Monday, December 8, 2008

Diversionary Regrets

"You can't be 63 years old and not have many, many regrets...Was it risky, were we a little nuts, were we a little off the track? Yes. Did we cross the lines of legality and propriety and common sense? I think we did...What I don't regret is opposing the war in Vietnam...I don't regret resisting the war with every ounce of my being."

Bill Ayers quoted in: "How Ayers Really Viewed His Past, The WEEK, December 5, 2008.

Maybe Clintonian rhetorial and moral acrobatics are part and parcel of our baby boomer generation. Ayers misdirects our attention by playing reflective old man, college prankster with a good heart, and dedicated peace activist who gave it his all and more.

If it hasn't sunk in yet, Bill, the circus of attention you have inspired has not been about the Vietnam War. Many of us opposed the the war and worked hard to end it. But your "resisting with every ounce of my being" was a bit different than what most people did. Maybe you really gave more; that should be recognized. But your "resisting...with every ounce of my being" verged on terrorism (maybe more than verged) and contributed to the destruction of the American Left. That's what you need to ponder.

Maybe you will disagree and describe yourself and your weather comrades as not responsible for any of this. Like it or not, you were a key part of the leadership of a social movement. Speak to those folks.

1 comment:

Bob Brehm said...

Let me add this link to an article by Katha Pollit in The Nation:

As someone who was in high school in the late 60's and early 70's, without a very mature understanding of the war but one rooted in a real fear of the draft for my brothers and me, I didn't know the history of the Weatherman that you and Pollit relate.

So when I heard Ayers and Dohrn on Amy Goodman recently, I was drawn to much of what they were saying. Without knowing the history of how much damage they did to the anti-war movement, it was great to hear people like them speak so eloquently of the need for the general public to talk about Viet Nam, about our role in the slaughter of millions, about the parralels to Iraq, and about the need to be active in our opposition.

So you've convinced me - I'll never be able to hear or read his words again without thinking of his role in the 70's as negative.

But at the same time, I wish there was more public discourse of the war itself, and the response of our government, press and millions of everyday people to those who opposed it. I'll never forget being dragged out of an outdoor band concert for sitting through the national anthem. In the wake of the 9-11 attacks, my first thought was: "Here we go again!"