Oct 28, 2008

"Ayers's actions were very much of their era" [LINK]

My latest letter to the Globe:

Fernando Salazar writes that while William Ayers' actions as a leader of the Weather Underground were unacceptable, it is wrong to "forget the times in which those actions occurred": in the midst of struggle over Civil Rights and the Vietnam War. If Salazar actually believes the former is true, then the latter point is irrelevant.

Regardless, there's a useful way to test the quality of Mr. Salazar's point. Ask yourself what would happen if Sen. McCain were found to have had a working relationship with someone who had participated in bombings of abortion clinics, and who voiced continued enthusiasm for such violence. Consider that in the not too distant past, such forms of domestic terrorism were relatively common, reflecting a widespread radical conviction that it was necessary to prevent the murder of countless would-be children. Does the admonition that we must not "forget the times in which those actions occurred" still sound reasonable?

For extra credit, of course, ask yourself how the media would cover the matter.
UPDATE: A comment I made at the Globe's site (here) in response to the idea that the Weathermen ceased terrorist activities at the conclusion of the Vietnam War:
Regardless of what Ayers might now say, at the time of the Weathermen's heyday the group's primary stated goal was not to stop the Vietnam War; it was to institute a communist regime in America along Maoist lines. The group sought to take advantage of the domestic instability wrought by the Vietnam War and racial tensions to jump-start a communist revolution. That the group slowly disintegrated after the war ended was due to the lessening of this instability, not to any satisfaction of its long-term goals. (Note the group's involvement in the Brinks robbery in 1981 a full six years after Saigon's fall, involving the murder of three.) Retrospectively associating the Weathermen with the Vietnam War is rather facile and convenient, since opposition to the war always enjoyed more popularity among Americans than Maoism. It's much like saying the Bolsheviks were primarily motivated by opposition to Russia's involvement in World War I.

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