My first memory of the impact of it all was when I was 13, sitting in my sister’s apartment, watching the evening news with Walter Cronkite. “103 American GIs killed today,” he intoned, as film of soldiers shooting Vietnamese rolled by. The nightly news always began that way … never a story of heroism or victory, just body bags and carnage as the anti-war media chose to report it.
Next was footage of Los Angeles burning, riots and looting, shootings on college campuses, all with flag burning as a backdrop. In the midst of it all, my sister’s Middle Eastern boyfriend gleefully shouted, “Come on America, destroy yourself!” I wanted to hit him. I tried to argue, but he mocked me. Because of my youth, I was no match for his vocabulary and knowledge. I felt inadequate to express the overpowering emotions of anger and rage. And pain. My beloved country, falling apart at the seams with a representative of one of its future enemies sitting right next to me, cheering it on. War vs. peace, communism vs. freedom, law vs. lawlessness, racism, anarchy and the future threat of radical Islam—all converged in that one room. And the passion that comes from love of country and all that is good began its deep roots in me.
I grew up in the midst of that turbulence. My peers wanted to “make love, not war,” and reduce peace to two fingers held high with a silly, drug-induced grin. Others of my generation wanted more. They wanted violent revolution. John Lennon made it sound vogue as they declared their intention to “kill the pigs” and obtain the violent overthrow of the United States Government.
Most were just foolish and spoiled, but others were serious as Hell itself. Members of the Weather Underground were part of the latter group. Formed in 1969, Bernadine Dohrn and William Ayers quickly moved into leadership. They bombed, rioted and threatened, “We’re coming after you!” Ayers encouraged followers to “kill all the rich people … bring the revolution home. Kill your parents.” And his apologetic for the 1972 bombing the Pentagon? The “bastards were finally going to get what was coming to them.”
“Strawberry Statement,” “Getting Straight,” “Woodstock,”…cult films reflecting the movement, are not nostalgic memories for me, but jolting reminders of a very dark and shameful time.
Charles Manson and his “family” shocked the world when they brutally murdered young actress Sharon Tate in her home along with friends, including coffee heiress, Abigail Folger. They wrote “Helter Skelter,” in blood on the walls, and the Beatles offered another tune to commemorate the event. Like the Weather Underground, Charlie Manson wanted the violent overthrow of the government. Bernadine Dohrn offered her adulation, “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!” Tate was nine months pregnant.
Fast forward to 2008. As I prepared to do an in-depth report on the Weather Underground, my producer uncovered some fascinating footage which brought me to tears. It was like going back in time when I saw Dohrn, Ayers and others spouting their poison to the black and white backdrop of those frightening days. Those dark revolutionaries were not experiencing the passing phase of foolish youth; they were the bold spokesmen for a deep and evil spirit of lawlessness that nearly prevailed just three decades ago. And they were speaking not in 1972, but in 2007.
Now Bernadine Dohrn is an assistant Law Professor at Northwestern University and her husband, William Ayers is a professor of Education at UIC, both “respected” members of the community, says Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Both guilty of violence that resulted in death, both guilty of rebellion that aimed at destroying our country—and both unrepentant. “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough,” said Ayers in 2001. “I found the whole idea of turning myself in revolting,” chronicled Dohrn in a PBS documentary. “Rebellion is inevitable. I remain committed to the struggle ahead,” she said as she surrendered to authorities in 1980. “We have extraordinary responsibility inside the heart of the monster,” she warned in 2007. “Guilty as sin and free as a bird,” boasted Ayers.
So when I learned of the connection between Ayres, Dohrn and Barack Obama, I was alarmed. In 1995, Dohrn and Ayres hosted a campaign fundraiser for Obama. Ayers contributed to Obama’s campaign. Bernadine Dohrn and both Barack and Michelle Obama were employed by the Sidley and Austin Law Firm. Bernadine, like Barack was involved with “community organizing,” a milk-toast term for “Rules for Radicals” author, Saul Alinsky’s leftist schemes. Obama and Ayers have appeared on academic panels together. While Obama has tried to downplay this as coincidental, his participation with Ayers on a 1997 University of Chicago panel was actually put together by the associate Dean of Student Services, Michelle Obama. Their kids have attended the same schools, and when the Obamas moved a little more than a year ago (with the questionable financial help of the wife of indicted Syrian National, Tony Rezko), it just happened to be in the same neighborhood as Ayers. Both Obama and Ayers served on the Woods Foundation Board, which along with funding “community organizing,” agreed to give $75,000 to the Arab American Action Network, cofounded by PLO-and-Yasser-Arafat apologist, Rashid Kalidi.
But it’s the underlying, dark vision for America that they share that concerns me most. While Ayers and Dohrn hate capitalism, Barack chooses careful terms like “fairness” to hint at evening the score on the “wealthy.” In the ’70s, the Weather Underground wanted “smash monogamy.” Group orgies were their attempt to break down all sexual taboos. Today William Ayers is a powerful advocate for “Queering Elementary Education” and advancing the cause of gay, straight, transgender and lesbian rights. The gay journalist Andrew Sullivan has declared Barack Obama the dream candidate of the homosexual movement.
“Revolution” versus “change.” “Capitalist pigs” versus “the wealthy.” “Smash monogamy” versus “other definitions of family.” The revolution of the ’60s and ’70s was bolder in language and action, but today’s manifestation is in some ways more threatening because terms are hidden, intentions blurred and the “opiate of the masses”—at least right now—is not religion, but Barack Obama.
“The spirit of the revolution will live on!” declared Dohrn in 1980.
All of these same old ideas, converging at once on a new generation, with little memory of this past. We want to “connect to … rebuild on … the spirit of rebellion …of resistance,” said Ayres just last November. “The secret power of lawlessness is already at work,” wrote the Apostle Paul in the first century. Indeed.
That same passion I had as a 13-year-old girl has been awakened within me once again. Fortunately, thanks to the intervening years, I have vocabulary and knowledge on my side this time. I recognize the danger and will not be silent.
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