As the election draws near, the friends-and-associates-of-friends-and-associates game is being played, discrediting candidates through their allegiances with the controversial among us. And I’m not so naive as to think both sides don’t play this game; knowing local Democratic politicians and their circles, I’m convinced there’s plenty of similar jackassery among that crowd. That said, the recent chipping away at Barack Obama through his board service with one-time Weatherman and SDS-er Bill Ayers is Classic Republican Chicanery, linking Obama to someone that right wing radio types are already surely casting as “an American terrorist” or “a homegrown terrorist.”
Sometimes, you feel as if you get the measure of a person in a very short amount time. Maybe that’s naive, but in 2003, I had the chance to interview Bill Ayers at Left Bank Books. He was sitting in the cafe space (R.I.P.) that sat alongside Left Bank and we discussed all manner of things political in the hour before his lightly-attended lecture and reading. The notes, in small part, were punched up for The Commonspace’s website; in retrospect, I wish I’d committed the entire audio tape to the screen.
Having just run across some comments by Sarah Palin attaching Obama to Ayers, I remembered the interview and the piece, which had otherwise long slipped from active memory.
I can say this confidently after re-reading the notes: there are people you’d be lucky to have as a teacher, a mentor, a neighbor or a friend. I can’t say I qualify as any of those in relation to Ayers, though I was lucky to have had an hour to sit and chat with him. While I’m sure I didn’t agree with every word spoken by him that hour (only about 96.7%), I had (and have) much respect for the man. And I hope that Democratic lifers have the same respect, understanding that time and distance separate us from our youthful thoughts and actions.