An engrossing oral history of the youth rebellion of the 1960s.
Former Newsweek White House correspondent Bingham (Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case that Changed Sexual Harassment Law, 2002, etc.) interviewed some 100 activists, veterans, government officials, and others—all now in their 60s and 70s—to produce this remarkable account of the anti-war movement. “The cross-pollination of left-wing activists with hippie drifters and dropouts, who were all part of the same Great Refusal to conform, created a brand new rebel,” she writes. With a focus on the year 1969-1970—the “crescendo of the sixties, when years of civil disobedience and mass resistance erupted into anarchic violence”—Bingham captures telling moments (from campus protests to bombings, from Woodstock to My Lai) in the voices of those present. There are revealing stories about Weathermen on the lam, government sabotage and surveillance, courtroom theatrics, police riots, President Richard Nixon’s late-night meeting with protesters at the Lincoln Memorial, the Pentagon Papers, and the incessant organizing behind events that “would profoundly and permanently change the nation.” The cast is a who’s who of the ’60s: Daniel Ellsberg, Jane Fonda, Julius Lester, and others, from undercover FBI agents to rock musicians, most of whom offer sharp insights into the period. After all these years, many echo an LSD dealer’s comments: “We were young and naïve, and drunk on idealism.” “We were so arrogant,” says Weatherman Mark Rudd. Most share feminist Robin Morgan’s observation that in the civil rights and peace movements, “the human spirit was really at its best.” Weathermen founder Bill Ayers says he will apologize for his actions when Henry Kissinger says “what he did that was wrong, because he killed three million people, and I killed no one.”
People like Bingham (b. 1963), who “missed the party,” may be astonished by aspects of this tumultuous story. Baby boomers will find themselves infuriated once again by vivid accounts of the My Lai massacre, the Kent State and Jackson State shootings, and other tumultuous events.