Bryan Burrough understands when people try to put him in a political box over his new book, Days of Rage: America's Radical Underground, the FBI and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence. After all, he wrote a 500-plus-page study about far left organizations that set off bombs in the '70s and '80s, under the belief that the revolution was at hand. Surely he has taken a side.
"I'm not left wing," the Temple native and part-time Austin resident told the crowd Wednesday night at Highland Park United Methodist Church, where he read from and discussed the new book. "I'm not right wing. I don't have a wing. I'm not endorsing it. My job is to understand and explain it."
This he has done, with power, scope and remarkable evenhandedness. (You can read Jeff Guinn's rave review from the Dallas Morning News here). As Burrough explained before his talk, it's hard for some 21st-century Americans to fathom that a massive domestic bombing campaign swept through the country as recently as 30 years ago, and that violent organizations including the Weather Underground, the Symbionese Liberation Army (kidnappers of Patty Hearst) and The Family believed they were on the right side of history. As Burrough says, this is not a story of the '60s but the '70s, the great hangover from the age of idealism. Many of those ideals weren't met. And some true believers responded with protracted violence.
"I'm fascinated that we don't remember this stuff," Burrough said. "And I wonder why we don't remember this stuff."