Episodic Notoriety–Fact and Fantasy

Day in and day out I go about my business, I hang out with my kids and my grandchildren, take care of the elders, I go to work, I teach and I write, I organize and I participate in the never-ending effort to build a powerful movement for peace and social justice; now and then (and unpredictably) I appear in the newspapers or on TV with a reference to my book Fugitive Days, a memoir of the revolutionary action and militant resistance to the Viet Nam War—the years of miracle and wonder—and some fantastic assertions about what I did, what I said, and what I believe. The other night, for example, I heard Sean Hannity tell Senator John McCain that I was an unrepentant terrorist who had written an article on September 11, 2001 extolling bombings against the U.S., and even advocating more terrorist bombs. Senator McCain couldn’t believe it, and neither could I.

My e-mail and my voice-mail filled up with hate, as happens, mostly men with too much time on their hands I imagined, all of them venting and sweating and breathing heavily, a few threats—“Watch out!”; “You deserve to be shot”; and from satan@hell.com, “I’m coming to get you and when I do, I’ll waterboard you”—all of it wildly uninformed. I’ve written a lot about the Viet Nam period, about politics, about schools and social justice, and I read and speak about all of it. I encourage people to argue, to agree or disagree, to discuss and struggle, to engage in conversation. I believe deeply in the pedagogical possibilities of dialogue—of listening with the possibility of being changed, and of speaking with the possibility of being heard—and I believe in revitalizing the public square, resisting the eclipse of the public and expanding the public space, searching for a more robust and participatory democracy. Talking to one another can help.

So in that spirit here is another attempt at clarity:

1. Regrets. I’m often quoted saying that I have “no regrets.” This is not true. For anyone paying attention—and I try to stay wide-awake to the world around me all/ways—life brings misgivings, doubts, uncertainty, loss, regret. I’m sometimes asked if I regret anything I did to oppose the war in Viet Nam, and I say “no, I don’t regret anything I did to try to stop the slaughter of millions of human beings by my own government.” Sometimes I add, “I don’t think I did enough.” This is then elided: he has no regrets for setting bombs and thinks there should be more bombings.

The illegal, murderous, imperial war against Viet Nam was a catastrophe for the Vietnamese, a disaster for Americans, and a world tragedy. Many of us understood this, and many tried to stop the war. Those of us who tried recognize that our efforts were inadequate: the war dragged on for a decade, thousands were slaughtered every week, and we couldn’t stop it. In the end the U.S. military was defeated and the war ended, but we surely didn’t do enough.

2. Terror. Terrorism—according to both official U.S. policy and the U.N.—is the use or threat of random violence to intimidate, frighten, or coerce a population toward some political end. This means, of course, that terrorism is not the exclusive province of a cult, a religious sect, or a group of fanatics. It can be any of these, but it can also be—and often is—executed by governments and states. A bombing in a café in Israel is terrorism, and an Israeli assault on a neighborhood in Gaza is terrorism; the September 11 attacks were acts of terrorism, and the U.S. bombings in Viet Nam for a decade were acts of terrorism. Terrorism is never justifiable, even in a just cause—the Union fight in the 1860’s was just, for example, but Shernan’s March to the Sea was indefensible terror. I’ve never advocated terrorism, never participated in it, never defended it. The U.S. government, by contrast, does it routinely and defends the use of it in its own cause consistently.

3. Imperialism. I’m against it, and if Sean Hannity and others were honest, this is the ground they would fight me on. Capitalism played its role historically and is exhausted as a force for progress: built on exploitation, theft, conquest, war, and racism, capitalism and imperialism must be defeated and a world revolution—a revolution against war and racism and materialism, a revolution based on human solidarity and love, cooperation and the common good—must win.

We begin by releasing our most hopeful dreams and our most radical imaginations: a better world is both possible and necessary. We need to bring our imaginations together and forge an unbreakable human alliance. We need to unite to transform and save ourselves as we fight to change the world and save humanity.

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123 Responses to Episodic Notoriety–Fact and Fantasy

  1. fosterdad says:

    Bill Ayres is proof that if you’re not a socialist before you’re 20, you have no heart and if you are a socialist after you’re 30, you have no brain.

  2. Josef Stalin says:

    How Sad. Reading this Hippie nonsense seems like I stumbled on one of those elderly Confederate Colonels living in the swamp that is unaware that the Union won.

    Slaughter Millions of Vietnamese? Where? when? Hanoi claims less than a million combat dead and they were soldiers, not victims of slaughter. Assuming that all deaths were caused by the US which is far from true. 6 million people died in southeast asia after the paris peace talks as a result of so called “peace” activists. The hippies said peace would break out and the killing would stop, instead the killing fields were enveloped with the same stench as the Nazi holocaust and we have the peace movement to thank for that.

    Your definition of terrorism and just war (1860) is a joke. Typical drug adled hippie sophistry…you argue that all violence is terrorism, yet you turn around and defend the “just war” concept and try to associate your personal use of violence(and your wife’s) and your advocacy of violent revolution with “just cause”. It is a nonsequitor and exposes you as a dangerous and violent monster who swims in the blood of others for the sake of a narcisistic delusion of grandeur.

    You claim that if Hannity were honest we would challenge you on your Imperialism v. communism diatribe. In the 20th century, if we were trying to conquer and occupy foreign lands, we’ve done a lousy job. In fact, we failed so miserably that we ended up rescuing billions of people from the most wicked ideology ever known, Socialism. Whether it be nationalist socialism in germany or Intl’ Socialism in Asia, they have killed “HUNDREDS” of millions, and enslaved billions. Your advocacy of violence is despicable and wrecklessly negligent to the point of immorality and your promotion of using that violence against the one movement (American Freedom)that protects the human race from the masters of murder that you love, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao, the Baathists, Mussolini and the other communists…..that makes you a monster in human form.

    These lame 60’s style arguments are laughed at now, because they can not be defended under further scrutiny. That is why you throw bombs in the dark. Your arguments are so unbelievably weak, that your only chance to lash out is to resort to the lust for blood. What a sad and pathetic relic you are.

  3. Mia says:

    As a mother and former EC teacher, I am truly thankful for all of your support towards making America to be a more equitable and peaceful country. For all of the resources we have spent funding jails and wars, we could have built a better nation of intelligent, ethical, and prosperous citizens.

  4. Jay Diamond says:

    Hey Sean !

    Hannity won’t invite Bill Ayers on his program.

    And it has nothin’ to do with Ayers being the coward.

  5. Elyse says:

    Bill, I found your wordpress blog via a link that someone posted on the Obama presidential campaign website. Thanks so much for your insightful and persuasive clarifications in this post, as well as for your courageous efforts toward living consistently what you believe. I can only hope that the dialogue here does prove to be pedagogical! Can’t wait to read your book — it’s next on my list after re-reading “Democracy Matters” by Cornel West.

  6. jack ludwig says:

    Many (presumeably younger) writers here do not understand the vitriol directed Ayers way. Honestly, you had to be alive in the sixties to really understand it. I remember at the time thinking that eventually, eventually history would sort out who was right and who was wrong.
    Well, eventually history did prove that the crazy, illogical extreme ideas of the times were just that. The evidence became visible little by little – the tyranny in South Vietnam after 1975, Pol Pot, the fall of the Berlin wall, the collapse of communism, the contrast between East Germany and West Germany. North Korea and South Korea, Hong Kong and mainland China, present day Cuba.
    Bill Ayers knows (when he is alone with his thoughts) that his ideas then and now are crap, but to admit it publicly would destroy the house of cards he has constructed of his life. Pity him, he pays dearly every day.

  7. James Black says:

    I cannot pity Bill Ayers. Though well written and articulate, he’s just as offensive to me now as he was “Back Then”. In fact, all you who defend Bill Ayers actions are offensive.
    Bill Ayers has the right to speak his opinions, so does every American. Kind of nice to live in a country that guarantees that right isn’t it? So many people down on America and her Government. Don’t you realize that if Bill Ayers actions were in any other country he wouldn’t be alive today to continue to spread his anti-governmental garbage? He wouldn’t be free to write and publish. He wouldn’t even be a memory.
    Jack Ludwig says Bill Ayers pays dearly every day for his actions. Not nearly enough.

  8. d brier says:

    Would love to know the name of whomever is censoring comments to this site. Simply reinforces silly billy’s image as a well connected fraud, enabled by his pompous father Tom and indigent brother John. billy’s current crime is harboring his demented wife who he clearly knows should be either incarcerated or committed for our and her own good. billy’s current schtich, peddling his empty headed marxism to college students is as harmless as the ramblings of a wino to well adjusted, rational people. Unable to measure up to his wayward father, billy is a failed wanna be soldiering on like the one-song rock musician with the lousy ear and cacophonous meter. He’s just another excisable boil on academia’s ass but he does have his lunatic legacy to bolster him. To the censor: Why seek honest comments and then dishonestly portray them? Somebody there is as sick as billy and his psyhcopathic mate.

  9. d brier says:

    Think this site’s censor is a stalinist who doesn’t allow honest reportee. billy and his university are now up on the national periscope for all to see. No longer is he, nor his screwball father, brother, and mentally distraught wife, a foregone and forgotten enigma. billy, despite his need for pseudo fame/anonymity, is about to become the most virulent , anti-American specimen our country will ever hold under its microscope. Billy’s intimate connects with Obama will become so well known during the general election that the supercilious billy will expose his federally funded university to the point where they ask his undistinguished ass to leave — or risk their federal funding. So will billy and his weird wife go underground again (meaning in his nutty father’s basement), or will he and his screwball wife join the national guard of venezuela? What a loss this will be. To the censor: Quit editing my remarks and please play fair here.

  10. d brier says:

    You censor, don’t touch my words anymore. billy is a transparently harmless, confused little mind . Its his wife we all worry about. Why billy protects this lune is what indites him, not his fantasies about why he thinks he deserves what Tom arranged for him and how he thinks he beat the system like some cheap comic book hero. little billy is just wiley enough to know he’s about to get his wee cock caught in the proverbial ringer. God help this idiot’s innocent kids now being raised by his sicko wife and their afflicted circle. What losers these humans be. What a waste of life. Censor, heed: don’t change my words again. Its a free country, just ask your moronic billy, when he’s sobor again. Its not a secret honey.

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