On saturday I was invited to attend a party promoted as follows:
Under our current administration’s culture of fear, civil liberties and personal expression are under attack. But true Americanvisionaries have always been outlaws. Thus our party’s motto: When fun is outlawed, only outlaws have fun.
Come dressed as your favorite outlaw. Costume ideas range from Abbie Hoffman, Pretty Boy Floyd, Bonnie & Clyde, James Dean,Angela Davis and Lenny Bruce to groups like the Black Panthers, Hell’s Angels, the Weathermen and our most recent freedom-fighters, the RNC protesters.
I don’t particularly agree that civil liberaties and persosonal expression are particularly under attack today as opposed to under prior administrations, but that would not have been enough to put me off joining my friends at this party. What did put me off was the romanticization and glorification of people who are simply evil and bad e.g. the Weatherman, the BlackPanthers, and Angela Davis. From googling “weathermen”, found this:
The first national action of the Weather Underground occurred on October 8, 1969 in Chicago, in a four day protest against the Vietnam War known as the “Days of Rage”. Hundreds of members used clubs and chains to vandalize shops and cars in Chicago’s business district. After the melee, six members had been shot, and sixty-eight arrested.[…]In December of 1969, the national membership met for the last time in Flint, Michigan. Hung around the room were pictures of Communist dictators whom members sought to emulate; the dictators were Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevera, and Fidel Castro. It was then that the group formulated their terrorist strategies; they had deserted the possibility of a popular movement (Raynor 70).
in May of 1970, the Weather Underground issued a “declaration of war”: “Within the next fourteen days we will attack a symbol or institution of American justice. This is the way we celebrate the example of Eldridge Cleaver and H. Rap Brown, and all black revolutionaries who first inspired us by their fight behind enemy lines for the liberation of their people. The group’s declaration proved to be true, as they soon bombed the headquarters of the New York Police Department and the barber shop at the U.S. Capitol Building. Twenty more bombings occurred between 1970 and 1975″ (Raynor 71).
The shocking, unofficial ending of the Weather Underground came in 1981, with the robbery of a Brinks’ Armored Car, a robbery in which Kathy Boudin was a participant. Boudin had joined the “Family”, most of whom were members of the Black Liberation Army, an extremely radical and violent group that was an offshoot of the Black Panthers. The Family had committed various armed robberies throughout the tri-state area (allegedly to fund their plans for the liberation of blacks in America), but the robbery of the Brinks’ truck at the Nanuet Mall branch of the Nanuet National Bank in Nanuet, New York was their biggest heist ever. $1,585,000 was taken from the armored car and put in a van, transferred to a U-Haul, and driven down Route 59 towards Nyack (Castellucci 18). When the group reached a roadblock at the Nyack entrance of the New York State Thruway, violence ensued. Certain Family members (presumably Chui Ferguson and Sam “Solomon Bouines” Brown), with the exception of Boudin, shot and killed two Nyack police officers, and wounded another. Boudin’s failed escape marked the end of her career; an off-duty corrections officer tackled her to the ground, demanding to know who she was. Boudin only responded “I didn’t shoot him; he did” (Castellucci 9).
Gross and pathetic.
I assume most people went because they didn’t know any better. I didn’t because I did. And I assume the organizers did as well.
Update: My friends who told me about and attended thinks that I should not assume the organizers knew anything about the “outlaws” they named in the invitation. Fair point. I shouldn’t assume and have since emailed the organizer. I will update when I have more information. I had told him my reason for not attending when he invited me. In his email to me he notes:
me personally, i went because the night’s plans had changed and were now “let’s have an adventure” with these strange people…and i didn’t feel
strongly enough about the cause of the event one way or the other. also, for what it’s worth, the party itself was not politicized in any way that i saw. people in a cramped place with a dj and a band and some costumes.
On some level, a party is just a party. So, no I don’t hold the attendees particularly accountable for the theme and I’m glad everyone had fun. I just wish it was under a different banner. Although I am curious about what people actually chose as their costumes.