Monday, October 6, 2008

Nonsense issues like Ayers, secession need to be treated as such and ignored

Listening to Republican vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin this weekend dredge up the “issue” of Bill Ayers was disappointing, but not a surprise.

I have always been aware of the fact that the Republican campaign of presidential nominee John McCain would try to use the image of Weatherman activist Ayers (who is now a college professor in Chicago) in such a way as to make us think of Democrat Barack Obama as some sort of ‘60’s radical-wannabe.

FOR THAT IS what such rhetoric is really all about.

Obama himself was only eight years old during the “Days of Rage” – when those same Weatherman activists committed acts of vandalism in Chicago in 1969 that were meant to recreate the spirit of what Vietnamese people endured by living in a war zone.

Of course, few people saw it as “getting a taste of our own medicine,” and prefer to think of Weatherman activists the same way they think of everybody who was alive in the 1960s who did not support the Vietnam War. The Chicago Sun-Times won a Pulitzer Prize for a story that portrayed the event as a mob scene.

In the same way that a political establishment geek like Bill Clinton was always thought of as an aging hippie by certain conservatives, they are tossing out the name of Ayers as a way of implying that Obama (although too young to have participated in “anti-American” acts himself) associates with those people and would have been one of them, if he were old enough.

HENCE, WE WILL hear the label of “terrorist” tossed about, even though one needs to consider when it comes to the Weatherman activists that many of the criminal charges against them had to be dismissed because of FBI abuses of the law during their investigation. (That is why Ayers himself, now a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has no criminal record).

The same people who take the simple-minded approach that Ayers was a “terrorist” are the same people who continue to this day to think that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Communist trying to subvert everything this country stands for.

Now I know that Ayers and the Weatherman were not innocents. They moved up from the Days of Rage to trying to plant bombs at government facilities in the early 1970s, including one incident at the Pentagon where they blew up a men’s room and caused some water damage to the building.

The only one of their “incidents” that resulted in people dying was an explosion in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York where a bomb detonated accidentally, killing several members of the activist group.

SO THE NEXT time you hear the political rhetoric that the Weatherman participated in acts with the potential to kill people, it becomes important to remember they didn’t.

Now how does Obama get tied to Ayers?

Basically, they live in the same neighborhood, a few blocks from each other. Ayers has maintained liberal ideals while turning to work within the “system” in becoming a respected professor of education. People as high-ranking as Mayor Richard M. Daley have praised his work of recent years, and he and Obama have met and worked on community projects.

This is guilt by association, with no sense of reality behind it.

IT MAKES ME wonder if any delusions I ever had of working in public service (I don’t actually, I prefer to write about and analyze such activity instead) would be doomed because I went to high school with a woman who is currently serving a lengthy prison term for what prosecutors say was an attempt to hire someone to kill her ex-husband.

Does it say something about my character that there is a common line on the resume between the two of us? Or is it just one of those things that people should not read too much into?

I am inclined to believe the latter, because I really believe in the case of Ayers, what people are really ranting about is not anything the Weatherman ever did, but anyone who ever spoke out against a conservative viewpoint.

That is what Ayers meant when he went on record as saying he was unrepentant for his past activity – he believes the Vietnam War was wrong and that he was justified to take actions that tried to bring it to an end. In short, people like Palin are trying to prolong the ‘60’s culture war, as though they can “win” Vietnam now by changing the way people perceive that time period.

NOW I KNOW there are some pundits who are now saying that Obama should respond by making a huge issue out of Palin and her husband, Todd, once belonging to the Alaska Independence Party.

That is a group that pushes the concept that Alaska ought to be an independent region, that its annexation as a state in 1959 was done improperly, and that people ought to get a vote on whether to secede from the United States.

Those on the left are too quick to play with that word “secession,” because it dumps Palin in with those loons of the right who long for the concept of a Confederate States of America.

Yet there’s something about this issue that strikes me as a non-issue, and not just because Palin tries to deny she was a member back in the mid-1990s by citing the fact that voter registration documents show she registered as a Republican back then.

IT DOESN’T PARTICULARLY shock me to learn that someone from such an isolated part of one of the most isolated states in the United States would be inclined to listen to groups that suggest separation as a legitimate concept.

In the overall scheme of things, the fact that she might be inclined to listen to these people strikes me as less important than the fact that she is oblivious to the real world around her. That is the perception that really came out of last week’s vice presidential debate – although the hard-core GOP are determined to ignore it.

In my mind, I’m ignoring the anti-Ayers rhetoric just as much as I am the secession silliness. Both of them are a waste of time when the candidates ought to be discussing more relevant issues.


EDITOR’S NOTES: “Palling around with terrorists” (, or was Barack Obama just working with a neighbor who has developed an expertise in alternate (,0,4485492.story) techniques for education?

Does Sarah Palin ( feel a kindred spirit with Confederacy apologists? Or is she just so isolated in Alaska from the real world that she’ll listen to anyone’s crazy thoughts?

It’s your call on whether or not I was right earlier this week that the Saturday Night Live sketch about the vice-presidential debate would turn out to be more interesting than the ( actual event itself.

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