Bill Ayers is a has-been terrorist, a man with a fractured sense of self who’s associated with hundreds of do-gooders, such as Sen. Barack Obama.
For my book, Family Circle, the Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left, I spent 10 years interviewing ex-terrorists and poring over FBI reports, as well as Ayers press releases taking credit for bombing places like our Pentagon, our Capitol and a Manhattan police station.
Three thousand academics recently signed a letter of support for Ayers (A lark? Don’t they read history?). Spokesman Phil Lopate says “…part of [my friend Bill] must be laughing at the whole thing.”
What part of Ayres is laughing?
Pondering, I march up a steep sidewalk to 520 W. 123rd St., a five-story walk-up where the Ayers family lived in the late 1970s. Back then, Ayers had at least two selves. One was a secret, fugitive bomber. His mission: to get his name in headlines after bombings, robberies—and even murders of policemen (he and his wife assisted the murderers). He claimed he was inspiring us to take arms against the “honky, racist, warmongering” U.S. government.
Ayers also led a “normal” life as “Anthony Lee,” a do-gooder at a pre-school at P.S. 9 on West 84th Street, attended by his sons.
Staring at the five-story tenement where he and his family lived with only a couch and beds—no tables—I am amazed Ayers, now 63, made such twisting, torturous, implausible transitions from upper-middle-class SDS student leader/womanizer to famous terrorist to husband and father and now double-talking establishment politician and education professor.
Still crazy after all these years?
I bet Ayers is gleeful about making new headlines, thanks to nasty John McCain: Ayers takes pride in negative headlines. He’s a public relations genius, outdoing even Angelina Jolie, who calls People magazine to chat and become cover girl. After, say, breaking Tim Leary out of prison, Ayers’ minions mailed out press releases (“communiqués”) claiming credit.
But a small sane part of Ayers couldn’t have believed terrorism would scare Americans into giving up racism, war and sexism, and make us take arms against our government.
I guess charming Billy has a weaker sense of self than most. His rationalizations run through my head. His wife says Bill’s sense of humor helps them gloss over their insane past. Ayers claims, “We convinced ourselves it was absolutely up to us to stop the Vietnam War.”
His pre-9/11 autobiography (virtually ghostwritten by wordsmith Lopate) refers to Ayers’ support of cop-killing Black Liberation Army felons in one cryptic sentence—-as “mischief.”
In a two-hour question-and-answer session in a small classroom, Ayers exulted, “Guilty as hell, free as a bird, what a great country, the U.S.A.” He recalled telling his sons he’d burned his draft card. Shocked, one asked, “Why not burn your credit card?” He answered, “Hey, I’m not that stupid.”
A nanosecond before 9/11, he haughtily told the New York Times he might bomb again: and he regretted he hadn’t bombed more. Then, after the reality of 9/11, he scrambled, using McCain-style double-talk: “My [autobiography] is in fact a condemnation of terrorism in all its forms—individual, group and official.”
My colleague John Castellucci, author of the assiduous The Big Dance, about these crazies, says that Ayers’ violence hurts good people: notably it led to the cold-blooded murder of black Nyack policeman and father Waverly Brown. Now Ayers is being used to discredit our first black presidential candidate.
Author and journalist Susan Braudy’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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