Previously Aired On: Wednesday, March 5, 2008 – Listen to the Show!
Cath Wilkerson attended Swarthmore College and graduated in 1966. In 1967, Wilkerson was employed in the national office of the Students for a Democratic Society. Shortly after her graduation from college, she traveled to Cuba to witness the Cuban Revolution first hand. She was also very active in civil rights and the women’s movement.
Wilkerson has worked in New York City Public Schools training teachers for the last 20 years, and wrote a book about her experience in the Weather Underground, Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times As a Weatherman. An interview with her stated that she was very personable, unassuming, and quite direct. Her sophisticated, but blunt style is very appealing.
Flying Close to the Sun, is about the times of the Weather Underground that “relates a trajectory not very different from most middle-class and wealthy members of the U.S. radical movements.” It is the story of hopes dashed by elected leaders preaching democracy, frustration with supposedly democratic channels that do more to prolong war and racism than end those ills and the growing awareness of the power of the people.
We came to understand that to be “mentally qualified” really meant to be privileged, white, and well off. The Government mobilized the country for war and for profit. The middle and upper class got special benefits while the lower class had to actually go to war without much say. It is the story of the moral dissonance created on realizing your family’s financial well being depends on other families misery. It is also the story of Cathy Wilkerson, a young girl from a well off family from the U.S. that develops a political conscience. It is a personal look at how one’s political growth is part of one’s political development; how the development of a moral standard can drive one to accept and commit actions that seem contradictory to that conscience.
The Pacific Free Press called the book exciting and reflective. “The discussions of her internal, emotional, and intellectual conflicts complement the descriptions of the political discussions within the movement.” It examines how the personal becomes intertwined with the political. The book also examines the absence of the women’s voices; the incompetence and the egos; the hundreds of bombs detonated in protest, which caused little loss of life but were also ineffective in revolution.