Sunday, October 12, 2008


Last week, Barack Obama declared, "Ultimately, I ended up learning about the fact that he [Bill Ayers of the Weather Underground] had engaged in this reprehensible act 40 years ago, but I was eight years old at the time and I assumed that he had been rehabilitated."

As usual, Barack's lying. But we're not concerned with Barack for this article, we're concerned with Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn and we're fully aware that some Weather Underground members find the idea of "rehabilitated" laughable when it comes to the two.

Bernardine Dohrn issued the Weather Underground's "Declaration of a State of War" in July 1970 and it included:

Black people have been fighting almost alone for years. We've known that our job is to lead white kids into armed revolution. We never intended to spend the next five or twenty-five years of our lives in jail. Ever since SDS became revolutionary, we've been trying to show how it is possible to overcome the frustration and impotence that comes from trying to reform this system. Kids know the lines are drawn revolution is touching all of our lives. Tens of thousands have learned that protest and marches don't do it. Revolutionary violence is the only way.

It's not just that some members of the Weather Underground did go to prison and Bernardine and Bill did not, it's also the issue of race. And once upon a time, Bernardine and Bill decried "privilege" and rushed to side with those society more quickly targeted. In that declaration, Bernardine also noted:

The parents of "privileged" kids have been saying for years that the revolution was a game for us. But the war and the racism of this society show that it is too fucked-up. We will never live peaceably under this system.

It wasn't a game for them, Bernardine insisted and she decried White privilege. This was especially clear in the 2003 documentary The Weather Underground: The Explosive Story of America's Most Notorious Revolutionaries where she stated, "We felt that the murder of Fred [Hampton] required us to be more grave, more serious, more determined to raise the stakes and not just be the white people who wrung their hands when black people were being murdered."

And what of the imprisoning of African-Americans?

Bernardine informs that she and Bill weren't play acting but haven't their own actions after surfacing indicated that they were doing just that?

Those not fortunate enough to have a rich benefactor (Thomas Ayers, Bill's father) didn't get off so easy. And those who didn't have a rich benefactor greasing the wheels of Chicago politics and were African-American had no White privilege.

Rehabilitation implies that someone has made up for their actions. Not only have Bernardine and Bill never renounced their acts (and in Weather Underground, Bernardine makes it very clear that she still supports violence), they've had no period where they've 'served' in any way. They didn't serve time behind bars, they didn't serve time within their community. Thomas Ayers bought them jobs and they did their jobs very well. But whereas a Black Panther might have to overcome serious stigmas, Bernardine and Bill landed nice and cushy immediately.

It does go to White privilege and for two who decried it to turn around and use it to their benefit smacks of hypocrisy. In 2007, the police were still going after the Black Panthers for an alleged action from 1971.

Kathy Boudin comes from a family considered respectable. She served time behind bars. To say she's "rehabilitated" is not hard to swallow. Not only did she serve time, but she also set up programs in the prison to help other inmates.

What is "rehabilitation"?

Griffin: You aren't going to paint me, are you?

June: I might put you in one of my paintings. There's one I want to do of an Icelandic hero. He's a thief and he's made of fire. You might not like that.

Griffin: Why not?

June: Because you're in the movies and in movies you can't have thieves
as heroes, can you?

Griffin: I don't know about that. We have a long tradition of gangsters in movies.

June: Yes, but they always have to suffer for their crimes, don't they?

Griffin: We should pay for our crimes, shouldn't we?

June: I think knowing you've committed a crime is suffering enough. If you don't suffer... maybe it wasn't a crime after all.

So, grabbing onto points raised in Michael Tolkin's script for The Player, did Bernardine and Bill suffer? Barack Obama stated last week that Bill Ayers was rehabilitated. But every step of the way was cushioned by Thomas Ayers. Fred Hampton died for his beliefs. White privilege allowed Bernardine and Bill to surface and start over.
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