Bill Ayers has kept a low profile since President Obama took office, so we thought he might have gone underground again. That was until we ran into him in Baltimore on Wednesday and he lobbed a bomb at one of our editorial writers.
When questioned by The Washington Times during a lecture on racism, Mr. Ayers went ballistic. “Did you drink the kool-aid over at The Times or are you okay?” he asked. “What I’m saying is … do you actually have a mind of your own?”
This is ironic given Mr. Ayers’ past in the Weather Underground. In his 2001 autobiography “Fugitive Days,” he admitted bombing government buildings to protest the Vietnam War. He remains unrepentant, telling the New York Times in a 2001 interview that, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.” While he used to employ explosives to intimidate Americans who did not share his radical views, he has adapted his tactics of indoctrination in recent years. Now he is a college professor.
Mr. Ayers’ current cause is education reform, which he advocates as a distinguished professor of education and senior university scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His books, written with his wife and fellow Weatherman Bernardine Dohrn, include: “Teaching Toward Freedom: Moral Commitment and Ethical Action in the Classroom” (Beacon Press, 2004); “Teaching the Personal and the Political” (Teachers College Press, 2004); and “The Good Preschool Teacher” (Teachers College Press, 1989). Presumably, Bombmaking 101 is not on his preschool curriculum.
His radicalism and chosen profession bring to mind Oscar Wilde’s quip that, “Everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching.” It is clear that Mr. Ayers has not learned much since his days as a fugitive from the law in the 1970s. He remains as divisive as ever. During his speech last week, he characterized the 2008 presidential election in terms of a race war. “To see the first African-American president, I mean what can you say?” he said. “It was certainly a blow against white supremacy. Not the definitive or fatal blow, but a blow nonetheless.” That’s funny, we thought it was about the economy, stupid.
His new book, published by Third World Press, is “Race Course Against White Supremacy.” The publisher’s description on amazon.com summarizes the thesis “that white supremacy has been the dominant political system in the United States since its earliest days - and that it is still very much with us.” Even though Mr. Obama enjoys approval ratings around 60 percent, Mr. Ayers insists that racism is the dominant cultural factor in America today. “It’s very hard not to drag the chains of that history into the present,” he said last week. His goal seems to be to keep America’s minorities angry, which keeps America divided.
(Corrected paragraph:) Mr. Ayers’ views remain as explosive as ever. It’s hard not to drag the history of his relationship with Mr. Obama into the present because Mr. Ayers and Mr. Obama traveled in the same circles of community activists in Chicago, and Mr. Obama visited the former fugitive’s house early in the former’s political career. Today the president preaches hope and change, but the Weatherman shows little faith in either.