Billy Ayers and the weathergirl

Bill AyersIt may have suited the corporate media to paint 60s radical Bill Ayers as an aging, bespectacled hippie, but in his day, student movement leader turned anti-imperialist bomber Billy Ayers had the magnetism of James Dean. And the street cred of John Dillinger.

A less off-base criminal analogy might be Bonny and Clyde, because Bill Ayers had partners in the Weather Underground, and more specifically one he married, and with whom he still lives. She’s the unsung participant in the Barack Obama terrorist connection, and I think it’s a telling omission.

Bernardine Dohrn was the ringleader of the breakaway SDS. It was Dohrn who led the putsch at the divisive 1969 Chicago meeting, and it was she who delivered the press conferences. After the Bring the War Home cataclysm, it was Dorhn’s name on the Weathermen manifestos and publications. And when they went underground, it was Dohrn’s voice on the recorded communiques when a bomb was set to go off.

Bernardine DohrnAfter ten years underground Dohrn and Ayers gave themselves up. The early eighties movie Running On Empty gave a fictional account of their ordeal. It made an interesting assertion through Christine Lahti’s role, at who might have been the moral center of the revolutionary duo.

Today Ayers and Dohrn are respected professors and political activists. They live in Chicago, have raised two sons, and fostered another, whose parents, also of the Weather Underground, remained incarcerated. Father David Gilbert is still in prison.

When Barack Obama kicked off his congressional campaign with the now infamous fund raiser at the Chicago home of Professor Ayers, it was also the home of Law Professor Dohrn. That’s a bit like saying you were at Guy Richie’s house, without mentioning Madonna.

SDS buttonsNot to take any credit away from Bill Ayers, but perhaps Bernardine Dohrn made too attractive a “domestic terrorist.” No doubt an intelligent, decisive woman does not fit the evildoer stereotype.

I think a spotlight on Bernardine Dohrn’s idealogical leadership of the Weathermen might have given the American public pause to consider the arguments behind stopping the Vietnam war “by any means necessary.”

What do you do when the electoral process does not offer a moral recourse? What do you do when your elected representatives refuse to respond the outcry of the people? How do you stop the ongoing indiscriminate murder of millions of southeast Asians, when your government demonstrates an interminable patience for deliberating “staying the course?”

Whether the path they chose was wise or unwise, the students of the 60s were up against a monstrous military industrial complex which looms even larger today. Bernardine Dohrn’s war against our homicidal empire might have humanized the struggle and brought it home.

Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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