Ayers could deliver a useful message without an apology
Bill Ayers, the 1960s anti-war thug, is still on the college speaking circuit.
Now a professor of education at the University of Illinois-Chicago,
Ayers spoke last week at Illinois Wesleyan University. As a member of
the United Methodist Church, I am disappointed that a Methodist
university believes Ayers has something worthwhile to say to young
people in 2010.
Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, affiliated with the law school
at Northwestern University, both were members of the anti-Vietnam War
Students for a Democratic Society and then of the radical Weathermen
anti-war protest group in the 1960s.
While Ayers may consider himself and his wife to have been nothing
more than political activists, others would say they were terrorists.
An Associated Press story in October 2001 said Ayers "preached
revolution," and "believed the way to stop a war was with violence
The group's violent methods backfired in 1970 when a bomb the
Weathermen were building in New York exploded by accident, killing
three members, including Ayers' then-girlfriend. The bomb, Ayers
said, was packed with screws and nails and was intended for the U.S.
Army base at Fort Dix, N.J.
Before the Weathermen were finished, other bombs exploded at the U.S.
Capitol and at New York City police headquarters. They also planted
dynamite in a restroom at the Pentagon.
Only one explosion a pipe bomb placed on a San Francisco Police
Department window ledge in February 1970 resulted in death. It was
never conclusively attributed to the Weathermen.
Speaking at Illinois Wesleyan last week, Ayers told his audience of
about 300 people that despite his past, he won't apologize for what he did.
"There are a lot of things I should apologize for, but I am not going
to do that," The Pantagraph newspaper in Bloomington quoted Ayers.
That's too bad. Anyone who admits he has done "a lot of things I
should apologize for" probably should step up and, well, apologize.
An apology, an admission that he and his fellow thugs were wrong to
resort to violence, also might be enlightening to some of the current
wackos suggesting or threatening violence against the government.
"I am not defending what I did, but in that (Vietnam) war, 6,000
people a week were being murdered and that happened for 10 years. I
felt Vietnam was a despicable war."
I don't know that 6,000 people a week in Vietnam were murdered. I
doubt that Ayers knows it for a fact either. But, he believes it.
Of course, he always conveniently neglects to mention the atrocities
committed by the communist North Vietnamese in the 1950s and 1960s.
Several years ago, after Ayers spoke at Eastern Illinois University,
I wrote of the books written by Dr. Tom Dooley, a U.S. Navy medical
doctor who was assigned to Southeast Asia in the 1950s. He assisted
in the evacuation of 600,000 non-communists from North Vietnam. His
first book, "Deliver Us From Evil," was about that experience helping
villagers escape communism in Vietnam. Dooley later went back and
established hospitals in Laos and Vietnam, always trying to avoid the
The communists "re-educated" the children of Laos and Vietnam who
attended religious schools.
"Two guards went to each child and one of them firmly grasped the
head between his hands. The other then rammed a wooden chopstick into
each ear. He jammed it in with all his force. The stick split the ear
canal wide and tore the ear drum. The shrieking of the children was
heard all over the village," he wrote.
The children could not listen to any preaching ever again.
Those who assisted Dooley and captured were beheaded with their heads
impaled on stakes for all to see.
I believe Ayers' understanding of Vietnam is limited.
But what message could this old hippie-of-privilege (his dad was a
Commonwealth Edison executive) deliver?
If there is a message for us in 2010, I believe it is this: Violence
against the government, against the United States, against American
society, by Americans should not be tolerated, whether committed by
the Left or by the Right.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, the violent anti-government faction
came from the Left.
They believed it was OK to bomb the Capitol, the Pentagon, the police.
Today, far-right extremists form militias because they disagree with
policies of the Obama administration.
They are no more legitimate than were Ayers, Dohrn and their violent friends.
If you believe that Ayers and his group were terrorist thugs, then
you can't condone the citizen militias popping up today.
If you think Ayers and his anti-war bomb-makers chose the best path
available to them, then you have to say the nine people recently
arrested in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana in an alleged plot to kill
police were doing what is necessary.
Violence against society was wrong 40 years ago, and it's wrong now,
whether the instigators of that violence are from the Left or the Right.
That is about the only worthwhile message, I think, Ayers could
deliver in a campus speech as long as he sees no need to apologize.