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Death and Birth - The Life and Thoughts of Zach

Jan. 9th, 2005

08:40 pm - Death and Birth

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I was just poking around Wikipedia looking at dates because I only just found out that there are entries for each year and date.

As many times as I've heard the story, I only just learned that Black Panther members Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were shot to death in their sleep during a raid by 14 Chicago police officers ON MY BIRTHDAY in 1969. I wasn't born in 1969, but it was on the date of my birthday.

Something about that is really intense. I mean this story is one of many stories that I think are among the most important largely forgotten moments in our recent history. Our recent history when the FBI was the most powerful terrorist organization in the United States.

I have no real point to make. Stumbling across stories about the Black Panthers and especially about Fred Hamptom always makes me get choked up and angry and impassioned. I didn't expect to stumble across that in an innocent casual search on my birthday. And I needed to share those links with others so the story of Fred Hampton is in more people's heads than my own. Wikipedia really has some very good content. I'm consistently amazed at how high the signal to noise is there.

Stories like this make me feel like I'm not doing enough and my energies are focused in the wrong place. Sometimes I feel lost. Other times I feel inspired. In either case I don't have the energy right now to do anything about it but share links.

Comments:

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From:ke_jia
Date:January 10th, 2005 05:24 am (UTC)
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If you haven't seen it, The Weather Underground tells a bit of Fred Hampton's story, and is a very carefully researched and presented account of a group of students who were motivated by the tactics of the FBI (and the war in Vietnam, natch) to rub at the line between activism, and something ... else.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 10th, 2005 05:32 am (UTC)
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Yah, it's a very good movie. I liked it a lot.

There's also a book that just recently came out by the son of a couple of Weather Underground members. This kid had like 5 different names by the time he was 4 years old as they lived in hiding.

http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/12/03/1454204

I also recently saw a documentary on PBS about a Black Panther who moved with his young wife to exile in Africa and they're still there 30 years later and what they've been doing there. They've recently been joined by another Panther who recently just got out of jail:

http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2004/apantherinafrica/

All this different stuff coming out now about the Panthers and Weather Underground folks who are just now a generation later getting out of jail, coming out of hiding, having grown children, etc has really put thoughts about that time period and it's connection to the present at the forefront of my thoughts. I mean it's like all the radicalism from 1968-1972 just disappeared from the face of the earth and now they're starting to show up again a generation later...I'd always expected they'd be gone forever, utterly defeated by oppression, but nothing goes away completely.

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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 10th, 2005 05:42 am (UTC)
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There's also a lackluster hollywood movie about the black panthers:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114084/

It's ok as hollywood movies about radical movements go but of course it really kind of misses some very important stuff about the Panthers in the attempt to over dramatize. And it presents some theories about COINTELPRO (that the FBI authorized the mafia to flood the ghetto with cheap heroin in the mid 70s and that that is ultimately what destroyed the black power movement...maybe true maybe not but it just screams out conspiracy theory) in such a conspiracy-theory way that I think it makes it less believable than if they'd just stuck to the real absolutely verifiable and documented stuff that happened (they kind of gloss over the murder of hampton and the FBI bombings of BPP headquaters in a brief montage).

I should watch it again now that I know more about this stuff. That movie was my introduction to the panthers and at the time I really liked it. Certain if I hadn't seen that movie I wouldn't have had ANY context when I later heard bits and pieces about the panthers. I'm sure that movie had a tiny bit to do with my ultimate eventual radicalization.
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From:ke_jia
Date:January 10th, 2005 06:36 am (UTC)
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Mario Van Peebles most recently put out Baadasssss!, which is titled How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass on IMDB, and is a well-regarded account of his father's bailing-wire and pistols adventure in getting Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song made. I like Mario Van Peebles, so I guess I should get off my duff and rent both Panther and Badasssss ... I'm annoyed because I feel like I should know more about the Panthers than I do ...
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From:szasz
Date:January 10th, 2005 05:43 am (UTC)
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I recommend "Brotherhood of the Bomb" as another really sad tale of the US Government, including the FBI, ruining the careers and lives of various people who had worked so selflessly on the nuclear bomb project during the second World War. Most people know about what happened to Robert Oppenheimer, but I was surprised to see how pervasive the "better dead than red" attitude was during the Cold War and how many people suffered under it.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 10th, 2005 05:55 am (UTC)
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Wow, the anti-leftist bias in the amazon editorial review is THICK. Geez.

Edward Teller gave a lecture at IMSA in 1992 and then stuck around and taught Topics in Modern Physics for 2 weeks. What a strange mixed blessing that was. One of the most brilliant men of the 20th century collaborating and sharing with us but also the man behind the H-bomb, the betrayal of Oppenheimer, the notion that hydrogen bombs might have civil uses (like redirecting the flow of rivers!) and the star wars project. I wish we had all been more conscious of the complex moral issues surrounding this man's life at the time. There was some brief and minor protest and student newspaper editorial activity but it mostly passed over everyone's heads (mine included).
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 10th, 2005 09:28 pm (UTC)
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Like I said, it's a forgotten moment in our history. So much from the late 60s and early 70s is never talked about, unknown, forgotten, not taught.

See all the links being bandied about in these comments for some movies and books that you can check out to start learning more.
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From:juvenilia
Date:January 10th, 2005 03:38 pm (UTC)

re: weather underground

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i watched it a couple weeks ago and sascha and i were talking about the probability of a similar group emerging now.

i think it'll happen. it will be different, but i think it will happen at some point. the weathermen, to me, seem like a bunch of desperate kids trying to make a difference in the only way they had left. to work really hard for civil rights and peace and to watch as one by one, all the leaders for said causes were killed.

wondering who our leaders will be. who's gonna be our fred hampton? who's gonna be our malcolm x?

from mister ryan kaldari in nashville:

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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 10th, 2005 09:25 pm (UTC)

Re: weather underground

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Well there's already ELF. I think that while ELFs actions are not as frequent as the Weathermen's that they are done in much the same spirit.

I do frequently wonder about the leaders thing. Is the fact that we don't have these big inspirational charismatic public leader figures a sign that we aren't as organized as they were in the 60s, or is it a sign that we are stronger because we are more decentralized and because there is no one to assasinate, kidnap, or "convert" to bring the whole movement down?

I'm never sure if we're lying to ourselves when we compare our movement to the radicalism of the 1960s. Maybe we're small and weak and ineffective compared to that MASSIVE organizing and militancy. Or maybe we're smarted and bigger and building towards something more powerful. Or mostly likely and truthfully, maybe we're the logical extension and continuation of that movement and there has been no break in continuity just changes in the way our story is told and what the public thinks about us.


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From:juvenilia
Date:January 10th, 2005 09:36 pm (UTC)

Re: weather underground

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i think that the left is decentralized because we don't have such huge issues to gather around. civil rights is still an issue but not the same way it was in the 60s. the war is still a big issue but not the same way vietnam was (why, i don't know, lord knows it should be...).

i wonder sometimes if it's that there are fewer big issues now than then, or if there are just tons and tons now and everyone is dividing their energies toward what really matters to them. for example, i support gay marriage but that's not what i'm going to put my energy toward, because there are other things that are more important to me personally. yaknow?

i was trying to think of who the leaders will be. i can't really think of anything.
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From:juvenilia
Date:January 10th, 2005 09:55 pm (UTC)

Re: weather underground

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it SO creeps me out when people tag "yet" onto the end of that. and by "creeps out" i mean, i want to leave the country pronto.
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From:juvenilia
Date:January 10th, 2005 10:01 pm (UTC)

Re: weather underground

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that's the first time i've heard it put that way, actually. i never thought about it like that.
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From:juvenilia
Date:January 10th, 2005 10:12 pm (UTC)

Re: weather underground

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hrm. i know exactly how you feel. but rather than looking at the positive side, i look for plane tickets to far off lands :)
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From:rettiger
Date:January 10th, 2005 10:15 pm (UTC)

Re: weather underground

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Earth Liberation Front. They are a radical animal rights group. WAY left of me. And I'm pretty left.
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From:rettiger
Date:January 10th, 2005 10:17 pm (UTC)

Re: weather underground

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By "Animal rights" I mean "Environmental rights"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Liberation_Front

They're scary.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 10th, 2005 10:22 pm (UTC)

Re: weather underground

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Earth Liberation Front

It's a totally decentralized movement of radical cell groups that do property destruction actions against companies that do environmental damage. They pride themselves on having destroyed (usually through arson) X million dollars worth of property and never having killed or injured a person.

This very closely parallels the Weathermen who bombed many facilities associated with the Vietnam war but did very careful planning and no one other than members of their own movement was ever killed or injured by their actions. The difference between ELF and the Weathermen is that there was a period of about a year when something got bombed almost every (day? week?). ELF's actions are much more random.



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From:juvenilia
Date:January 10th, 2005 04:41 pm (UTC)

also

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Stories like this make me feel like I'm not doing enough and my energies are focused in the wrong place. Sometimes I feel lost. Other times I feel inspired. In either case I don't have the energy right now to do anything about it but share links.

i would like to point out that you are still alive. fred hampton was brilliant, but he was killed. just keep that in mind when you talk about not doing enough, ok?
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 10th, 2005 09:19 pm (UTC)

Re: agreed

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Thanks. Do I happen to know you? How'd you find the post? (I'm just curious if I've been linked to by someone or what...)
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 10th, 2005 10:29 pm (UTC)

Re: agreed

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Hey good to meet you then! :)
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