Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jake's Word Re: William Ayers & Colin Powell

From: Jake Berry (
[A response to Jack Random's "In Defense of William Ayers" posted on The National Free Press and reprinted below and "The Redemption of Colin Powell" posted on]

William Ayers activity with the Weathermen is merely a footnote in history. It only proves the Republicans are desperate. They can't win on the issues, so they attack with irrelevant, distracting, accusations. Even some in the corporate media say as much.

Colin Powell's endorsement seems clear enough. He's right. It is time for a transition and a transformation, a new generation, and Obama is equal to the task. It would be interesting to be able to compare Powell as Secretary of Defense under Obama as opposed to Secretary of State under Bush. That probably won't happen. There is still an election to win and the matter of whether or not Obama would want Powell as a member of the cabinet or Powell would be willing to serve. Outside of the disinformation campaign that cajoled the country into the invasion of Iraq his foreign policy seems similar enough to Obama's.

As for Rep. Bachmman, one wonders how these kinds of statements are possible a half-century after Joe McCarthy. What is anti-American? Other than an attempt to violently overthrow the government it seems to me impossible to be anti-American. After all, the election cycle theoretically allows us to make dramatic changes in the government every two years. The first amendment guarantees the freedom to dissent and say it out loud. If disagreement makes one anti-American then no one meets the measure. Everyone disagrees with someone about something in American politics at some time or other, even in an age of manufactured consent. If anyone is guilty of anti-American behavior it's Rep. Bachmman, who by her statements seems to want to erase the principles upon which the nation was founded. And replace them with what? Further descent into Corporate Fascism?

Considering the way the campaigns have been run it seems that perhaps that is our choice.

Do we want to close the door on the American experiment in representative government and replace it forever with government bought (and sold) by wealthy collectives? If so, then we have to do nothing at all. We can continue to spend money we do not have, pollute the environment and attempt to dominate the world by force. But if we want to attempt to turn the ship of state around, or at the very least alter course, we have to get up and vote for people who offer that possibility. Then we have to go back to buying only what we can afford, saving money in local, reliable banks, and investing in the local economy by doing what our grandparents did - buying land. Small scale capitalism. It worked for them. They truly believed in America as a free country and fought fascism in the trenches and totalitarian communism by containment. They were not the greatest generation. No generation can make that claim. But they taught us that in America anything was possible. The last 35 years almost seem calculated to destroy everything they believed in.

Ironic isn't it? The man we would have expected to build his campaign on those very principles has aligned himself with the vilest aspect of the electorate while a man whose face and name would seem foreign to our grandparents is promoting the qualities that made the 20th century what some call the American century. All he's asking is that we give someone new a chance. Under the circumstances that is what we must do.

Thanks for everything. Here we go in the rush to election day. And I'm still bringing a torch, just in case.


[Jake Berry is the author of Brambu Drezi, Liminal Blue & Other Works of Originality.]


Dissent and Freedom of Expression

By Jack Random

Once all the votes are cast and counted, it will be time to call a heart a heart and a spade a spade. When the scurrilous charges of guilt by association and character assassination lose the sting of a coming election, we will be able to assess the nature of this presidential campaign in a more objective light.

Perhaps then we will hear from Professor William Ayers. Until the election is over, however, silence is wisdom. By virtue of his participation in the political process, his associations with prominent Chicago politicians of all parties, he has been so vilified by the Republican right that anything he could say in the current climate would be twisted and distorted to dangerous proportions.

In the final stages of a desperate campaign with no other design than to distract the electorate from the most critical issues in modern history, the Rovian Republican machine has resorted to tactics that recall some of the most shameful chapters in American history.

It recalls the Alien and Sedition Acts signed into law in 1798 by President John Adams, which attempted to criminalize dissent and label his political opponents traitors to the nation. Three of four acts were repealed by succeeding President Thomas Jefferson in a critical re-affirmation of the principles of democratic governance.

It recalls the era of Jim Crow in the post-reconstruction South in which African Americans were systematically denied the right to vote by poll taxes, literacy tests, residency requirements, threats, lynching and every conceivable form of intimidation.

Most of all it recalls the era of Joe McCarthy, the Republican Senator from Wisconsin, and the great Red Scare of the 1950’s in which citizens from every strata and facet of American life were subjected to loyalty oaths and labeled traitors to the nation for having the audacity to express dissenting views, for attending meetings or associating with the wrong crowd. Then the communists and socialists were the bogeyman, now it is the radicals and terrorists. Both then and now, it is the rightwing definition of Anti-American opinions and sentiments.

To those who naïvely thought we had reached something resembling universal condemnation of those disgraceful chapters, think again.

As one who was tempted to believe that America had grown sufficiently as a nation that we need not fear a return to the age of official intolerance and blacklisting on the basis of political or religious beliefs, it was with profound shock and awe that I witnessed an obscure congresswoman from Minnesota (the Honorable Michele Bachmann) call for a media-led investigation into the anti-American sentiments of members of congress.

Could it be that a representative in congress is so unaware of her nation’s history that she could invoke the House Un-American Activities Committee without even knowing it?

In the event that the worst happens, that the politics of fear and smear prevail, and we enter a new age of McCarthyism, let me state clearly: I am not now nor have I ever been a terrorist. Not enough? I am not now nor have I ever been an enemy of the nation. Still not enough?

I cannot in good conscience give you the lies that I believe you would require to certify my loyalty and patriotism though I consider myself both loyal and patriotic.

Does advocacy for Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Jean Bertrand Aristide of Haiti or Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain cast doubt? Does opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq place me under a cloud of suspicion? If I stood against the USA Patriot Act, will I fail the test of loyalty? Who is to judge?

My political beliefs and ideology were inspired by individuals who were without question dissidents and rebels dedicated to overthrowing the government. Their names were Jefferson, Paine and Franklin.

There have been occasions in my life when I considered the actions of my own government, from the carpet bombing in Vietnam to the killing of student protestors at Jackson and Kent State universities, nothing less than state sanctioned terrorism, yet there were moments (the withdrawal of Lyndon Johnson from the 1968 presidential race and the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974) when I may have felt a twinge of empathy.

Even George W. Bush, as his administration unleashed aggressive wars against innocent peoples, unraveled the fabric of the constitution, undermined the electoral process and preached the politics of fear and intolerance without shame, has at times appeared a sympathetic character unable to comprehend the depths of the horrors and betrayals delivered under his authority.

By my own reckoning, should I be held accountable for sympathy with criminals and terrorists and betrayers of the American ideal?

I am an American and I claim the right to adopt any belief or system of beliefs that I choose so long as I do not infringe on the rights of others.

I do not advocate violent protest but there are times in history when violent resistance to unjust authorities was either understandable or necessary or both. Fundamentally, I believe that all Americans retain the right embodied in the second amendment to overthrow an unjust and tyrannical government.

By this account, though it pales by comparison to Jefferson’s, should I be considered a dangerous radical? Should I be censured, censored, my voice stricken from the public forum? Should every individual with whom I have associated be held accountable for my beliefs?

While I respect their sense of duty, their sacrifice and courage, I do not believe that the soldiers currently engaged in Bush’s wars are fighting to defend or uphold my rights. In fact the current wars have been used in a concerted effort to diminish my rights.

Does that make me un-American?

As an American I claim the right to attend any gathering and form any associations that I choose. I believe that anyone who asserts that I should be held accountable for every statement or belief expressed by my associates is attempting to deny my fundamental freedom.

I do not know Professor William Ayers but I do know there is no expression of remorse or rationalization that could alleviate the irrational fervor of his detractors in the current political climate. For myself, given the opportunity, I would not hesitate to attend one of his lectures or engage him in conversation concerning the state of affairs in America today.

Agree or disagree, Bill Ayers is an American too. Anyone who would denigrate him for his beliefs or impugn the character of his associates is fighting against the tide of democratic freedom.

The first amendment was not adopted to protect popular mainstream opinions. Such expressions require no protection. It was adopted to protect dissent. When dissent is suppressed by cheap political mudslinging campaigns it impoverishes our discourse and weakens our hold on the American democratic ideal.

Of course, even the expression of anti-democratic ideas is protected free speech. I would no more deny the right of a campaign to engage in the politics of smear than I would my own right to object.

The proper response of all loyal and responsible Americans, however, is to turn it on its head.

William Ayers is no more of a legitimate issue in this election than Joe the Plumber.



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