I received an email today from a disturbed nanotech geek working on a government grant at some state school down south. He said it was okay for me to post his message. Here it is:
as a university professor, I understand the liberal viewpoint of many of my colleagues..
However, I FIND THIS PETITION /DISGUSTING /… Ayers was a terrorist and still is a terrorist
as far as any rational person is concerned.. he avoided jail for the bombings due to illegal wiretaps..
he does not regret what he did! that says it all about the character of this man.. he may be the smartest guy in Illinois but that hardly mitigates his criminal anti-American behavior? shame on any professor who degrades the honorable teaching profession by supporting a terrorist..
To which I replied:
The word “terrorist” has gotten a lot of play in the last twenty-five years. Without getting into a lengthy disquisition regarding the tactics of terrorism and whether they apply to the revolutionary cadre that grew out of the 1962 SDS Port Huron Statement, I’ll remind you that the decade long Vietnam war was a time of great social unrest in the USA, and men of good will with opposing perspectives did great violence. The National Guard at Kent State University were neither more nor less culpable than the “Weather Underground” at that time.
The faction that escalated civil disobedience and non-violent protest to violent confrontation has never had my support, but neither have I questioned the good will or the patriotism of those who struggled to change US policy at that time. I reject the polarization that a desperate Republican presidential candidate is attempting to use to gain office and to “otherize” his opponent.
I thought that was pretty straight forward, but I soon received a follow-up message blaming Kennedy for the war (he did after all send in “advisors”), and denying any moral equivalence of Weather Underground violence with the murderous assault on the protestors that day in May 1970 at Kent State University, eight years after a “New Left” came together with its activism intentionally centered on the universities. In 1962, those earnest young reformers thought a social democratic revolution could be accomplished using the university as a springboard and their own earnest selves as the leadership cadre. They said:
1. Any new left in America must be, in large measure, a left with real intellectual skills, committed to deliberativeness, honesty, reflection as working tools. The university permits the political life to be an adjunct to the academic one, and action to be informed by reason.
2. A new left must be distributed in significant social roles throughout the country. The universities are distributed in such a manner.
3. A new left must consist of younger people who matured in the postwar world, and partially be directed to the recruitment of younger people. The university is an obvious beginning point.
4. A new left must include liberals and socialists, the former for their relevance, the latter for their sense of thoroughgoing reforms in the system. The university is a more sensible place than a political party for these two traditions to begin to discuss their differences and look for political synthesis.
5. A new left must start controversy across the land, if national policies and national apathy are to be reversed. The ideal university is a community of controversy, within itself and in its effects on communities beyond.
6. A new left must transform modern complexity into issues that can be understood and felt close-up by every human being. It must give form to the feelings of helplessness and indifference, so that people may see the political, social and economic sources of their private troubles and organize to change society. In a time of supposed prosperity, moral complacency and political manipulation, a new left cannot rely on only aching stomachs to be the engine force of social reform. The case for change, for alternatives that will involve uncomfortable personal efforts, must be argued as never before. The university is a relevant place for all of these activities.
But we need not indulge in allusions [sic]: the university system cannot complete a movement of ordinary people making demands for a better life. From its schools and colleges across the nation, a militant left might awaken its allies, and by beginning the process towards peace, civil rights, and labor struggles, reinsert theory and idealism where too often reign confusion and political barter. The power of students and faculty united is not only potential; it has shown its actuality in the South, and in the reform movements of the North.
They didn’t get how offensive they sounded with that part about “beginning the process towards” civil rights. But their hearts were in the right place and in the next few years they’d learn that there were communities of concern outside the university where much was being done.
Alas, my correspondent wanted to simplify the Obama/Ayers terrorist conflation along the lines that the McCain/Palin campaign has drawn — lines which lead straight to fear of the unknown: Who is this black man who would be our leader? What does he REALLY believe? Is he a LIBRUL?
I wrote back:
Indeed I do equate the use of armed force with loaded weapons against protesting students [in 1970] to the actions of Ayers and his associates. The country then was as close to insurrection and rebellion as it has been since the civil war. Reconciliation following a conflict requires willingness from each side to understand and offer a measure of forgiveness. The current propaganda campaign is odious. It does nothing but open old wounds to no purpose but right wing power retention and aggrandizement. The right wing concern for victory overshadows their concern for truth and justice. Lacking distinct policy alternatives to differentiate themselves from the corporate representatives in today’s White House, they have embarked on a campaign of hateful and fearful division. The Ayers matter has been adjudicated. He and his family are fortunate that he received no prison term. Similarly, Gordon Liddy and that bunch have “paid their debt” for their felonious behavior and been welcomed back into society.
I find people who respect Gordon Liddy to be as ethically challenged as you seem to find people who respect Professor Ayers. But those who would coddle the Republican criminal element are in power today and so their acceptance and forgiveness have more value than mine.
A more interesting exercise might be to compare Weatherman actions in support of ending the Vietnam war with right wing militia actions in the bombing of the Murrah Building or the militia conflicts with ATF in Montana, Michigan Texas, Florida and elsewhere that marked the Clinton years.
The Republican candidate for Vice President is uncomfortably close to the separatist movement, and for the last eight years no effective action has been taken against the expansion of right wing cults and militias. Now, as the struggle for power turns on the election, the Republicans seem to be engaged in a disinformation campaign, mobilizing those who are convinced that a turn toward left would be terrible. [one brief but incoherent rant about straw men and red herrings omitted here]
As McCain and Palin mobilize those whom they call Patriotic Americans to join their hate campaign, we are perilously close to the edge of a Weimar moment.
Well, the dude said I was rambling, and my prolixity was without value. He said, “[S]ure glad it was Clinton days when some of the govt wrongs occurred so you can’t blame it all on the GOP.” And of course he is right that there was plenty wrong with the Clinton era, but none of the things I mentioned. You see, when the right wing militia terrorists blew up the Murra Building, it wasn’t clear what the hell they thought they were doing. And when Clinton’s ATF and FBI clamped down on the whackos in Waco, they put an end to a very bad thing. So right here I had the sense that my correspondent and I were on hopelessly different wave-lengths.
My correspondent continued: “if anyone is inciting divisiveness today it is Sen. Obama who has not so cleverly injected the race issue into this election with I don’t look like other candidates, etc.. now, sadly, regardless of who wins, there will likely be nationwide antagonisms by folks with racist inclinations on both sides (blacks & whites).. not good for America either way.”
I’m still pondering WTF he means by “racist inclinations on both sides (blacks and whites).” I THINK what he means is that if McCain loses, that will be an excuse for white bigots to act out, wear sheets, burn crosses, bomb churches, lynch black people, that kind of thing. And I think that he’s projecting some kind of acting out on the part of black America if Obama loses, and he’s calling that black racism. What I think he doesn’t get, and Palin and her REAL Americans don’t get, is that the Obama campaign is not about race. Obama backers are overwhelming white. If Obama loses and there is another uprising in this country, it won’t be a racial thing. It will be a social thing.
[tags]you say you want a revolution, street fighting man, something is happening here[/tags]