BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE: MOVE and the Tragedy of Philadelphia by John & Hilary Hevenor Anderson

BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE: MOVE and the Tragedy of Philadelphia

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An account of the violent end of a revolutionary group's attempt to take over part of a Philadelphia neighborhood, when Mayor Wilson Goode ordered that a series of bombs be dropped on the offenders, killing them and their children. The word ""tragedy"" in the subtitle seems excessive, although it is certainly a grotesque and sad tale involving the deaths of minors. Anderson and Hevenor include minute data about the children's wounds in the most pedantic police-reporter style. They are also tediously thorough about the exact arms that each Philadelphia cop carried into the fray. A tragedy, in one sense, features a great person with a fatal flaw, but it would be hard to find anything sympathetic about the MOVE group: they were evenhanded in their hatred of all humans. They referred to black Mayor Goode as ""Nigger Willy."" In court, one addressed her own lawyer as a ""Jew coward."" They amplified extraordinary irrational and obscene messages to their neighbors and to the city's cops: ""The white cop's wife would get a nigger and the nigger would fuck his wife and daughter and get the white cop's money and be riding around in the big boat that the cop bought."" Many of these speeches are quoted verbatim, until the reader feels supersaturated with the rhetoric. MOVE did have some vague goals, such as not following the dictates of a ""bunch of hemorrhoid-ridden old men in Washington, D.C."" The reason for its rebellion was that ""if they think that they had control over you, they could control your bowel movement, sexual drive, and all that."" Although it goes on too long, the present book is a compilation of all the data that most readers will want (or need) to know about what happened in the Philadelphia bombing. The authors strenuously avoid taking sides in the arguments of whether the bombs should have been dropped, or if Goode erred. In this case, however, impartiality may not have been a virtue.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
Publisher: Norton