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Days of Rage: America's Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence Kindle Edition
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The Weathermen. The Symbionese Liberation Army. The FALN. The Black Liberation Army. The names seem quaint now, when not forgotten altogether. But there was a stretch of time in America, during the 1970s, when bombings by domestic underground groups were a daily occurrence. The FBI combated these groups and others as nodes in a single revolutionary underground, dedicated to the violent overthrow of the American government.
The FBI’s response to the leftist revolutionary counterculture has not been treated kindly by history, and in hindsight many of its efforts seem almost comically ineffectual, if not criminal in themselves. But part of the extraordinary accomplishment of Bryan Burrough’s Days of Rage is to temper those easy judgments with an understanding of just how deranged these times were, how charged with menace. Burrough re-creates an atmosphere that seems almost unbelievable just forty years later, conjuring a time of native-born radicals, most of them “nice middle-class kids,” smuggling bombs into skyscrapers and detonating them inside the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol, at a Boston courthouse and a Wall Street restaurant packed with lunchtime diners—radicals robbing dozens of banks and assassinating policemen in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta. The FBI, encouraged to do everything possible to undermine the radical underground, itself broke many laws in its attempts to bring the revolutionaries to justice—often with disastrous consequences.
Benefiting from the extraordinary number of people from the underground and the FBI who speak about their experiences for the first time, Days of Rage is filled with revelations and fresh details about the major revolutionaries and their connections and about the FBI and its desperate efforts to make the bombings stop. The result is a mesmerizing book that takes us into the hearts and minds of homegrown terrorists and federal agents alike and weaves their stories into a spellbinding secret history of the 1970s.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
--This text refers to the hardcover edition.
“THE REVOLUTION AIN’T TOMORROW. IT’S NOW. YOU DIG?”
Sam Melville and the Birth of the American Underground
NEW YORK CITY | AUGUST 1969
On a drizzly Friday afternoon they drove north out of the city in a battered station wagon, six more shaggy radicals, a baby, and two dogs, heading toward a moment unlike any they had seen. Jimi. Janis. The Who. The Dead. They were like hundreds of thousands of young Americans that season, one part aimless, druggy, and hedonistic, two parts angry, idealistic, and determined to right all the wrongs they saw in 1969 America: racism, repression, police brutality, the war.
Traffic on the New York State Thruway was slow, but a pipeful of hashish and a few beers left everyone feeling fine. Ten miles from their destination, the car sagged into a traffic jam. One couple got out to walk. The girl, who was twenty-two that day, was Jane Alpert, a petite, bookish honors graduate of Swarthmore College with brunette bangs. She wrote for the Rat Subterranean News, the kind of East Village radical newspaper that published recipes for Molotov cocktails. Later, friends would describe her as “sweet” and “gentle.” As she stepped from the car Alpert lifted a copy of Rat to ward off the raindrops.
Beside her trudged her thirty-five-year-old lover, Sam Melville, a rangy, broad-chested activist who wore his thinning hair dangling around his shoulders. Melville was a troubled soul, a brooder with a dash of charisma, a man determined to make his mark. Only Jane and a handful of their friends knew how he intended to do it. Only they knew about the dynamite in the refrigerator.
Slogging through the rain, they didn’t reach the Woodstock festival until almost midnight. Ducking into a large tent, Jane curled up beside a stranger’s air mattress and managed an hour of sleep. She found Melville the next morning wandering through the movement booths, manned by Yippies and Crazies and Black Panthers and many more. After a long day listening to music, she glimpsed him deep in conversation with one of the Crazies, a thirty-something character named George Demmerle, who could usually be found at New York demonstrations in a crash helmet and purple cape. “That George,” Melville said as they left. “He really is crazy. I offered to spell him at the booth, but he said only bona fide Crazies ought to work the official booth.”
“That’s because he’s old,” Jane said. “He wants to be a twenty-year-old freak.” When Melville dropped his head, Jane realized she had offended him. He and Demmerle were almost the same age.
The echoes of Jimi Hendrix’s last solo could still be heard at Woodstock on Monday morning when Jane left the East Village apartment she shared with Melville and walked to work. They had been squabbling all summer and had decided to see other people. That night, though, she canceled a date and returned to the apartment to find him glumly sitting on the bed. “I thought you had a date,” he said.
“I changed my mind.”
“Because I’d rather be with you.”
About the Author
- ASIN : B00LFZ84PC
- Publisher : Penguin Books (April 7 2015)
- Language : English
- File size : 15300 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 479 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 1594204292
- Best Sellers Rank: #601,019 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Top reviews from Canada
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Burrough doesn't romanticize these people like many an ex-hippie pushing a radical agenda. He is clear-sighted about the nature of the radical underground, which seems to be created by equal parts narcissism, violence, idealism, self-indulgence and legitimate grievances. He clearly distinguishes the radical underground from mainstream Sixties counterculture. And while underground groups depended on support from above ground supporters, this support dried up after a few years, leaving groups to rely largely on robbery and fraud to support their campaigns of small scale bombings and occasional shootings.
A fascinating portrayal of a movement that has largely become a historical footnote. Burrough brings his account of domestic terrorism and life on the run to life by interviewing G-men, ex-radicals, cops, radical lawyers, family members to give a gloriously detailed account of a time not unlike our own.
Top reviews from other countries
One of the books great strengths is Burrough seems to have no personal or political axes to grind.I'm not even clear on his politics, which is to the good.This is definitely a reporters book. I think he worked hard on this book and wants to share what he learned .Burrough tries to be as objective as he can.I think that will bother some of the books likely readers who will be looking for a romanticized view.Very few will be bothered by the portrait of the SLA, most famous for kidnapping Patty Hearst.They seemed like crazies at the time and in retrospect , nothing has changed.(The SLA is the source of the books comic moments). The BLA and FALN may have their nostalgiacs but one wonders why.It's with the Weathermen that I suspect Burrough steps on some toes .Burrough's Weathermen are upper middle class largely Ivy League radicals who imagined they were a Leninist vanguard.Burrough all but comes out and says this self perception was utterly ridiculous.After accomplishing next to nothing over a course of years, the Weather Underground, as it became known, concentrated on bombing rest rooms in public buildings.When that began to seem utterly pointless , they surrendered and generally landed fairly good jobs .Burrough is pretty skeptical of these people.At one point he makes it clear that he believes William Ayers is lying about the past in an attempt to prettify it.In this portrait,the Weatherman wind up looking pretty bad;Mediocre people with an inflated sense of their importance.It's also striking how not "new" much of this segment of the New Lefts ideology was .Burrough talks about people who read Stalin(one can only imagine the shear torture of that).All these groups seem to have been fixated on Marxist-Leninism.
Burrough goes into considerable detail on how people operating underground were able to do what they did.I generally found this detail interesting.As I noted before, this is a reporters book.You'll learn lots about how people obtained false id , techniques for evading police and even a bit about bomb making.Burrough would definitely make a good crime story writer.