This is not a love story.
I say that upfront just so you know that “The Weather Underground” is not an affectionate missive to the ideals of 1960s, or to that era’s radicals, or terrorism of any kind. What it is is a window into the mind of a group of notorious domestic terrorists. Still, the aura of ‘cool’ inhabits the documentary’s subjects, American revolutionaries in a volatile time (what is it about a rebel?).
Allow me one inelegant segue; I was in college when the Iraq war started, and I remember an afternoon when a friend of mine attended a war protest in 2002; she invited me, but I declined. I knew then that no protest would make any difference, and while I was proven right, I took (take) no pleasure in my triumph of pragmatism.
For better or worse (probably worse), the college kids who would become The Weathermen had no such pragmatic leanings. After forming a splinter group from the more legitimate (and nonviolent) Students for a Democratic Society, the Weathermen began bombing buildings across the country in an effort to force the government to pull American soldiers out of Vietnam.
The filmmakers meet up with some members (including Bill Ayers of recent political shenanigans) and while the responses run the gamut from shame to pride, wariness hovers over the speakers. Was it worth it? would seem like an obvious question, but there isn’t an obvious answer.
Vietnam started as a way to contain the Communist Threat; the government wanted to keep the Communists out of South Vietnam, and when our leaders felt they had no other choice, they let their sense of righteousness and superiority lead them to war, which ironically ending up furthering the enemy’s agenda.
The student activists had a point; the Vietnam War was a massive, deadly folly, and the protestors wanted their fellow Americans to end it. And when they felt no one was listening and they had no other choice, The Weathermen let their sense of righteousness and superiority lead them to war, which ironically ending up furthering their enemy’s agenda.
“The Weather Underground” is not a love story; instead, we get a compelling portrait of the evils of an era. Don’t miss it.
“The Weather Underground” (2003)
Directed by Sam Green and Bill Siegel