Friday, November 14, 2008

Ayers & Dohrn on Democracy Now!

Thank you, Democracy Now!, for airing the interview with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. I salute their courage in coming forward and speaking their heartminds. I thank them for their earnest efforts on my behalf when I was only 4 years old (born in 1964).

I disagree with their assertions: of not being terrorists, never having engaged in terrorism. Explosions do indeed terrify people.

To deny that their actions were terrorism denies the "understandable" reactions of people to explosions. King fiercely and so rightly opposed that tactic at the time, facing even greater personal danger, as DN!'s airing of his efforts in Chicago amply demonstrated only yesterday: "I just gave up. I wouldn’t say I was so afraid as that I had yielded to the real possibility of the inevitability of death. I mean, I had concluded." Opposing militant violence with militant violence attempts to wipe off blood with bloody hands, as a Buddhist cliché puts it.

It matters not in the least that the Weathermen convinced themselves that they weren't trying to hurt people. I don't for a second believe that they weren't trying at least to scare them, to influence their decision-making with explosions.

When a nearby power transformer explodes during a storm, it provokes a startle response in me; it scares me, even though I know no human intention caused it in a proximal sense (the intention, to call a thin line of trees a "greenbelt," is the distal cause).

Do Ayers and Dohrn really believe that people would experience the explosions as pure symbolism, no emotion? Even if they believe they only were shouting, shouting itself is an attempt to overwhelm, overpower the interlocutor with physical force; thus we say, "to shout down," not up.

Yes, the US was committing horrendous acts in Vietnam; we also were committing horrendous acts in Central America, when I came of political age. Having the benefit of the radicalism of the 60s from which to learn, I decided never to go down the path of violence.

The lesson of the 60s is clear: "You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can't bomb it into peace," sings Michael Franti and Spearhead.

In sum, I find Ayers and Dohrn's denial of engaging in terrorism unconvincing. As they sowed, now they reap. This is a perfect object lesson in the futility of violent opposition to violence.

Gandhi and King were right to advocate non-violence. The Weathermen were wrong to bomb, however they intended it at the time, the fact remains: they terrified people with explosions. Until that admission is made, Ayers and Dohrn will continue to repeat this narrative in a vicious circle all too familiar to Buddhists and other devotees of non-violence.

I bow in their and your virtual directions.

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