Saturday, May 13, 2006

Outlaws of America: Dan Berger. How can a book describing a political movement 30 years defunct seem relevant in the year 2006? Likewise, how can a leftist organization marginalized by the vast majority of the left at the peak of its power seem so on-point now that the left is at the nadir of its influence? How can a political philosophy described by one critic as kindergarten politics answer so many of the questions we fight in the midst of a 2nd term Christian-fascist American regime? These questions and many others are answered in this fascinating account of the sexiest, coolest and most important radical organization to emerge from the political revolution that was the 1960’s and that could be, maybe should be, now. The story of the Weather Underground is much too complex and subtle to begin to tell in an abbreviated form in the space of this paragraph. On the other hand, Dan Berger’s breathtakingly rich, well-researched account spares nothing. “Outlaws of America” is, thankfully a somewhat biased account, in favor of these young rebels, so many others have willingly dismissed as crazy or naive or simply wrong-headed. In addition to writing about the Weather Underground Organization, Berger edited (with Chesa Boudin and Kenyon Farrow) the very cool “Letters From Young Activists”, but “Outlaws of America” is a major accomplishment. At 432 pages it includes extensive notes, a bibliography, photographs, 21 helpful biographies of the interviewees, and a 20-page timeline of the 20th century radical movement leading up to the Weather movement and beyond. Not to mention the bulk of the text which closely documents nearly ten years of Weather activity and brings history into perspective with careful, smart analysis. Berger has produced a book, seemingly the work of a lifetime. He is in his twenties!