In his new book, “Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident”, former sixties radical and current-day authority on public education Bill Ayers gives us a personal look at how Sarah Palin’s own radical rhetoric and misleading claims about Ayers affected his life:
As for Obama, he’s “someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country!”
There it was: the punch line that would resonate no matter what else was said or done— palling around. It had a special creepy ring to it, for sure.
When Governor Palin—or, as our late friend Studs Terkel called her, “Joe McCarthy in drag”—uttered it that first time (and ever after) the crowd exploded: “Kill him! Kill him!” I couldn’t tell for sure whether it was me or Senator Obama who was the target of those chants— perhaps both. I’d been designated a public enemy before. I knew the territory pretty well and accepted the consequences with some equanimity, but now poor Barack Obama as well was forced to play Ibsen’s brilliant character, the embattled Dr. Thomas Stockmann, the “enemy of the people.” Stockmann was viciously taunted in the public square by a chorus of townspeople bent on delusion and self-deception: Kill the enemy of the people!
There was no way to prepare for what was about to hit me, of course, and at the outset I could barely glimpse it on the far horizon of my imagination—the great speeding locomotive designed to derail Obama would run me and others down as just some unavoidable debris or collateral damage, the inevitable road kill. No one really knew its shape or its power yet, no one could guess at its velocity. I grasped a couple of small things right away, but my family understood a lot more, and they were in fact already gearing up.
Before he left, my son Zayd showed us how to set up Google alerts for things we ought to be aware of instantly. He had alerts set for some of his friends and his whole family, and he set up a file full of every utterance on the web concerning Bernardine or me.
And that’s just for starters. “Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident” hits stores Tuesday.