Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Bill Ayers and Obama

A while ago, like six years ago, there was a column talking about opposition to nominations for public office of folks associated with the civil rights movement. The gist of it was that it's unreasonable and unrealistic to expect people interested in public service didn't participate in some of the most significant public campaigns for change in the second half of the 20th century. While the Weather Underground doesn't fit into that category, the point about penalizing people for having been part of the '60s or in this case for associating with people who participated in the '60s stands. It's unreasonable for penalizing Obama for knowing progressive people who lived in his neighborhood in Chicago who were part of radical groups over three decades ago. The Weather Underground existed, and now people who were involved with it are still living and doing stuff in communities. That's life. Same thing with the Black Panther Party, same thing with SDS, same thing with lots of groups. They're not rotting in prison cells, which is where I'm sure the critics would love to see them, but free and walking the streets living real lives. I think it's that fact that pisses off people, not just that Obama knows Ayers but that Obama knows Ayers and Ayers hasn't been sent to Guantanamo for stuff that happened over thirty years ago.

In a bigger sense this is an echo of the civil rights movement in general, at least those parts that weren't canonized because of being too radical. The continued existence and action of people whose lives clash with the bigger narrative of American culture is a constant irritant to people who would rather live their lives quietly without being bothered about the tough, root, issues of social problems.

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