Wednesday, June 06, 2007


My friend smoked this cigar Friday night. I think his wife said that he got it off the internet.

(I tried to get the background of this graphic to be transparent but I screwed it up somehow.)

I know that lately this blog has a fascist tone. I feel guilty about that. But whatever. I'm insane! Watch out!

Okay, so I've been kind of obsessed with Patty Hearst lately. It's really fun. She was the 19-year-old granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst when she was kidnapped by a 10-15 member, leftist radical organization in Berkeley, California in 1974. The Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) was a real product of the times but they were really hard core. They were generally Marxist, believed that all African Americans in jail were political prisoners, and felt that poverty was unacceptable. They stockpiled weapons and shot people who they thought were part of the conspiracy. An escaped Black convict led the group and the rest of the members were young White people. From many accounts, it was militaritistic in organization.

Anyway, they kidnapped Patty Hearst in February, 1974. It was a huge deal and no one really knew what to do. The SLA set the ransom to be that her father had to donate millions of dollars in food to the poor people of California! He tried to meet their demands but it got somewhat botched and there was a riot at one of the distribution centers. A lot of people think that Patty Hearst developed Stockholm Syndrome (started identifying with her kidnappers) and she robbed a bank with the SLA as a sort of Robin Hood mission 2 months later. She was on the run from the cops for about a year. The film, Patty Hearst is a guilty pleasure-type of re-enactment of her autobiography, Every Secret Thing. I sort of recommend seeing that first before you see Guerilla which is a newish documentary about the SLA. Patty Hearst seems like she was kind of fucked up by the experience. She's okay now but it was an immensely confusing time. The way she describes it, the SLA loved the idea that they had made a convert out of her - an idea that was propagated by the press after the bank robbery. But in reality, Patty Hearst was really in a spot. Isolated in a closet for several months, she started to lose her identity and felt things slip away from her. She also feared that if she didn't at least pretend to go along with goals of the SLA, she would be killed. Meanwhile, she had a fiance, family, and friends back home who only knew her as a wealthy, UC-Berkeley junior and were calling for her immediate release. So she was simultaneously a symbol for the left and for the rich. She was completely cognizant of this in the end and I think that really made her think about what it means to simply be human instead of being boxed as this thing or that. I really like the ambiguity of her situation and it's story that is hard to tell because there are so many grays.

Patricia Hearst Shaw is now 53 years old and lives in Connecticut.

In retrospect, the Hearst kidnapping seems somewhat remarkable to me for a couple of different reasons. First, we don't have many truly radical lefty groups anymore in the states. Even back then, the SLA was being called terrorists. Part of the reason why we don't have many radical lefty groups is that all violent means of protest are completely out of fashion which is interesting in its own right. Second, the SLA were such a small group (10-12 at any one time it appears) but they definitely got a lot of attention and went down in history. This is very attractive, I feel, for the left today which feels so unwieldy, is easily ignored, and is immensely boring.

(Just to be clear, I am not an advocate for emotionally harming people or for killing anyone.)

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