Weather Underground, banksters, and the long haul

The Weather Underground carried out a series of illegal and symbolic attacks on property then, some 20 acts over its entire existence, and no one was killed or harmed; the goal was not to terrorize people, but to scream out the message that the US government and its military were committing acts of terrorism in our name, and that the American people should never tolerate that. Some felt that our actions were misguided at best, off-the-tracks, indefensible and even despicable, and that case is not impossible to make. But America’s longest war itself, with all its attendant horrors, was doubly despicable, and while many stood up, who in fact did the right thing; who ended the war; who transformed the world?

All of that was forty years ago—lots of water under the bridge since then, raging rivers and cascading falls, rapids and torrents, chutes and ladders—a long time in the life of a person—the young become the old, and stories get retold. But it’s also a matter of perspective: the meaning of any historical event will always be contested, and the more recent the event, the fiercer the contestation.

We’re reminded of the Chinese premier Chou En Lai responding to a French journalist’s question many years ago about the impact of the 18th Century French revolution on the 20th Century Chinese revolution. He thought for quite awhile and finally said, “It’s too soon to tell.” Forty years is less than the blink of an eye.

— Bill Ayers Bernardine Dohrn (March 2, 2010)

Talking about 40 years being a blip reminds of Peter Coyote in his book saying what his Wall Street financier father told him in 1969.

Capitalism is dying, boy. It’s dying of its own internal contradictions.[He was, after all, a Wall Street financier, so I listened carefully.] You think the revolution’s gonna take five years. It’s gonna take fifty! So keep your head down and hang in for the long haul, because I’ll tell you something. The sons of bitches running things don’t give a shit about their children or their grandchildren, and they certainly don’t give a shit about you! They’ve paid their dues, and they want to get out with theirs! They’re gonna sell off everything that’s not nailed down to the highest bidder. Don’t get crushed when it topples down. Take care of yourself and your family. If you can make a difference, do it, but there are huge forces at work here, and they have to play themselves out according to their own design, not yours. Watch yourself.

As far as I can determine, everything he prophesied has come true.

Yup. The system really is reeling this time, and the biggest jolts, like massive commercial real estate failures and countries defaulting on debt, probably lie ahead. The criminals disguised as bankers and corporate CEOs really are grabbing everything that isn’t nailed down. Or trying to at least. Whether they can successfully continue to do so without going to prison or needing armed bodyguards 24/7 is another matter. I came of age in the 60’s and have never seen anger in this country at the (rising) levels it is at now.

In “The Money and the Power,” a book about the history of Vegas, a law enforcement official says of the mobsters, they aren’t smarter, they just do things most people won’t do. In other words, they are sociopaths devoid of any moral compass. Sounds like some of the banksters to me. So let’s not call them “elites.” A much better word would be “thugs” or ‘criminals.”

Peter Coyote and Ayers / Dohrn are quite correct. The historical forces involved here are huge and it’s way too soon to determine the outcome or what it ultimately means. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Bill Ayers, Ward Churchill speak at Colorado U

Denver Post


“We should always be developing a curriculum of questioning. As a teacher, your responsibility is to challenge dogma and orthodoxy, not to just accept it.”

“I don’t worry about Ward Churchill as much as I worry about the teacher in Denver who teaches social studies and can’t bring herself to raise questions because of what she saw happen to Ward Churchill”


He took a jab at CU for charging the students who organized the lecture $3,000 for security.

“You can see the reason for it,” he joked. “It has been an utterly violence-prone gathering.”

Andrew Crown, president of the College Republicans, asked Churchill why professors should be able to hide behind the shield of tenure when the same misconduct in a corporation would lead to termination.

“I don’t know maybe for the same reason that the Republican Party has been spectacularly unable to regulate the conduct of its members,” Churchill said. “A more serious answer: The same reason you cannot pull a judge out because you do not like his rulings. That is what tenure is about. You don’t get to slap someone down because you don’t agree with what he is saying.”

Tip: TalkLeft

The real Bill Ayers

Bill Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn spent ten years underground and did a number of  bombings in opposition to the Vietnam War. It is important to realize that, no matter what you think of the bombings ethically or as a tactic, that no one was ever killed or even slightly injured by them, and that they were planned that way. That should count for something.

From a Bill Ayers op-ed in the New York Times

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.

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.

I was a radical back then too. And had more sympathy for the actions of the Weather Underground back then than I do now. For those who have said, when will Ayers ever apologize, I think they just got one, or as close as he will ever get. Ayers is a respected educator now, Dohrn is a law professor. They became legal guardians of Chesa Boudin as an infant and raised him when his parents went to prison. Chesa has become a Rhodes scholar and activist. The lives of Ayers and Dohrn after the Weather Underground have been, by any standard, exemplary and successful.

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.

Demonization, guilt by association, and the politics of fear did not triumph, not this time. Let’s hope they never will again. And let’s hope we might now assert that in our wildly diverse society, talking and listening to the widest range of people is not a sin, but a virtue.

Doug Henwood interviews Richard Seymour and Bill Ayers

Doug Henwood of Left Business Observer, major leftie listserv LBO-Talk, and WBAI “Behind the News” interviews “Richard Seymour, keeper of the Lenin’s Tomb blog and author of The Liberal Defense of Murder, on liberal imperialism. Bill Ayers, author of Fugitive Days and Barack Obama’s old pal, on revolution, education, and social change.”

You can get it on iTunes or off the LBO site. It’s the Nov. 27 show. Don’t miss it.

More on Bill Ayers

From Republicans for Obama: FBi Bill Ayers: funded by Republicans. Apparently the Annenberg Foundation has been hanging with terrorists too. Who knew?

The Bill Ayers I know. From a friend and colleague.

Obama didn’t lie about Bill Ayers, but McCain did

Chicago Sun Times: 10 things to know about Bill Ayers

10. Are all former alleged terrorists/radicals shunned?
No. Former IRA bomber Gerry Adams is welcomed at the White House as a peacemaker. Former PLO leader Yasser Arafat was too. Former Students for a Democratic Society member and Ayers friend Tom Hayden was elected to the California State Assembly. Former Black Panther Bobby Rush is a congressman representing Chicago, as is former Puerto Rican independence activist Luis Gutierrez.

The only reason McCain keeps attacking Ayers is because the Republicans have no ideas, no clue, and are losing more support everyday. It’s a nasty, cynical, despicable ploy – and happily, it is backfiring, sending even more voters to Obama. After eight years of this kind of sick campaigning and attack ads based on lies (just like their war was), the country badly needs a change. And it looks like we will be getting it too. It’ll be nice to have a centrist in the White House again rather than the poisonous ideologues who inhabit it now, and who McCain is simply a continuation of, if not more extreme.