Friday, October 10, 2008

In defense of Ayers

The McCain campaign is still harping on Ayers and how he's a terrorist that Obama has a deep secret relationship with somehow.

And I just can't take it. This is so ridiculous. This is such a tactic to incite hatred. The entire McCain-Palin charade is, as others have commented, straight from the Atwater playbook. And on top of that, we've thrown in a cop-movie cliche for good measure: good cop McCain to bad cop Palin. Of course the level of bad cop is rising to that of a rabid lobotomized doberman and this is why I'm compelled to mount a defense of Ayers.

Let's start with a disclaimer: I'm not trying to say that what Ayers did was right, nor am I trying to deny that Weather Underground was a domestic terrorist organization. But there are nuances. And the Republicans don't like nuances. The world is black and white, with the white being tinted by rosy-colored shades that portray a fictionalized, sanitized version of 1950s America.

So there's a semantic issue at the root of things here. Words change their meanings over the course of years, and terrorist is one such word. To call Ayers a terrorist today puts him in a class to which he does not belong - one populated by Al Qaeda and other large-scale organizations hell-bent on destroying the US. Terrorists in the 1960s and 1970s were very often domestic - Brigado Rosso, Weather Underground and their ilk, generally Communist in leaning but ultimately dissatisfied with conditions at home, not without reason.

See, I always sort of thought Ayers was one of the good guys, albeit a very misguided one. In the late 1960s, early 1970s, the Weathermen stood up for something they believed in, realized that not enough was changing, and took drastic (and misguided) measures. They didn't want to destroy the US - they wanted to destroy US imperialism. They wanted to change the system, and the available alternative ideology at the time was Communism. They thought capitalism was bad, the Vietnam War was bad, and civil rights were good. And they were fed up with the fact that non-violent protesting was getting no results.

Let's see now. It's 2008. The markets are crashing and governments are bailing out banks that gambled with people's money, effectively rewarding them for irresponsible behavior. This is going on globally. Yeah, I'd say capitalism, in its American guise, unfettered by any regulations is bad. Doesn't mean Communism's the answer - but I think as far back as the 1960s, it was clear to a lot of people that the way we were going wasn't going to benefit the little people.

Next point - the Iraq War. Yup, that's bad.

Civil rights - we're still working on that, but this year's looking awfully promising for a real milestone. That is, if McCain and Palin don't manage to incite a rabid mob to riot. Which seeing how things are going, isn't outside the realm of the possible.

Ayers doesn't deserve this treatment. It's not like he's been running around planting bombs in people's houses all these years. As I wrote in my previous blog entry - the US is 'palling' around with Qadafi and I don't see Palin complaining.

Obama's got great staff who are doing their best to distance him from Ayers. The connection between them is so remote, this isn't hard to do. But the ones who are buying into this story, and growing angrier and more mob-like by the minute aren't those whose minds can be changed - this is the base, energized by Palin's inanities, for whom the concept of a charismatic, black, Democratic president is the same as the concept of the antichrist, and who forty years ago would have happily executed the entire American New Left had they been able to. Which is precisely why the McCain campaign has unleashed this spectre of Ayers - if fear by itself won't win an election, perhaps fear mixed with anger will...


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