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You remember Bill Ayers? He’s the former Weather Underground leader who has since had a distinguished academic career, teaching education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
You’ll recall that his name surfaced during the Obama campaign as Palin and McCain tried to smear Obama with the old guilt-by-association brush.
When that failed, I thought Ayers could go back to his life, and we could all grow up.
So did he. But no such luck.
“I thought it would end,” he tells me, “but it’s escalated in a very weird way. I was canceled at a University last December, and then at the College of DuPage.”
Earlier this week, Boston College yanked Ayers. “After meetings between administrators and students, the decision was made to rescind the invitation,” spokesman Jack Dunn said, according to the Boston Herald. “We feel the appropriate decision has been reached.”
Also this week, Naperville High School, near where Ayers grew up, changed its mind and said no to Ayers. According to the local Daily Herald, the superintendent had received “more than 100 e-mails and numerous phone calls.” “It just wasn’t appropriate,” said Superintendent Alan Leis. “Any value here is completely lost. It is truly amazing the level of anger and emotion around this issue.”
To cap off the week of suppression, Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville cancelled a book signing by Bill Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn. They were to discuss their new book, “Race Course: Against White Supremacy,” published by Third World Press. The bookstore, in a statement, said it canceled the book talk “due to our concerns about the safety of our customers and staff.” It added, “We are not happy about having to make this decision. . . . This week freedom of speech was threatened.”
The bookstore cancellation “never happened to me before. They were literally in tears when they called,” he says. “I always feel bad for people who do the wrong thing.”
Ayers takes it all in stride, though he’s concerned about the climate at large.
“I don’t feel like I’m the aggrieved party,” he says. “I’ve got a day job and book deadlines I’ve got to work on. But it’s an attempt to shut down conversation and dialogue, which is the lifeblood of democracy. The real danger isn’t to me. But there’s a sense that if the mob gathers outside the gate with torches and pitchforks, people collapse.”