Friday, October 31, 2008

Bill Ayers, Sirhan Sirhan, and 'Prairie Fire'

These people, these academics, support Bill Ayers.

Gloria Ladson-Billings - University of Wisconsin

Rene Antrop-Gonzalez, Ph.D. - University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Ken Zeichner - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Taina R. Collazo-Quiles - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Brian W. Lagotte - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Katy Swalwell - MEPD Graduate Faculty, University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse

Jen Scott Curwood - University of Wisconsin

Mary Thompson-Shriver - University of Wisconsin

Katherina A. Payne - University of Wisconsin

Ross Colin - The University of Wisconsin-Madison

Andrew Clement - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Vonzell Agosto - University of Wisconsin-Madison

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Matthew Knoester - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Donna L. Vukelich - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Kerry Kretchmar - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dale Weiss - First grade teacher, La Escuela Fratney (Milwaukee, WI)

Madeline Hafner - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Thandeka K. Chapman - UW Milwaukee

Jenny Peshut - University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Margaret Phinney - University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Jack Winters - Marquette University

Daniel Ginsberg-Jaeckle - SDS-Milwaukee

Evelin Rodriguez - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Rhea Vedro - University of WI - Madison

Gary Greif - University of Wisconsin--Green Bay

Patricia S. Merrill - Milwaukee Area Technical College

Beth Handler - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Margaret Finders - University of Wisconsin La Crosse

Mary Louise Gomez - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Diana Hess - University of WI-Madison

Simone Schweber - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Beth Graue - University of Wisconsin Madison

Dawnene D. Hassett, Ph.D. - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Beth Robinson - Univeristy of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Julie Mead - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Julio Guerrero - University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Constance Steinkuehler - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Nancy Ruggeri - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Douglas B. Larkin - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sharon L. Morrow - University of Wisconsin - Madison

Sarah McKinney - University of Wisconsin-Madison, doctoral student

Doreen Adamany - University of Wisconsin

Selena Kohel - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ricardo D. Rosa - University of Wisconsin

Manali Sheth - UW Madison, former teacher

Elizabeth A. Hutchinson - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Bethany Brent - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Julie Minikel-Lacocque - UW-Madison

Sarah Adumat - UW Madison

Bruce E. Gladstone - University of Wisconsin

Joyce Shanks - University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Finn Ryan - University of Wisconsin, Madison

Wangari Gichiru - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Laurel Blomquist - Madison Area Technical College

Laura Faith Hetland - UW-Milwaukee, SDS, mNSC

Jacob Flom - University of Wisconsin Milwaukee - Progressive Students

Bonnie Paris - University of Wisconsin - Madison

Kurt D. Squire - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Julie Tenpas - UW-Milwaukee

April Goodwin - University of Wisconsin

Thomas Jasen Gardner - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Courtney Koestler - University of Wisconsin- Madison

Kyung Eun Jahng - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sharon Chubbuck - Marquette University

Margot Kennard - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Chris Crowley - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ronald Kalil - University of Wisconsin

Erin Prendergast - University of Wisconsin Madison

Christine A. Smith - University of Wisconsin, Green Bay

They want the world to know, so they've endorsed the following statement:
We write to support our colleague Professor William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who is currently under determined and sustained political attack. Ayers is a nationally known scholar, member of the Faculty Senate at UIC, Vice President-elect of the American Educational Research Association, and sought after as a speaker and visiting scholar by other universities because of his exemplary scholarship, teaching, and service. Throughout the 20 years that he has been a valued faculty member at UIC, he has taught, advised, mentored, and supported hundreds of undergraduate, Masters and Ph.D. students. He has pushed them to take seriously their responsibilities as educators in a democracy – to promote critical inquiry, dialogue, and debate; to encourage questioning and independent thinking; to value the full humanity of every person and to work for access and equity. Helping educators develop the capacity and ethical commitment to these responsibilities is at the core of what we do, and as a teacher he has always embraced debate and multiple perspectives.

All citizens, but particularly teachers and scholars, are called upon to challenge orthodoxy, dogma, and mindless complacency, to be skeptical of authoritative claims, to interrogate and trouble the given and the taken-for-granted. Without critical dialogue and dissent we would likely be burning witches and enslaving our fellow human beings to this day. The growth of knowledge, insight, and understanding--- the possibility of change--- depends on that kind of effort, and the inevitable clash of ideas that follows should be celebrated and nourished rather than crushed. Teachers have a heavy responsibility, a moral obligation, to organize classrooms as sites of open discussion, free of coercion or intimidation. By all accounts Professor Ayers meets this standard. His classes are fully enrolled, and students welcome the exchange of views that he encourages.

The current characterizations of Professor Ayers---“unrepentant terrorist,” “lunatic leftist”---are unrecognizable to those who know or work with him. It’s true that Professor Ayers participated passionately in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, as did hundreds of thousands of Americans. His participation in political activity 40 years ago is history; what is most relevant now is his continued engagement in progressive causes, and his exemplary contribution---including publishing 16 books--- to the field of education. The current attacks appear as part of a pattern of “exposés” and assaults designed to intimidate free thinking and stifle critical dialogue. Like crusades against high school and elementary teachers, and faculty at UCLA, Columbia, DePaul, and the University of Colorado, the attacks on and the character assassination of Ayers threaten the university as a space of open inquiry and debate, and threaten schools as places of compassion, imagination, curiosity, and free thought. They serve as warnings that anyone who voices perspectives and advances questions that challenge orthodoxy and political power may become a target, and this, then, casts a chill over free speech and inquiry and the spirit of democracy.

We, the undersigned, stand on the side of education as an enterprise devoted to human inquiry, enlightenment, and liberation. We oppose the demonization of Professor William Ayers.

Yes, that illustrious list of Wisconsin educators and others oppose the demonization of the distinguished Professor William Ayers.

They aren't at all troubled by Ayers' "activism."

"It’s true that Professor Ayers participated passionately in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, as did hundreds of thousands of Americans. His participation in political activity 40 years ago is history; what is most relevant now is his continued engagement in progressive causes, and his exemplary contribution---including publishing 16 books--- to the field of education.

There's a problem with that.

Ayers is not like the hundreds of thousands of Americans who participated in the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s, not even close. It's a lie to suggest that his participation in protests was remotely similar to that of hundreds of thousands of Americans. It's a flat-out lie.

It's also a lie to suggest that Ayers' political activism is history.

The statement doesn't tell the truth about Ayers, yet these educators have signed their names to it.

They believe that Ayers is a victim. He's under attack. They are shouting out that they stand in solidarity with Ayers.

I wonder if these people, currently 4090 endorsements, really do support this man.

I don't want to believe that they do. I want to believe that these educators have some moral grounding and standards of decency. I really want to believe that they don't know the real Bill Ayers; and if they did, they would not consider him to be the victim of a sustained political attack and the target of false accusations.

I wonder what the people listed above think about Prairie Fire.

It has a red cover. Nice touch. It reminds me of Mao's Little Red Book. The title, Prairie Fire, is all Mao, too. Mao wrote, "A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire," on January 5, 1930.

(Note: The following excerpts and photos are all from zombietime.)

May 9, 1974

Sisters and brothers,

Here is PRAIRIE FIRE, our political ideology - a strategy for anti-imperialism and revolution inside the imperial US. It comes out of our own practice of the last five years and reflects a diversity of experiences. This paper is not the product of one or two people, nor even a small handful of us. Rather PRAIRIE FIRE represents the politics and collective efforts of an organization. It has been the focus of our study groups and our political education. It has been chewed on and shaped in countless conversations, struggles and written pages. It has travelled around the country, growing, developing thru the attempt to understand the shape of world forces and the revolutionary possibilities before us. The paper was rewritten four times and collectively adopted as the political statement of the Weather Underground. The twelve-month process of writing PRAIRIE FIRE, squeezed between on-going work and practice and action, has now reached a kind of end-point. A cycle is done.

We undertook this analysis to explain the changes in US and world conditions since the Vietnam ceasefire and to evaluate the consequences of the Vietnamese victory. We have come some distance in evaluating the political situation, the priorities for revolutionary work since we began this writing. Now many more revolutionaries will need to shape and change the paper. The politics cannot be realized unless and until the content of the program is activated in thousands of situations, among thousands of people in the coming period. PRAIRIE FIRE will be a growing thing.

We hope the paper opens a dialectic among those in the mass and clandestine movements; we hope people will take PRAIRIE FIRE as seriously as we do, study the content and write and publish their views of the paper as well as their analysis of their own practice. We will respond as best we can.

Our movement urgently needs a concrete analysis of the particular conditions of our time and place. We need strategy. We need to battle for a correct ideology and win people over. In this way we create the conditions for the development of a successful revolutionary movement and party. We need a revolutionary communist party in order to lead the struggle, give coherence and direction to the fight, seize power and build the new society. Getting from here to there is a process of coming together in a disciplined way around ideology and strategy, developing an analysis of our real conditions, mobilizing a base among the US people, building principled relationships to Third World struggle, and accumulating practice in struggle against US imperialism.

PRAIRIE FIRE is written to communist-minded revolutionaries, independent organizers and anti-imperialists; those who carry the traditions and lessons of the struggles of the last decade, those who join in the struggles of today. PRAIRIE FIRE is written to all sisters and brothers who are engaged in armed struggle against the enemy. It is written to prisoners, women's groups, collectives, study groups, workers' organizing committees, communes, GI organizers, consciousness-raising groups, veterans, community groups and revolutionaries of all kinds; to all who will read, criticize and bring its content to life in practice. It is written as an argument against those who oppose action and hold back the struggle.

PRAIRIE FIRE is based on a belief that the duty of a revolutionary is to make the revolution. This is not an abstraction. It means that revolutionaries must make a profound commitment to the future of humanity, apply our limited knowledge and experience to understand an ever-changing situation, organize the masses of people and build the fight. It means that struggle and risk and hard work and adversity will become our way of life, that the only certainty will be constant change, that the only possibilities are victory or death.

We have only begun. At this time, the unity and consolidation of anti-imperialist forces around a revolutionary program is an urgent and pressing strategic necessity. PRAIRIE FIRE is offered as a contribution to this unity of action and purpose. Now it is in your hands.

Bernardine Dohrn
Jeff Jones
Billy Ayers
Celia Sojourn

For the Weather Underground

The manifesto states:
We are a guerrilla organization. We are communist women and men, underground in the United States for more than four years. We are deeply affected by the historic events of our time in the struggle against U.S. imperialism.

Our intention is to disrupt the empire, to incapacitate it, to put pressure on the cracks, to make it hard to carry out its bloody functioning against the people of the world, to join the world struggle, to attack from the inside.

This is a violent, radical group bent on overthrowing the U.S. government, not just a bunch of idealistic young people involved in the civil rights and anti-war movements.

I knew that, but a new revelation has dramatically intensified my negative opinion of Ayers. I harbor no indifference when it comes to him.

This makes me sick:

The following snippet is taken from the book's dedication page, and shows that the Weather Underground dedicated the book to Robert F. Kennedy's killer Sirhan Sirhan, among many other now-obscure '60s-era radicals, criminals and revolutionaries:

Here's the two-page spread of the dedication page and copyright page in high-resolution, showing the full list of people to whom the book is dedicated:


The Weather Underground manifesto is dedicated to Bobby Kennedy's assassin.

"To All Who Continue to Fight and To All Political Prisoners in the U.S."

Ayers and his fellow radicals equate Sirhan Sirhan with Harriet Tubman in their dedication!

This is really sick.

Ayers has never apologized for any of this.

Remember that he claims people who know him, know who he is.
April 12, 2002

BILL AYERS: I'm very open about what I think and nobody here is surprised about what I think.

I would NEVER endorse Bill Ayers in any way.

I wouldn't work with him.

I wouldn't be on a board with him.

I wouldn't want to be in the same room with him.

Barack Obama did.


UPDATE, September 24, 2010:

Controversial UIC professor denied emeritus status

Son of Robert Kennedy speaks out against Ayers

In a very unusual move, University of Illinois trustees Thursday denied giving emeritus status to controversial retired professor William Ayers.

The vote, at a U. of I. board meeting in Urbana, was unanimous and came after a passionate speech by board chair Christopher Kennedy, who invoked the 1968 assassination of his father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, in saying that he was voting his conscience.

The other trustees, without comment, also voted against the appointment.

...While trustees regularly vote on emeritus appointments, they rarely comment about them.

But in an emotional statement, Kennedy discussed his reasons for voting against Ayers' request.

"I am guided by my conscience and one which has been formed by a series of experiences, many of which have been shared with the people of our country and mark each of us in a profound way," Kennedy said.

He said he could not confer the title "to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father."

Kennedy was referring to a 1974 book co-authored by Ayers, "Prairie Fire," which was dedicated to a long list of people including Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan and "all political prisoners in the U.S."

...According to the UIC faculty handbook, the granting of emeritus status is "based on merit" and is "an extraordinary title that is given for extraordinary service."

Kennedy said he hoped faculty, staff and Illinois residents "understand my motives and my reasoning" and concluded: "How could I do anything else?"

Ayers could not be reached for comment, and UIC School of Education Dean Vicki Chou did not return a call from the Tribune. She told the Tribune last month that Ayers has "been really a very good colleague here" and "the good far outweighs any negative press."

A UIC professor said Friday she was "shocked" by the trustees' decision not to grant Ayers emeritus status.

"Professor Ayers has a 47-page resume of academic accomplishments," Barbara Ransby, a professor of history and African-American studies, wrote in an e-mail response to the Tribune. "I am sure his publication and service record far exceeds that of many of our retired colleagues who have been granted emeritus status by the University in the past."

Ransby, who has publicly supported Ayers in the past, said decisions are supposed to be based on "academic merit."

"It is a real threat to academic freedom, and the foundation of a democratic university, when we begin to make professional and institutional decisions based on personal or political sentiments, however strongly felt they may be," she wrote.

So the academia nuts at UIC are troubled that Ayers was denied emeritus status by the University of Illinois trustees.

The trustees got it right.


Unknown said...

"Look, Romney comes from a religion founded by a criminal who was anti-American, pro-slavery, and a rapist. And he comes from that lineage and says, 'I respect this religion fully.'"


Hey Mary, this is actually 100% factually true. There's no "spin" here.


Mary said...

1. What does Romney have to do with Ayers?

Are you equating Mormonism with the terrorism of Ayers and his cohorts and their plans to overthrow the U.S. government?

2. Why are you quoting Lawrence O'Donnell?

Lorianne W said...

I just linked to this blog post on Free Republic:

Quoth Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on September 15, 2008 on the Huffington Post in criticism of Governor Sarah Palin:

Fascist writer Westbrook Pegler, an avowed racist who Sarah Palin approvingly quoted in her acceptance speech for the moral superiority of small town values, expressed his fervent hope about my father, Robert F. Kennedy, as he contemplated his own run for the presidency in 1965, that “some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow flies.”

Yet the same Robert F Kennedy, to my knowledge, hasn't said boo about Bill Ayers' dedication of his book "Prairie Fire" to Sirhan Sirhan (and has publically called Sirhan a hero) .... the man who actually shot and killed his father!


Mary said...

It is amazing.