March 07, 2008
Jokes that bomb
Former Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers (recently in the news for his Obama connections) has a "funny" sense of humor, and apparently no regrets about setting bombs:
''I don't regret setting bombs,'' Bill Ayers said. ''I feel we didn't do enough.'' Mr. Ayers, who spent the 1970's as a fugitive in the Weather Underground, was sitting in the kitchen of his big turn-of-the-19th-century stone house in the Hyde Park district of Chicago.We didn't do enough? Excuse me, but isn't that a little hideous when seen in the light of today's news?
Ayers might not have set off enough bombs, but with his expansive definition of humor, he's making up for it.
Mr. Ayers, who in 1970 was said to have summed up the Weatherman philosophy as: ''Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, kill your parents, that's where it's really at,'' is today distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. And he says he doesn't actually remember suggesting that rich people be killed or that people kill their parents, but ''it's been quoted so many times I'm beginning to think I did,'' he said. ''It was a joke about the distribution of wealth.''Joke? Oh, I get it. Killing your parents will cause you to inherit their money. At least I guess that's a joke. If you're a Marxist Leninist who hates private property.
Here's another hilarious joke he seems to share with his wife (now a tenured law professor):
In 1967 he met Ms. Dohrn in Ann Arbor, Mich. She had a law degree from the University of Chicago and was a magnetic speaker who often wore thigh-high boots and miniskirts. In 1969, after the Manson family murders in Beverly Hills, Ms. Dohrn told an S.D.S. audience: ''Dig it! Manson killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they shoved a fork into a victim's stomach.''Yeah, I can dig that! Manson's racism is more important than mass murder, and cancels out any virtue in "pig" killing. (Remember that Manson's victims were total strangers.) I remember reading an account of the incident at the time. Bernardine even held up three fingers in a trident, waved the "fork" in the air in a grotesque imitation of the peace gesture, and encouraged her followers to do the same. It never caught on, though. Perhaps no one got the "joke."
Sure enough, my teenage memory (I was a high school radical at the time) of the "fork salute" seems to be accurate:
At a 1969 "War Council" in Flint, Michigan, Dohrn gave her most memorable and notorious speech to her followers. Holding her fingers in what became the Weatherman "fork salute," she said of the bloody murders recently committed by the Manson Family in which the pregnant actress Sharon Tate and a Folgers Coffee heiress and several other inhabitants of a Benedict Canyon mansion were brutally stabbed to death: "Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim's stomach! Wild!" The "War Council" ended with a formal declaration of war against "AmeriKKKa," always spelled with three K's to signify the United States' allegedly ineradicable white racism.If you read on, there's an endorsement of race war, plaus another "joke":
Professor Dohrn has said of her Weatherman past, "We rejected terrorism. We were careful not to hurt anybody." Both assertions are false, however. Weatherman's twofold agenda was terrorism (which is why Charles Manson was Dohrn's hero) and war (the organization's very existence was launched with a formal "declaration of war"), and Dohrn periodically issued "war communiqués" to the public at large. The intention of the group was to shed their "white skin privilege" and launch a violent race war on behalf of Third World People. A Chicago district attorney named Richard Elrod was seriously injured in the Weatherman riot that erupted during the Chicago "Days of Rage" in October 1969, and he was paralyzed for life as a result. Dohrn later led a celebration of Elrod's paralysis by leading her comrades in a parody of a Bob Dylan song -- "Lay, Elrod, Lay." Moreover, law-enforcement authorities are still investigating a bombing in San Francisco that killed a policeman, for which Professor Dohrn is one of the suspects.In those days, a little thing like Manson's racism would have barely merited a dismissive sneer, because everyone in AmeriKKKa was racist, and poor uneducated Charlie would have been seen as part of the lumpenproletariat that couldn't be expected to understand the complexities of issues that only the elite educated revolutionary vanguard could grasp. The point was, they were trying to spin the Manson atrocities as acts to be encouraged. Manson's racism would have been subordinated to the larger, more important message that a bloody insurrection, class warfare, and even the race war that Manson dreamed about were all things to be encouraged. I remember these people quite well, and they were not known as a particularly humorous bunch.
I do not believe Dohrn when she says the fork remark was a joke. No one saw it that way at the time. I was a Marxist, and it made me uneasy. Few would have laughed had I declared my solidarity with the Manson gang and given them the "fork salute."
Anyway, this stuff has been on my mind now that I'm a newly reminted Democrat.
I'm not terribly impressed by the Rezko affair (which pales in comparison to the litany of Clinton scandals), and the Naftagate thing strikes me as a big fuss over not much -- certainly unworthy of the "gate" suffix.
To me, the most troubling feature of Barack Obama is his association with the dreadful Ayers Dohrn pair, who never should have been given teaching positions, much less treated as honored activists at a fund-raiser. Were they really friends with Obama? Are they friends? Or was Obama just going with the flow of things at the time? It might only indicate bad judgment on his part, because there are few people in this world who have done things as bad as Ayers and Dohrn. The fact that they're so totally unrepentant about the violence is even worse than the violence. It's one thing to be unrepetent, but this is worse than an ordinary lack of repentance, because they're proud. It was all for a holy cause.
The problem for me is that I'm hardly in a position to condemn Obama for hobnobbing with the Ayers Dohrns, as I knew people who did just as bad or worse things, and I considered them friends.
So I'm a hypocrite no matter what.
Barbara Olson reported, "Hillary has never repudiated her connection with the Communist movement in America or explained her relationship with two of its leading adherents. Of course, no one has pursued these questions with Hillary. She has shown she will not answer hard questions about her past, and she has learned that she does not need to-remarkable in an age when political figures are allowed such little privacy."There's no way to unring the bell, but I regret my Marxist past, and I wish Hillary would do the same.
As to Barack Obama, I'm uneasy about his friendships, but he was a boy when Ayers was setting off bombs, and he has of course condemned the actions of the Weather Underground, so I'm inclined to be forgiving (especially in light of my own background).
But he ought to come clean. After all, he is running for president.
Jonah Goldberg (who notes that Hillary "couldn't be more aggressive without calling attention to how Bill Clinton pardoned Puerto Rican separatist terrorists") puts it pretty well:
I don't think such associations should necessarily cost people their careers or place in polite society, particularly if some sort of contrition is involved. But shouldn't this baggage cost something?These are really good questions, and I say this as someone who has had similar ties and friendships, and who is reluctant to condemn Obama. Believe me, I understand the reluctance that anyone in his position might have, as where it comes to guilt by association, I'm very guilty. I not only abhor ratting on people, I abhor even the appearance of it.
But I'm not running for president; I'm running a blog. If I ran for president, I might have a lot of 'splainin to do.
Glad I don't have to. I might have to gag myself with a fork.
Unless McCain is a complete idiot, he'll drive this one like a stolen Ferrari.But doesn't that assume Obama is the nominee?
MORE: Speaking of Hillary's own terrorist issues, I'm wondering whether the FALN clemency will help her or hurt her in Puerto Rico.
There's a very juicy analysis in the Wall Street Journal of the Clintons' FALN pardons.
I don't expect to hear much about Ayers and Dohrn from Hillary.
posted by Eric on 03.07.08 at 09:07 AM
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