Like Japanese soldiers who surface years after the end of World War II, up from the nether world came Katherine Boudin and other members of the Weather Underground with their guns blazing. They allegedly killed two cops and a private guard, maybe had plans for some bombings but never realized that the war was not only over, but that they had lost long ago.

You can understand their confusion. They must have looked around and concluded that it was the 1960s all over again. The time looked ripe for action and if they had any doubts about it, they could have read the coverage of their own arrest. In The Washington Post, Boudin, as political a person as you're ever likely to find, was called "an underground moll" -- as sexist an epithet as you're likely to find. The clock has been turned back.

Sexism has returned. It now is once again permissible to call grown women "girls." It is apparently okay, too, to make jokes about busts and legs and to make women, but never men, account for their success. The new role model for women seems to be Nancy Reagan who appears to do little more than spend money and have lunch. Gone is Rosalynn Carter's concern for the mentally ill or Betty Ford's activism. Instead, we have returned to a Father Knows Best era in which shopping and entertaining are not only woman's work, but their only work. WW e have turned back the clock on W racism also. Suddenly, it is permissible to make racist jokes, to identify people in the news media by race when race is not relevant, to talk about the voting rights act, for instance, as if it were an imposition on the states, rather than an effort to guarantee the rights of minorities.

Some lessons have been forgotten. There is no such thing as a little racism. There is no such thing as a little sexism. There is no room for a little of each, because they are both diseases. But the thinking seems to be that the battle against each has been won and so we may indulge ourselves in a little bit of both. Having beaten the disease, we will now flirt with it, play with it, tease it. We are sure that it is no threat.

The same is true economically. Things we thought had been won and all but taken for granted are being questioned and threatened and, in some cases, repealed. The Great Society that the likes of Boudin mocked as too little and too late is now but a memory. They wanted to trash it. Ronald Reagan did it for them.

Little wonder, then, that they came up from the underground when they did. Things looked familiar. Alexander Haig is once again advising the president and Richard Nixon is flying around the world issuing policy statements. Communism is once again the universal menace and the Soviet Union is the home office of all evil. AA s for the economy, unemployment is A at 7.5 percent and we are in a recession. Interest rates are as high as they have ever been. The auto industry is hurting. Chrysler is near death. The housing industry is in deep trouble. It is tougher to be poor than it has been in quite some time and for some people it is not much fun being middle class, either.

There's more. The lessons of Watergate are about to be repealed. The administration thinks the CIA ought to have a role in domestic police work. It thinks also that rules of evidence ought to be changed, and that some people are criminals simply because they are criminals. They ought to be locked up and the key thrown away.

So it must have looked like the 1960s to the members of the underground. But it's not. The difference is that this time no one seems to care. You can crack a racist joke at a party. You can call women girls. You can bust a union if you're the president and not even be told off by other unions. Welfare is cut and school lunches are reduced, but the country is largely unmoved by it all. It is not conservatism that has swept the land, but apathy.

Boudin and her fellow revolutionaries apparently did not understand this. They came charging out of their holes like it was the 1960s and selfishness was not fashionable. They allegedly killed cops, once the enemy, now just working-class victims of the new economic order. In their arrogance they failed to see that the climate had changed. They were fooled. After all, you don't have to be a Weatherman to know which way the wind's blowing.