Monday, October 6, 2008

Bill Ayers and the Right

This issue of William Ayers, a former 'terrorist', and his connection with Barack Obama, is so bogus and contrived, yet so typical of the Right in their smear campaigns at least since the time of the original smear-meister Lee Atwater, when he ran George H. W. Bush's campaign in 1988.

Who is Bill Ayers? He is a progressivist educator in Chicago, professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and has been an advisor to Chicago mayor, Richard Daley. Born in 1944 (which makes him about 64), Ayers, like so many young people at the time, got caught up in the revolutionary fervor of the late '60s. He was a leader in the revolutionary group the Weatherman Underground, which pursued violence through some bombings of police stations and the Pentagon. By 1980, he (along with many others) had returned to normal society and began making a social contribution through education and reform. (His father, by the way, was the well-known Thomas Ayers of Chicago, chairman of Commonwealth Edison (the utility) and major philanthropist.)

What is his relationship to Barack Obama? Very little, except that in the late 1990's, they were neighbors in the Hyde Park neighborhood around the University of Chicago (where Obama was teaching Constitutional Law at the Law School) and also were fellow board members of the Woods Fund, a small grant-making foundation to help the poor of south-side Chicago. I believe Ayers also made a small political contribution ($200) to Obama's state senate campaign at the time.

Now, when Ayers was doing his revolutionary thing in the crazy '60s (which is my generation too, since I am a '68 high school graduate), Obama was in elementary school, playing on the playground swings, happily oblivious to the social turmoil of the time. By the time Obama and Ayers finally met 30 years later, Ayers was something like 57 (my current age, actually), an aging hippie with mixed memories of their radical past (again, much like me).

It is such a complete and utter farce to try and smear Obama for the radical activities of Bill Ayers of 40 years ago. Of course, the Right would never consider doing this for a former revolutionary like David Horowitz, who is now a far-Right activist, neo-conservative, and Republican. (Go ahead, I dare you to look at the Horowitz link and look at his revolutionary activities. Just to give you a little taste, Horowitz was attorney for the Black Panthers, during their most violent period, when they killed many police officers. He came from a family of Communists and radical activists.)

Now, one could say something like, "McCain and Palin associate with a former Black Panther supporter, David Horowitz. How can we support such irresponsible people who associate with former terrorists?" Or how about Eldridge Cleaver, former Black Panther, revolutionary, and then born-again Republican conservative (now deceased). It's amazing how the Right will accept all kinds of former revolutionaries into their midst, but if those former revolutionaries become liberal Democrats, they will never be forgiven.

The kind of mindset that would try and smear Obama by trying to connect him to someone like Bill Ayer is, well, despicable. (I'm listening to Sarah Palin do it at this very moment on CNN.) It seems that they will go to any lengths to win power and destroy the opposition. Do they have any boundaries of ethical behavior? And, when in power, don't you think they'll do the same thing?

One more point. Actually, the only people who could possibly know or care about Bill Ayers are other former revolutionaries. One of the writers who found this 'connection' between Obama and Ayers is the brother of the wild and crazy Christopher Hitchens, former radical Marxist and still fervent atheist, who published it in the London Mail newspaper. (Check out the link to Christopher Hitchens and immerse yourself in the revolutionary movements of the '60s and '70s.)

This is all little more than a distraction. It will do absolutely nothing to address the domestic, economic, and foreign policy crises we face. It reminds me of the Great Oz, after Dorothy had ripped the curtain away, revealing a pathetic old man pulling away at all ropes and levers, trying to keep the Great Illusion going. But the Great Oz was simply a fraud: not an Oz at all, just a very funny, even loveable old man, pulling away at the levers of illusion and deception.

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