Swords in the Hands of Children:
Reflections of an American Revolutionary
by Jonathan Lerner
OR Books. 216 pages, $22.
THE WORDS “fear” and “frightened” pepper Jonathan Lerner’s intriguing account of how he, a young idealist with a sincere commitment to the civil rights and peace movements of the 1960s, became affiliated with the violence-prone Weather Underground Organization (WUO).
In his youth, the closeted Lerner held back from a potential acting career because “the ubiquitous and openness of gay people in theater frightened me.” He recounts an experience at a major anti-war march in 1968, where there was a confrontation between demonstrators and police in riot gear, and reveals his fear of “those swinging truncheons.” Once immersed as a soldier in the Weather Underground, whose leaders turned authoritarian and cruel, Lerner became fearful of his comrades. Decades later, he has written a memoir about this era titled Swords in the Hands of Children. Having observed how some alumni of the WUO show little or no remorse, and given my own strong opposition to the group, I admire Lerner’s courage and honesty in writing this book filled with his own remorse and regret.
Allen Young joined the New York Gay Liberation Front in 1970 and co-edited four books with Karla Jay, including Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation.