Every good hunter is uneasy in the depths of his conscience when faced with the death he is about to inflict on the enchanted animal. He does not have the final and firm conviction that his conduct is correct. But neither, it should be understood, is he certain of the opposite.
(Meditations on Hunting
José Ortega y Gasset)
My bloodthirsty stage, the warrior phase of a developing manhood, lasted from age 6 until age 12. At 6, I was the first little boy on my block, in Washington, DC, to have a Lone Ranger atomic bomb ring. You peeked in at a color photograph of the mushroom cloud. In fact, owing to a mixup of breakfast cereal boxtops in Battle Creek, Michigan, I had four Lone Ranger atomic bomb rings, one for every other finger on both hands. I only wish I could have quoted Sanskrit.
At age 12, in 1952, I found myself wearing a WIN WITH KEFAUVER T-shirt in Joe McCarthy territory, at a hunting and fishing lodge in northern Wisconsin, when one of the black Labrador retrievers came back with a nose full of porcupine quills. Grim men in checkerboard motley took up arms in the forest primeval. I found the fierce porcupine, hiding up a tree. I shot it twice with a .22 rifle. It fell at my feet, not exactly a sweet kill. I can’t remember if we ate it. But no bird sang, and neither did a Hemingway.
Robin Williams has since explained: “Kill a small animal, drink a lite beer.” My son, who was born so fortuitously in 1962, describes himself today as the first Berkeley antiwar protest, or a draft dodge. I tell you this so that you will know just who’s thinking out loud about Weatherman, the Days of Rage and the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion. In my opinion, they were all a bunch of Lone Ranger atomic bomb rings.
Bill Ayers takes a different view. He was himself a street-fighting Weatherperson, a rock-and-roll Tupamaro, a social bandit out of Hobsbawm, like Rob Roy, Pancho Villa, Jesse James and the Opportune Rain Sung Chiang. He was in love with another Weatherperson, Diana Oughton, a former Peace Corps Quaker, who died making bombs on West 11th Street. He then married a third Weatherperson, Bernardine Dohrn, a University of Chicago law school graduate feared by J. Edgar Hoover (“the most dangerous woman in America”) and American Rhapsodized by Joe Eszterhas (“our real babe in bandoliers”). And he’s foster father to the child of a fourth, Kathy Boudin, who remains in prison for the 1981 stickup of a Brink’s truck that killed four people. How he got to American Berserk, carrying a poem by Ho Chi Minh in his pocket, tattooed on his neck with the rainbow-and-lightning logo and playing with the sticks of dynamite they nicknamed “pickles,” is the subject of this unrepentant retrospection.