In defense of Bill Ayers--and on the bailout that won't stop the failing economy

Governor Sarah Palin and others, including Senator John McCain, have called William Ayers a terrorist. This first surfaced during the Democratic Party nomination campaign by Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama immediately distanced himself from Ayers, who knew him briefly from progressive and anti-poverty circles in the City of Chicago (although their dealings were minimal as it was, Senator Obama stopped associating with Ayers after 2002). But Palin nor McCain care about this. It appears the Republicans have nothing new to offer so they've reached into Hillary's grab bag. The fact of the matter is neither Republican candidates know much about Mr. Ayers and have not bothered to find out more. I wonder how such insular and mean-spirited people can run for high office if they don't get the facts.

Yes, William Ayers used to be a founder of the Weather Underground (The Weatherman) some forty years ago. This organization participated in bomb attacks at the time, forcing Mr. Ayers to eventually go underground. Although Bill and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, resurfaced and turned themselves in by 1980, no indictments were ever served on Mr. Ayers. There is no court of law that has determined Mr. Ayers is a criminal terrorist. He does admit his involvement in the anti-war movement of the 1960s and 1970s that involved millions of people, and in the radical Weatherman organization that bombed or tried to bomb various facilities and statues. But none of his actions led to any deaths or injuries. He has since, despite some distorted reportage, repudiated terrorism and has established himself as a leading activist, education professor, writer, homeowner, and father (two boys and two other adopted children).

He has been a mainstay of progressive Chicago politics for years.

I happen to know Bill Ayers. He is a decent, intelligent, and caring person. He does not have anything to do with any criminal acts, let alone terrorist acts, and has denounced the September 11 terrorist attacks--as most decent people, progressive or otherwise, have done.

His long-time companion, Bernardine Dohrn, is another decent professional, a lawyer and educator, who has consistently defended poor communities and youth. She's a leader in justice reform, the kind of reform that many people, including politicians, now support. I've known them from when I lived in Chicago and carried out gang prevention/intervention work. I found them to be passionate, courageous and a great example of progressive politics.

The characterizations of Mr. Ayers by Palin and McCain are erroneous and slanderous. But that's the way they roll, as the saying goes. They don't seem to care who they destroy in the media, as long as they win. And this example is getting more people to denounce others, including Mr. Obama, as "terrorists" and "terrorist supporters."

The problem isn't that many on the far right consider Mr. Ayers a terrorist--they link this label to almost anyone who doesn't agree with them. They've trivialized this term to include Obama, his supporters, media people who dare to challenge them, and anyone involved in progressive, community-based efforts.

Terrorism is real. 9/11 is real. Suicide bombings and beheadings are real.

But the majority of those in anti-poverty, pro-youth, and pro-justice work are now considered "terrorists" even if we have nothing to do with violence.

I have a relative who became a right-wing Christian fanatic (this is not an attack on all Christians, since I know many amazing and courageous Christians, but if you know politics in this country you know what I'm talking about). He once attacked me as a "terrorist" and the same as Osama Bin Laden because of my political views (his Church, like many other churches, are making such inane claims of anyone not in their fold). He linked me to Hitler, who masterminded the murder of six millions Jews and the murders of millions more in camps and invasions. Okay, I don't agree with this relative's politics, but how can you start calling me a Hitler or Bin Laden-type just because I don't? Just because I have my own mind?

Internet, TV, radio, and print stories have now appeared about the growing right-wing "rage" that's being exhibited at Palin-McCain rallies. People have been heard to say things about Barack Obama like "terrorist!," "treason!," "kill him!," and "off with his head!" And these are some of the nicer epithets.

A recent book against Barack Obama claims he's representative of "Black Rage." Hardly. Mr. Obama is one of the calmest, most well-thought out politicians today, and I don't agree with everything he says ("Black Rage" is supposedly characteristic of what intense poverty, discrimination, and close doors can create among some African Americans in the inner-city, manifested as gang and other violence).

When such words are thrown at anyone who just happens to have another opinion, it trivializes the very real nature of terrorism and real violent terror.

There's an over dramatic reaction from the right wing that borders on the pathological. I once had breakfast earlier this year in an Orlando, FL restaurant where I heard a man say he'd rather commit suicide than see either Hillary or Barack elected president. Talk about "drama queens."

Relax. Vote for the person you want in office. Don't lose it if the person you didn't like wins. Progressives have had to deal with the nightmare of Bush these past eight years -- I've seen some strong reactions from people on the left, but nothing like those from the right wing.

Let me tell you what is a form of terrorism, not to be equated with Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda: Giving close to a trillion dollars to the very financial institutions who failed us and that continue to foreclose on peoples' homes. The bailout in my view is like giving Hurricane Katrina more wind after it devastated the Gulf Coast.

The very banks that ripped off millions of Americans, including among the poor and the middle class, among blacks, whites and Latinos, are being rewarded so they can rip us off again. The foreclosures haven't stopped. People are killing themselves, and in at least one case, their families, after losing jobs, fortunes, homes. The government's bailout plan does nothing for these people. The banks insist on throwing people out, although it was their greed and lack of accountability that got us here.

I applaud Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart's statement this past Wednesday that he would no longer serve eviction notices to renters who were pushed out of their homes, even though they paid rent, because the landlords failed to meet their mortgages. Unfortunately, a mortgage lender, Accredited Home Lenders, filed a lawsuit on Thursday to get Sheriff Dart to evict a tenant from her foreclosed bungalow in a south Chicago suburb.

That's a form of terrorism. Big corporations and financial institutions should not be pushing mostly women and children around, removing them from their homes. This is something the government should be involved in, but so far has decided not to. Just like in Hurricane Katrina.

Panicking and drama is neither politics nor answers. If people really want to resolve what's happening, they have to be willing to listen to others, including progressives--William Ayers included. These aren't the scary guys. But the more scattered, at-each-other's-throats, and closed-minded we are, the more the real terrorists can strike--the more the big banks and corporations can take us all down with them.


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.