Bill Ayers In His Own Words
The demon of this election cycle, the person conservatives thought they could morph into Barack Obama, has put in perspective the claims against him and straightened out a few myths. Writing in Saturday’s New York Times, Ayers accurately states that he was invoked because Obama’s opponents were unable to challenge the content of Obama’s message. But the character they invented, who they named Bill Ayers, was not not the real Bill Ayers. Here is Ayers’ story:
I never killed or injured anyone. I did join the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, and later resisted the draft and was arrested in nonviolent demonstrations. I became a full-time antiwar organizer for Students for a Democratic Society. In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village. The Weather Underground went on to take responsibility for placing several small bombs in empty offices – the ones at the Pentagon and the United States Capitol were the most notorious – as an illegal and unpopular war consumed the nation.
The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be – and still is being – debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.
Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism; we were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends.
I cannot imagine engaging in actions of that kind today. And for the past 40 years, I’ve been teaching and writing about the unique value and potential of every human life, and the need to realize that potential through education.
I have regrets, of course – including mistakes of excess and failures of imagination, posturing and posing, inflated and heated rhetoric, blind sectarianism and a lot else. No one can reach my age with their eyes even partly open and not have hundreds of regrets. The responsibility for the risks we posed to others in some of our most extreme actions in those underground years never leaves my thoughts for long.
The antiwar movement in all its commitment, all its sacrifice and determination, could not stop the violence unleashed against Vietnam. And therein lies cause for real regret.
Ayers goes on to point out the absurdity of declaring that if two people are in the same room at the same time or if they share a cup of coffee, they also share a political philosophy and somehow responsible for each others’ behavior.
President-elect Obama and I sat on a board together; we lived in the same diverse and yet close-knit community; we sometimes passed in the bookstore. We didn’t pal around, and I had nothing to do with his positions. I knew him as well as thousands of others did, and like millions of others, I wish I knew him better.
Thankfully, the politics of fear, of guilt by association, and of demonization didn’t work this time. And maybe we’ll grow to see, as Ayers concludes, that knowing and talking to people with a wide variety of backgrounds and ideas is not a drawback, but a virtue.Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2008 Liberaland