observes. "What next? Will I be kicked out of school? Will my parents be mad at me? There needs to be someone there to reassure the younger protestors who are okay with it then, in the sweep of it, but then they're in a jail cell for the first time in their life, in New York City, at age 19. Panic is a normal and understandable response."
So what can the mature protestor say to prepare the next generation for what lies ahead? "You get an arrest record. And a misdemeanor: public disturbance, resisting arrest. You need to get a lawyer, so there are some expenses," McCarthy says. "In the worst case, you'll be physically harmed. And they can use past arrests to up charges. Most of the time, you're arrested, you pay a fine, you plead and it's over. Many people find a misdemeanor or two on your record a mark of passion."
N.K. Land - 1/15/2003
The Washington Times editorial "Harvard Hates America" is worth a look: http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20020606-97525994.htm
N.K. Land - 1/15/2003
McMillian seems to like cop killers in general. Here is his editorial defending another one: http://www.statenews.com/editionsspring97/033197/op_col3.html
Steve Brody - 1/14/2003
What about the anti-abortion movement? You missed the point. I'm no fan of James Koop--he deserves to be in prison for the rest of his life. But tell me this-and be honest- do you ever expect to see Salon magazine run a heart wrenching story written by Koop's son detailing the indignities that he suffers when he visits his father? Neither do I. And do you think that Koops son, no matter how talented or deserving, will ever get a Rhodes scholarship, especially if he vows to "dedicate himself to the same struggle" that his father did? I don't either.
I'll repeat myself, Chesa doesn't have to apologize for the two murderers that are his mother and father. He should, however, be candid about their despicable actions if he writes a tear jerking story about visiting them in prison.
Richard Thompson - 1/13/2003
It always amazes me at how childish the left gets when their ideas are opposed. They shout and scream or burst into tears when confronted with an opposing argument, or otherwise go into juvenile tantrums. They resort to loaded language and use the timeworn tactic of attacking the messenger if they cannot attack the message. They impugn the motives of those who disagree with them, and their favorite trick is to call their opponents racists. However, recent events at Harvard (Jihad commencement speech, Israel divestment petition, etc.) have shown that it is a significant part of the faculty and staff at that institution who are the racists. Their own president has had to step in and try to exercise some restraint over them.
When discussing the Chesa Boudin Rhodes scholarship, why is it not fair to question his views in light of the fact that he touts that he supports the philosophy of his parents, and the selection committee chose him, at least partially, because of those views? The answer is obvious: the leftists want to talk about "social justice" and other lofty ideals. When their opponents bring up the widows and orphans and related carnage, the left is resentful that their message has been tarnished.
Below are listed some of the statements David Gilbert (Boudin's father) gave in a "questions and answers" interview. The entire interview can be seen here: http://apa.enligne.free.fr/Ameriques/EU/Interview1985.html
QUESTION: What in your view was the October 20th action all about?
It was an attempted expropriation. That means taking money from those who amassed wealth by exploiting the people and using that money to finance the resistance. Every revolution has had to use expropriation as a method of finance. You're just not going to get donations from the Ford or Rockefeller Foundations. This particular expropriation was under the leadership of the Black Liberation Army with white revolutionaries participating in alliance with them. The BLA communique after the action said that the funds had been intended to build the army, and for nationalist programs, especially for you in the Black community
QUESTION: But what about the deaths that day? Two policemen and a Brinks guard were killed. Some social activists feel that no goal justifies the taking of a human life.
First, to be clear, the purpose of an expropriation is not to hurt or punish individual police or guards. The goal is to get away as quietly and cleanly as possible with funds for the struggle. The story of the combatants charging out shooting at the Brinks guard is a pure propaganda creation. In more private moments, the FBI analysts know and even state that the consistent practice of the BLA was not to come out shooting but to try to disarm the guards. The only fire by revolutionaries that day was in response to a clear threat of fire.
He wanted to make a bank withdrawal and the cops got in the way. Their fault. He goes on to justify his actions because of social conditions. It seems fair to ask whether those statements represent Boudin's philosophy, too. No doubt these Harvard teachers are unused to being challenged (nobody in the faculty lounge has these horrible views) and their institution appears to have become a sterile desert when it comes to ideas. In a decent University, a teacher would give both sides (or all sides) of a position and let the students work on it. I doubt that this occurs very much at Harvard.
Bill Heuisler - 1/13/2003
You're either patronizing me or dodging the issue. Send me a bill for your services if you like; you've got my E-mail address.
Be generous, excuse my ignorance. Then state any substantive differences between Marxism and National Socialism in historical context. Don't bother with their jargon or intentions, just illustrate different results. Discussion of this particular post centers around the implications to Chesa Boudin (significant?lasting?) of a grotesque manifestation of Marxism called The Weathermen. Jump in, participate.
Consider: There are scholars (Markowitz, Chomsky) who teach Marxist Dialectic in tax-funded colleges. This fact becomes quite significant if there is no practical difference between the effects of National Socialism and Marxism, doesn't it?
Derek Catsam - 1/13/2003
Yeah, race, class and gender certainly have no place in a discussion of American history. That you rose from a factory worker's background hardly proves that class has no role in the American polity, but then again, your hysterical take on Marxism makes me think that your analytical abilities won't grasp this point. Again, Marxism and Nazism are different things, fundamentally so in many ways.
Derek Catsam - 1/13/2003
You're kidding, right? You actually want me to waste time showing to you that Nazism and Marxism (which, by the way, should not be conflated with Communism)are different things? If I'm going to provide remedial lessons in European and world history, I'm getting paid for it!
Stephen Thomas - 1/13/2003
Um, guys, what about the murder of 2 million babies a year?
More often than not, without the consent of the father?
After all, the rights of women trump ever other right, don't they? Sometimes seems that nobody besides those sainted women have rights.
Stephen Thomas - 1/13/2003
Reading the incessant repetition of Marxist cant in this thread makes for hilarious entertainment. When Marxism isn't lethal and morally repugnant, it is quite comic.
Watched several moments of the women's Illinois-Minnesota basketball game recently. The stands of the 17,000 seat Assembly Hall were just about empty. The point of this is that the feminist revolution was waged by women who have no connection to the lives of the people they hope to save, and that the poor beknighted middle class doesn't give a hoot about the revolutionary aspirations of the feminists. The only people who give a damn about women in sports are dykes in New York and San Francisco, and in the hip college communities.
This thread is also chock-full of sympathy for a middle class that hates the leftist revolutionary ideals of the correspondents who shed such crocodile tears.
Do any of you ever go to the K Mart? Do any of you ever go to the Ford dealership?
What a hermetically sealed universe you folks live in. You're busy solving problems that Americans don't give a shit about. You're busy scoring the great socialist victory for the benefit of people who hate your guts.
Pull your heads out of your asses, great thinkers! The middle class of America hates your great social causes. I live in Jersey City, and the shopping centers are filled with Indians and Asians gleefully winning the American Dream. Americanism will win, and you can bet your cappuchinos on it.
What a laugh, reading the ridiculous posturings of Marxists who hate the people they dream of saving. You are all quite dangerous, delusional and stupid.
J.M. Prince - 1/13/2003
Umm Guys, What about the anti abortion movement which for a brief time in the 1980's was labeled as the most violent domestic terror threat in the country? They've done hundreds of bombings/ arson/chemical attacks on Health Care clinics. Some of those who did the bombings are later fetted like heroes and have run for public office with the abundant help and assistance of their ideological kin. (See Mike Bray of Va. and 'Violence in America', 'The Terrorist Nextdoor'). For the record 7 people have been murdered in the past 20-15 years, with others being horribly injured by these attacks, many of which were later cheered by certain clergy, and early on only barely condemned by local politicians. This is a bit different than being blown up by your own bomb a generation ago. Some of the actors here, like Eric Robert Ruldolph, (possibly responsibe for at least *3* deaths by himself, one an off duty policeman) have yet to be brought to justice. Some like James Koop, charged with the killing of Dr. Barnett Slepian in Amherst NY, got substantial help from a network of supporters while fleeing prosecution. He was captured in France picking up funds sent to him by fans in the States. Koop's also wanted for several sniper attacks in Canada too. So why focus on something a generation ago? Must be that debbil liberal media once again. Up until 9-11 the most horrific and damaging domestic terrorist attack on US soil had been the OK City Bombing of 1995. None of the people involved in that massacre of 168 people was a liberal either. Why is it that we hardly ever hear the OK event characterized as a 'right wing' attack or mention of their sponsors 'revolutionary' activities or hopes? The only real professional agitprop is on the right, not the left.
Tim McCarthy - 1/13/2003
Finally, Richard Thompson "outs" himself, thereby getting to the heart of his "issues" with my colleague John McMillian's thoughtful--and yes, provocative--essay: his profound anxiety over the fact that he and his conservative colleagues feel "outnumbered" by liberals and progressives (yes, there is still a difference!) in academia. I won't even deal with the fact that he chooses to align himself, rhetorically if not politically, with the reactionary and elitist and racist likes of David Horowitz and Harvey Mansfield, but I would like to know why conservatives are so unsettled by the fact that colleges and universities are really the only institutions left in American life in which left-of-center ideas and values are given ample room to breathe? Within the context of a culture that is perishing beneath the weight of right-wing laws, legislation, economic policies, religious interpretations, and military aggression, it is cause for great concern when conservative intellectuals seek to slander progressive teachers and scholars who use what little power they have to voice dissent and encourage their students to do the same. Do they want the academy, too? Of course they do. Which is why Boudin's richly deserved Rhodes scholarship poses such a threat to people like Thompson: it's a sign that we still have a little slice of the pie. From what I can tell, Chesa Boudin is a superb student who has devoted much of his young life to issues of freedom, social justice, and equality--the essential and enduring values of the American progressive tradition that are being threatened and dismantled everywhere we turn these days in the United States. Sure, we of the Hip Hop generation need to assess what lessons--both good and bad--we can take from the protests of the 1960s. Violence is surely not the answer, but I wonder why Thompson and his ilk are so preoccupied with aging and incarcerated radicals and their children. If they are genuinely concerned about children repeating the violent sins of their fathers, perhaps they should worry some more about George W. Bush, the truly mediocre Yale graduate and U.S. president who is poised to do a great deal more harm to our world than a 21-year-old Rhodes Scholar who actually brings distinction to his alma mater. More provincially, I can assure you that Harvey Mansfield--pampered and protected as he is with the luxuries of Harvard's tenure system--has already done a lot more harm at Harvard than John McMillian will ever do. Bravo, John. Good luck, Chesa. And shame on you, Mr. Thompson.
Ben Johnson - 1/11/2003
Many Americans, of conservative stripe or otherwise, would be alarmed to hear 21st century America described as imperialist. Mr. (Dr.?) McMillan passes over the lad's comment with immediate approval. America has no sattelite nations, no docile military juntas at our beck-and-call, and even her alleged allies (and foreign aid recipients) denounce her and vote contrary to her interests in the United Nations.
Moreover, the Weather Underground certainly had more fans among the New Left than Osama bin Laden did among Rush Limbaugh's listenership; that did not keep Sen. Daschle from linking the two! Hypocrisy uber alles.
Bill Heuisler - 1/11/2003
Stephen Thomas is correct.
Conservatives are continually instructed by the Left in terms pregnant with ulterior motive and design. Discussions using such spring-loaded terms give advantage by ceding concepts not agreed to and, in most cases, concepts at the core of the disagreement.
"Social Justice" is one such term.
Social means the life, welfare and relations of human beings in a community.
Justice means rightfulness or lawfulness - the administration of deserved punishment or reward.
"Social Justice" assumes good or evil in specific social strata and, while ignoring individual sanctity, denies the usefulness of the Darwinian process, Common Law and a Higher Being.
"Social Justice" presumes to "fairly" judge those favored.
"Social Justice" means "Class Warfare" - the cradle of Marxism.
Chesa Boudin's words either well from naivete' or inclination. Come out of your closets, all you Marxist word-mechanics; if one class/stratum of humanity is suspect - or deserving - say so and cry havoc.
Richard Thompson - 1/11/2003
Harvard history teacher John McMillain has asked, "Why is the Weather Underground Still Making News?" He castigates the political right for daring to respond to what they viewed as a slanted New York Times front page story. As signatory to "An Open Letter...Regarding the Case of Mumia Abu-Jabal, McMillian does not have a problem with the timeliness of the that case, which is nearly as old as the Weathermen/BLA bank robbery. He seems to have particular problems with David Horowitz, as he and others tried to ignore or even censor Horowitz in a 2000 thread that can be seen here: http://lists.village.virginia.edu/lists_archive/sixties-l/1826.html This is in keeping with the tactics used by the left to stifle opposing views on campus: shout down speakers with whom they disagree, or otherwise intimidate them. Horowitz often has to have armed guards assigned to him when he speaks on some campuses, including his alma mater, UC Berkeley.
The murderous crew that made up the Weather Underground/BLA partnership has been in the news on other fronts. Susan Rosenberg was one of those pardoned by President Clinton in that weird spate of "forgivings" at the end of his second term. Kathy Boudin was denied parole at her first hearing in 2001, but will be eligible again this year, and David Gilbert is still trotted out by the left every few months and touted as a "political prisoner." If you want to read some rhetoric that will curl your hair, do a search for some of Gilbert's interviews.
As far as Chesa Boudin, he specifically buys into the philosophy of the Weather Underground, and that of his parents, Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, and foster parents, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. In fact, this was the reason he was selected for the Rhodes' scholarship. The selection committee pointed to his dedication to "social justice," leftist jargon for sympathy with revolutionary activities.
McMillian's complaint seems odd for a member of a political philosophy that see the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg trial as a current event, or Sacco and Vanzetti for that matter. It is obvious that Harvey Mansfield's observations about the lack of breadth of political opinion on the Harvard campus is true. One conservative professor in a sea of liberals. At least he doesn't get shouted down or physically attacked on his own campus, although McMillian might have it otherwise, if he was in charge.
steve brody - 1/11/2003
No, Mike, I don't think learning to be objective about your parents is far fetched. In fact, I think it's worth repeating--part of growing up is learning to look at your parents honestly and objectively, especially if you intend to be "dedicated to the same thing" as your parents.
I notice that John and now you have a fondness for linking Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert's activities to the Viet Nam war. Maybe you need a history lesson. The war in Viet Nam ended most of a decade before Chesa's parents murdered the officers. Or are you suggesting that this was some sort of belated statement against the war?
As for what LBJ's daughters think about their father, I really don't know. I also don't know what Nixon's daughters think about him, although they might be galled by the fact that he inherited (from the Democrats) a horrendous mess in SE Asia, extricated us, and gets no credit for it. But I'm speculating.
Didn't the North Vietnamese extend the war into Camdodia (and Laos) by staging attacks against our troops from those countries?
There were no peace terms in 1969 because the parties were arguing about the shape of the table.
But this really doesn't have anything to do with three murders in Nyack in 1981, does it?
Mike Foley - 1/11/2003
Yes, you're wrong "that the end result is the most important consideration." The terms of the "peace" in January 1973 were little different than the terms he could have secured in 1969. There was no "peace with honor" as he pledged in the 1968 campaign. Instead, he extended the war into Cambodia, supported the overthrow of Sihanouk (that led to the rise of the Khmer Rouge), and dramatically intensified the air war - see the MENU bombings and Operations Linebacker and Linebacker II - not to mention wasting another 20,000 American lives in the process. And the Nixon family seems to be in the business of trying to withhold historical documents, tapes, etc., that would be of great benefit to historians but not to the memory of Nixon himself. Why is so much ink spilled about Chesa Boudin and so little spilled about the Nixon family?
Stephen Thomas - 1/10/2003
Chesa Boudin linked "social justice" with the usual Marxist claim that the U.S. is an imperialist state. He didn't leave much doubt in my mind that he is a Marxist.
In defining people solely by their power relationships with others, Marxism denies that humans are spiritual beings. Best to remember that, despite what Nazism appears to be today, to its early proponents it appeared to be a Utopian doctrine. "Kulaks" are to Marxism what "Jews" are to Nazis. Each of these targetted groups stood in the way of the great socialist Utopia (and, yes the Nazis were socialists). The Soviet Union erased all differences with Nazi Germany by embarking on an anti-Semitic purge.
The Times article about Boudin left little doubt in my mind about the Times' sentiments. The Times continues to believe that Boudin's parents were misguided adherents of a cause that was essentially right. I think that that is why the debate continues.
The great Marxist trilogy of class, race and gender is an incitement to hatred and violence. The U.S. is not a society defined by class, race and gender. Read Thomas Sowell descriptions of the incredible class mobility of the U.S. and you will quickly realize that this is not a class stratified society. I am the son of poor factory workers. My status in American was not determined by my birth in poverty and ignorance. Marxism is a relic of the Old World, brought to the U.S. by immigrants who got lost in time and could not discard the class hatreds of the Old World.
And Marxism is a criminal ideology. The sophistry of trying to separate Marxism as a theory from its practical results has worn pretty thin. The results of Marxism are genocide, the elevation of the criminal class to power and economic catastrophe. The results cannot be separated from the theory.
Marxism is what it has created in reality. It is a criminal ideology and it is Nazism.
Stephen Thomas - 1/10/2003
Richard Nixon, for all his ethical failings (and they are many) was the president who extricated the U.S. from Vietnam.
He did so almost precisely as the left suggested. He declared that we had won and departed.
He may not have ended the U.S. war in Vietnam on the terms that the left would have liked, but he did end the war on terms that were acceptable to the U.S. electorate.
Nixon is certainly guilty of subverting an election and improper use of the FBI and the CIA, but he did extricate the U.S. from Vietnam. Am I wrong in stating that the end result is the most important consideration?
Mike Foley - 1/10/2003
This business about learning to be objective about one's parents and their pasts seems a bit far-fetched for most people, don't you think? You say you wonder if Chesa Boudin ever thinks about the children of the men who died that day - do you also wonder if the children of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon ever think about the survivors of the 3.2 MILLION Vietnamese killed (about 2 million of whom were non-combatants) in a villainous war carried out by their fathers? Most of them, especially in the Nixon clan, seem more preoccupied with trying to polish their fathers' images.
Steve Brody - 1/10/2003
One doesn't need to be "right wing" to "bash" Chesa Boudin's murderous, despicable parents. If bashing them makes me "right wing" then so be it.
John, I don't know where you get your facts. Since the police were never able to identify all of the "Nyack" shooters I don't know the source for "it was the BLA members who pulled the triggers against the three victims".
What we do know is that Kathy Boudin, Chesa's mother and a Weatherman, drove the get away U Haul truck. When she was pulled over by the police, she dismounted the cab of the truck, began waving her hands, protesting her innocence and begging the officers to put down their weapons. She was so convincing that the officers did put down their shoulder weapons and began to stow them. At that point, the roll up door of the truck came up and six subjects came out firing. Boudin ran and was apprehended by a passer-by. Two police officers were killed and another was wounded.
After the shoot-out, some of the killers got into a Honda and tried to escape. They were chased by a police car until the Honda crashed. After the crash, David Gilbert, Chesa's father and a Weatherman, rolled out of the wrecked Honda and began pleading with the officer to lower his weapon and help the two others still in the Honda. While Gilbert tried to distract the officer, Judith Clark, another Weatherman, was desperately trying to recover a 9MM pistol from the backseat. Luckily, she wasn't able to. Later, glass shards recovered from Gilbert and Clark's clothing were identified as coming from the shot out windshield of a police car at the scene of the ambush.
Your exoneration of Gilbert and Clark of actually "pulling the trigger" is curious given these facts.
Does Chesa owe the world an apology for having two murderous thugs for parents? I don't think so. Does he owe the world the whole truth about his parents? I believe he does, given the subject matter of the article that he wrote for Salon. Maybe people would be able to place his and his grandmother's treatment into better context if they knew that his parents were responsible for making nine children fatherless.
You know, John, one of the more sobering aspects of growing up is learning to be objective about your parents and their past. Based upon Chesa's declaration that he is "dedicated to the same thing" his parents were, maybe he has not yet learned that objectivity.
One reason that a few people still "bash" the Weathermen, John, is there seems to be some university teachers who still defend them and misrepresent their history. And one reason that the far right" continues to "make hash about the Weathermen" is that of the dozens of articles about Chesa's accomplishment, the only ones that told the whole truth about Chesa's parents were the ones written by the "far right". The only ones that even mentioned the names of the dead officers were the "far right" ones.
It would be interesting to know what became of the nine children who became fatherless that day. I wonder if Chesa ever thinks about them.
Bill Heuisler - 1/9/2003
Merely stating an opinion does not create evidence. My interest was piqued by Mr. Thomas' assertion. After some deliberation, my instinct was to agree with him. Nazis and Marxists prostrate the individual to the State, are racist, geographically and ideologically expansionist, replace God with Government and have manifestly blood-soaked histories.
Is he wrong? Am I? Are these differences you mention ones of intent? Please take a moment to illustrate clear differences between Nazi and Marxist in historical context.
Thanks, Bill Heuisler
Derek Catsam - 1/9/2003
"Social Justice" is codeword for "Marxist?" What on earth are you talking about? Many, many groups and individuals talk about and work for social justice who have nothing to do with Marxism.
Furthermore, there are real and discrete historical and intellectual differences between Marxism and Nazism, whatever your feelings about either, and it is reductionist and simplistic, not to mention ahistorical to conflate the two and say that there was no difference between them.
Stephen Thomas - 1/9/2003
Although I can't specifically condemn Chesa Boudin, his statement that he intends to work for "social justice" certainly got my attention.
It's the old codeword of the Marxist.
Marxism is Nazism. There is no difference, right down to the anti-Semitism.
I continue to be amazed daily that Marxism is not driven out of daily discourse in the same way as Nazism. Nobody speaks the Nazi dialectic, because they know they will be publicly censured. Those who speak the vile Marxist dialect should be treated with the same censure.
Stephen Thomas - 1/9/2003
Although I can't specifically condemn Chesa Boudin, his statement that he intends to work for "social justice" certainly got my attention.
It's the old codeword of the Marxist.
Marxism is Nazism. There is no difference, right down to the anti-Semitism.
I continue to be amazed daily that Marxism is not driven out of daily discourse in the same way as Nazism. Nobody speaks the Nazi dialectic, because they know they will be publicly censured. Those who speak the vile Marxist dialect should be treated with the same censure.
Richard Thompson - 1/7/2003
"Why the far-right continues to make hash about the Weather Underground when most of the American left wrote the group off 30 years ago is something of a mystery. What Chesa Boudin has to do with any of this is an even greater puzzle, seeing as the group dissolved long before he was even born. But writers are making the connections."-John McMillian
"We have a different name for the war we're fighting now—now we call it the war on terrorism, then they called it the war on communism. My parents were all dedicated to fighting U.S. imperialism around the world. I'm dedicated to the same thing."-Chesa Boudin
"I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough"-Bill Ayers
John McMillian - 1/7/2003
Comment removed at request of poster.
Steve Johnson - 1/7/2003
Your story contradicts itself. You say: "two police officers and a security guard were killed in the debacle." The Boudins were convicted for their murder of these three people. That is why they are still in prison. They murdered 3 people.
Later you say: "Save for three of their own members who died in 1970 while building a bomb in a West Village townhouse, they never killed anyone." But if they murdered three people in a botched robbery, how can you say that they never killed anyone?
You never explain. Were they wrongly convicted? If not, then they indeed murdered 3 people. Murder is killing. I've never heard any claim made since the trial that they were innocent, that they were not Weather Underground members, or that they were not involved in the multiple murders.
I agree that it is a human interest story, but part of the story, a part that makes the whole event far more complex and interesting is the 9 children that the Boudins left fatherless when they murdered the fathers of those children. And the irony that highly privileged people on the left would be out murdering blue collar workers in the name of a populist revolution is a tad ironic.
It is an amazingly touching story on all sides--and all sides deserve some sympathy. Here is an article from Slate on MSNBC that at least explains why some are disturbed by the coverage.
QUOTE FROM SLATE:
"Boudin's parents are Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, who were members of the violent 1960s radical group the Weather Underground. They are in prison for their part in the murder of two police officers and a guard as the result of a robbery of a Brinks armored car in New York at the late, unradical date of 1981. The Times, while having space to describe the origin of Chesa's unusual name—Swahili for "dancing feet"—apparently didn't have room for the names of the men murdered. They were Sgt. Edward O'Grady, police officer Waverly Brown, and Brinks guard Peter Paige. You can read more about them at http://www.ogradybrown.com. Nor does the Times mention the obvious point that the nine children left fatherless that day—the youngest was 6 months old—have also missed the pleasure of having their fathers see their accomplishments over the years."
- Did a historian who said he’s a victim of McCarthyism get the story wrong?
- Stephanie Coontz’s work on the history of marriage cited by the Supreme Court.
- How Does It Feel To Have One’s Work as a Historian Cited by the Supreme Court? Cool. Very Cool. Thank You Very Much.
- NYT History Book Reviews: Who Got Noticed this Week?
- David Hackett Fischer wins $100,000 prize for lifetime achievement in military writing