resistance and its discontents

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Bill Ayers' op-ed from Friday's NYT has drawn some attention:

Now that the election is over, I want to say as plainly as I can that the character invented to serve this drama wasn't me, not even close. Here are the facts:

I never killed or injured anyone. I did join the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, and later resisted the draft and was arrested in nonviolent demonstrations. I became a full-time antiwar organizer for Students for a Democratic Society. In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground... [...] The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be -- and still is being -- debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.

Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism; we were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends.

Over at Washington Monthly, Hilzoy asks Ayers to "Just Go Away:"

Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground did more than 'cross lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense.' They were, by any syandard [sic] I can think of, terrorists. As one historian says, "The only reason they were not guilty of mass murder is mere incompetence (...) I don't know what sort of defense that is." [...]

Ayers may think that there's still a debate about the Weather Underground's effectiveness. And he might also think that he "acted appropriately in the context of those times." To me, though, he's just a shallow rich kid who took himself and his revolutionary rhetoric much too seriously, helped inspire people to do things that got them killed, and helped to discredit the anti-war movement and the left as a whole.

He has done enough harm already. Now he should do the decent thing and leave us in peace.

I'll juxtapose Ayer's claim that "Our effectiveness can be -- and still is being -- debated" with his statement that "The antiwar movement in all its commitment, all its sacrifice and determination, could not stop the violence unleashed against Vietnam" to conclude that the continuation of the Southeast Asian slaughter demonstrates a lack of effectiveness--a failure, in other words.

It is a good omen that the Left has not, in the decades since then, chosen to emulate the tactics of violent resistance--and an ill one that the Right has chosen to do so.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on December 9, 2008 2:45 PM.

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