Yet step by step, she embraced progressively extreme and discomforting ideals she didn’t fully understand, until the simple act of thinking two moves ahead must have been nearly unapproachable. And so her eventual acceptance of bombing tactics, which she now repudiates and realizes were the product of no coherent plan whatsoever, is believable. She sees her book as a kind of enlightened moral tale.
“We tend to think that people are hatched with full-blown politics,” says Wilkerson. “When, in fact, all of us go through this process of making sense of the world.”
Flying Close to the Sun is, above all else, a well-written record of Wilkerson’s evolving beliefs — a point-by-point memoir of innumerable arguments with herself over political philosophies and innovations. Movement veterans, who, as she puts it, are “trying to define the legacy in a rich and complicated kind of way” will find it fascinating. But who else would be interested? Concerned young people, Wilkerson hopes, and women searching for a political voice — people who could benefit from the debates (and mistakes) of the past.
“Somebody who’s never questioned the issues of equity or peace in their world wouldn’t be interested in the book,” Wilkerson admits. “But,” she goes on, “if people, regardless of the extent of their political environment, have worried about what the world is going to look like for their children, and worried about the ending of wild spaces, the spread of cancer of all kinds from pollution, the increasingly warlike state of the world, the increasingly lethal nature of weapons, and the prospect of living in gated communities because the world is in such chaos — anyone who believes that we could do better, I think, would bring the kind of intelligence and questioning to the book that’s required to read it.”
Fair enough, and for that audience, Flying Close to the Sun is a valuable memoir. Still, given our current political climate, I fear a lot of very stupid things are going to be written about this book.
Clif Garboden, who did a bunch of ’60s shit but never came close to blowing anything up, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.