Whew! What was all that mess? I’m still in a daze, sorting it all out,
Pass the Vitamin C.
For the past few years, I have gone about my business, hanging out with my kids
and, now, my grandchildren, taking care of our elders (they moved in as the
kids moved out), going to work, teaching and writing. And every day, I
participate in the never-ending effort to build a powerful and irresistible
movement for peace and social justice.
In years past, I would now and then—often unpredictably—appear in the
newspapers or on TV, sometimes with a reference to Fugitive Days, my 2001
memoir of the exhilarating and difficult years of resistance against the
American war in Vietnam. It was a time when the world was in flames, revolution
was in the air, and the serial assassinations of black leaders disrupted
These media episodes of fleeting notoriety always led to some extravagant and
fantastic assertions about what I did, what I might have said and what I
probably believe now.
It was always a bit surreal. Then came this political season.
During the primary, the blogosphere was full of chatter about my relationship
with President-elect Barack Obama. We had served together on the board of the
Woods Foundation and knew one another as neighbors in Chicago’s Hyde Park. In
1996, at a coffee gathering that my wife, Bernardine Dohrn, and I held for him,
I made a donation to his campaign for the Illinois State Senate.
Obama’s political rivals and enemies thought they saw an opportunity to
deepen a dishonest perception that he is somehow un-American, alien, linked to
radical ideas, a closet terrorist who sympathizes with extremism—and they
Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) campaign
provided the script, which included
guilt by association, demonization of people Obama knew (or might have known),
creepy questions about his background and dark hints about hidden secrets yet
to be uncovered.
On March 13, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), apparently in an attempt to reassure
the “base,” sat down for an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News. McCain
was not yet aware of the narrative Hannity had been spinning for months, and so
Hannity filled him in: Ayers is an unrepentant “terrorist,” he explained,
“On 9/11, of all days, he had an article where he bragged about bombing our
Pentagon, bombing the Capitol and bombing New York City police headquarters.
… He said, ‘I regret not doing more.’ “
McCain couldn’t believe it.
Neither could I.
On the campaign trail, McCain immediately got on message. I became a prop, a
cartoon character created to be pummeled.
When Alaska Gov. Sarah
Palin got hold of it, the attack went viral. At a
now-famous Oct. 4 rally, she said Obama was “pallin’ around with
terrorists.” (I pictured us sharing a milkshake with two straws.)
The crowd began chanting, “Kill him!” “Kill him!” It was downhill from
My voicemail filled up with hate messages. They were mostly from men, all
venting and sweating and breathing heavily. A few threats: “Watch out!” and
“You deserve to be shot.” And some e-mails, like this one I got from
firstname.lastname@example.org: “I’m coming to get you and when I do, I’ll water-board
The police lieutenant who came to copy down those threats deadpanned that he
hoped the guy who was going to shoot me got there before the guy who was going
to water-board me, since it would be most foul to be tortured and then shot.
(We have been pals ever since he was first assigned to investigate threats made
against me in 1987, after I
was hired as an assistant professor at the
University of Illinois at Chicago.)
The good news was that every time McCain or Palin mentioned my name, they lost
a point or two in the polls. The cartoon invented to hurt Obama was now poking
holes in the rapidly sinking McCain-Palin ship.
That ’60s show
Vicente " Panama" Alba
"if you tremble with indignation at every injustice
then you are comrade of mine."
"Let's be realistic, let's do the impossible"
Ernesto "Che" Guevara