Re: [xmca] Bill Ayers Breaks Silence...

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Sun Nov 09 2008 - 10:41:14 PST

Seems fitting and in context with concurrent XMCA discussions. Wayne. I was
particularly sympathetic to Debs' remark about the problems of having to be
led to the promised land.

On Sun, Nov 9, 2008 at 10:19 AM, Au, Wayne <>wrote:

> XMCA-ers,
> Not sure where this originated (other than Ayers himself), but I just got
> it forwarded to me and thought it would be of general interest to folks on
> this list.
> Wayne Au
> Bill Ayers | What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been
> =
> by Bill Ayers
> Whew! What was all that mess? I'm still in a daze, sorting it all out,
> decompressing.
> Pass the Vitamin C.
> For the past few years, I have gone about my business, hanging out with
> my kids and, now, my grandchildren, taking care of our elders (they moved
> in
> as the kids moved out), going to work, teaching and writing. And every day,
> I participate in the never-ending effort to build a powerful and
> irresistible movement for peace and social justice.
> In years past, I would now and then -- often unpredictably -- appear in
> the newspapers or on TV, sometimes with a reference to Fugitive Days, my
> 2001 memoir of the exhilarating and difficult years of resistance against
> the American war in Vietnam. It was a time when the world was in flames,
> revolution was in the air, and the serial assassinations of black leaders
> disrupted our utopian dreams.
> These media episodes of fleeting notoriety always led to some
> extravagant and fantastic assertions about what I did, what I might have
> said, and what I probably believe now.
> It was always a bit surreal. Then came this political season.
> During the primary, the blogosphere was full of chatter about my
> relationship with President-elect Barack Obama. We had served together on
> the board of the Woods Foundation and knew one another as neighbors in
> Chicago's Hyde Park. In 1996, at a coffee gathering that my wife,
> Bernardine
> Dohrn, and I held for him, I made a $200 donation to his campaign for the
> Illinois State Senate.
> Obama's political rivals and enemies thought they saw an opportunity to
> deepen a dishonest perception that he is somehow un-American, alien, linked
> to radical ideas, a closet terrorist who sympathizes with extremism -- and
> they pounced.
> Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y.) campaign provided the script, which
> included guilt by association, demonization of people Obama knew (or might
> have known), creepy questions about his background, and dark hints about
> hidden secrets yet to be uncovered.
> On March 13, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), apparently in an attempt to
> reassure the base, sat down for an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News.
> McCain was not yet aware of the narrative Hannity had been spinning for
> months, and so Hannity filled him in: Ayers is an unrepentant "terrorist,"
> he explained, "On 9/11, of all days, he had an article where he bragged
> about bombing our Pentagon, bombing the Capitol and bombing New York City
> police headquarters. ... He said, 'I regret not doing more.'"
> McCain couldn't believe it.
> Neither could I.
> On the campaign trail, McCain immediately got on message. I became a
> prop, a cartoon character created to be pummeled.
> When Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin got hold of it, the attack went viral. At a
> now-famous Oct. 4 rally, she said Obama was pallin' around with terrorists.
> (I pictured us sharing a milkshake with two straws.)
> The crowd began chanting, "Kill him!" "Kill him"-- It was downhill from
> there.
> My voicemail filled up with hate messages. They were mostly from men,
> all venting and sweating and breathing heavily. A few threats: "Watch out!"
> and "You deserve to be shot." And some e-mails, like this one I got from
> "I'm coming to get you and when I do, I'll water-board
> you."
> The police lieutenant who came to copy down those threats deadpanned
> that he hoped the guy who was going to shoot me got there before the guy
> who
> was going to water-board me, since it would be most foul to be tortured and
> then shot. (We have been pals ever since he was first assigned to
> investigate threats made against me in 1987, after I was hired as an
> assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.)
> The good news was that every time McCain or Palin mentioned my name,
> they lost a point or two in the polls. The cartoon invented to hurt Obama
> was now poking holes in the rapidly sinking McCain-Palin ship.
> That '60s Show
> On Aug. 28, Stephen Colbert, the faux right-wing commentator from Comedy
> Central who channels Bill O'Reilly on steroids, observed:
> "To this day, when our country holds a presidential election, we judge
> the candidates through the lens of the 1960s. ... We all know Obama is cozy
> with William Ayers a '60s radical who planted a bomb in the capital
> building
> and then later went on to even more heinous crimes by becoming a college
> professor. ... Let us keep fighting the culture wars of our grandparents.
> The '60s are a political gift that keeps on giving."
> It was inevitable McCain would bet the house on a dishonest and largely
> discredited vision of the '60s, which was the defining decade for him. He
> built his political career on being a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
> The '60s -- as myth and symbol -- is much abused: the downfall of
> civilization in one account, a time of defeat and humiliation in a second,
> and a perfect moment of righteous opposition, peace, and love in a third.
> The idea that the 2008 election may be the last time in American
> political life that the '60s plays any role whatsoever is a mixed blessing.
> On the one hand, let's get over the nostalgia and move on. On the other,
> the
> lessons we might have learned from the black freedom movement and from the
> resistance against the Vietnam War have never been learned. To achieve this
> would require that we face history fully and honestly, something this
> nation
> has never done.
> The war in Vietnam was an illegal invasion and occupation, much of it
> conducted as a war of terror against the civilian population. The U.S.
> military killed millions of Vietnamese in air raids -- like the one
> conducted by McCain -- and entire areas of the country were designated
> free-fire zones, where American pilots indiscriminately dropped surplus
> ordinance -- an immoral enterprise by any measure.
> What Is Really Important
> McCain and Palin -- or as our late friend Studs Terkel put it, "Joe
> McCarthy in drag" -- would like to bury the '60s. The '60s, after all, was
> a
> time of rejecting obedience and conformity in favor of initiative and
> courage. The '60s pushed us to a deeper appreciation of the humanity of
> every human being. And that is the threat it poses to the right wing, hence
> the attacks and all the guilt by association.
> McCain and Palin demanded to "know the full extent" of the Obama-Ayers
> "relationship" so that they can know if Obama, as Palin put it, "is telling
> the truth to the American people or not."
> This is just plain stupid.
> Obama has continually been asked to defend something that ought to be at
> democracy's heart: the importance of talking to as many people as possible
> in this complicated and wildly diverse society, of listening with the
> possibility of learning something new, and of speaking with the possibility
> of persuading or influencing others.
> The McCain-Palin attacks not only involved guilt by association, they
> also assumed that one must apply a political litmus test to begin a
> conversation.
> On Oct. 4, Palin described her supporters as those who "see America as
> the greatest force for good in this world" and as a "beacon of light and
> hope for others who seek freedom and democracy." But Obama, she said, "Is
> not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America." In other
> words, there are "real" Americans -- and then there are the rest of us.
> In a robust and sophisticated democracy, political leaders -- and all of
> us -- ought to seek ways to talk with many people who hold dissenting, or
> even radical, ideas. Lacking that simple and yet essential capacity to
> question authority, we might still be burning witches and enslaving our
> fellow human beings today.
> Maybe we could welcome our current situation -- torn by another illegal
> war, as it was in the '60s -- as an opportunity to search for the new.
> Perhaps we might think of ourselves not as passive consumers of politics
> but as fully mobilized political actors. Perhaps we might think of our
> various efforts now, as we did then, as more than a single campaign, but
> rather as our movement-in-the-making.
> We might find hope in the growth of opposition to war and occupation
> worldwide. Or we might be inspired by the growing movements for reparations
> and prison abolition, or the rising immigrant rights movement and the
> stirrings of working people everywhere, or by gay and lesbian and
> transgender people courageously pressing for full recognition.
> Yet hope -- my hope, our hope -- resides in a simple self-evident truth:
> the future is unknown, and it is also entirely unknowable.
> History is always in the making. It's up to us. It is up to me and to
> you. Nothing is predetermined. That makes our moment on this earth both
> hopeful and all the more urgent -- we must find ways to become real actors,
> to become authentic subjects in our own history.
> We may not be able to will a movement into being, but neither can we sit
> idly for a movement to spring full-grown, as from the head of Zeus.
> We have to agitate for democracy and egalitarianism, press harder for
> human rights, learn to build a new society through our self-transformations
> and our limited everyday struggles.
> At the turn of the last century, Eugene Debs, the great Socialist Party
> leader from Terre Haute, Ind., told a group of workers in Chicago, "If I
> could lead you into the Promised Land, I would not do it, because someone
> else would come along and lead you out."
> In this time of new beginnings and rising expectations, it is even more
> urgent that we figure out how to become the people we have been waiting to
> be.
> ---------
> Bill Ayers is a Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior
> University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the
> author of "Fugitive Days" (Beacon) and co-author, with Bernardine Dohrn, of
> "Race Course: Against White Supremacy" (Third World Press).
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Received on Sun Nov 9 10:41:48 2008

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