Tu-Uyen Tran Grand Forks Herald
Published Friday, April 04, 2008
For the record, Bill Ayers still doesn't regret participating in the
bombing of the Pentagon in 1972.
Clarifying the quote that has followed him from the New York Times
all the way to the UND Memorial Union ballroom, he said that when he
declared "I feel we didn't do enough," it was in answer to the
hypothetical question "What did you do when 2,000 people were being murdered?"
The 2,000 dead each week were those he said the U.S. military killed
It's not clear where Ayers found this figure. Many of those killed by
U.S. forces were members of the North Vietnamese Army and their
Vietcong allies who were attempting to overthrow by violence the
government of the Republic of Vietnam.
Ayers came to Grand Forks at the request of Students for a Democratic
Society, a modern version of a group Ayers once belonged to. By the
time of the bombing, he had joined the Weather Underground, a group
dedicated to overthrowing the U.S. government.
The theme of Ayers' speech was "Catching up with Martin," by which he
meant Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights leader, famed for his
nonviolent tactics, also was an anti-war activist. Today is the
anniversary of King's assassination.
In the audience were many sympathetic ears and also many
unsympathetic ones, including the man who asked Ayers about the bombing.
Ayers explained to audience members lessons he learned as an anti-war
activist that they could apply to today's political situation, as the
United States again is in a protracted war.
He drew his inspiration from what a professor he knew once said: "You
must figure out a way to live your life so it doesn't make a mockery
of your values."
That's how he decided to participate in a sit-in at a draft board in
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Few today appreciate that, in 1964, only a minority opposed the war,
Ayers said. Most of the University of Michigan campus, he said,
called for him and other activists to be expelled.
But, it was because of such activists that, three years later, the
anti-war movement had gone mainstream, he said.
Not coincidentally, the number of U.S. war dead had ballooned from a
few hundred to more than 11,000 in that time.
In 1967, King made his famous speech against the war at a New York City church.
Many in the civil rights movement told King not to because it would
hurt the cause. But Ayers said King told them that he wasn't just for
racial equality but for justice.
Those in the audience who seek to make a difference, Ayers said, must
open their eyes to injustices in the world today and do something about it.