Palin, you have no idea what the 1960s were like so shut up about Bill Ayers.

I wasn’t a radical like Bill Ayers, but I knew young men and women very much like him. While I disagreed with violent protests, what we’d be justified in calling domestic terrorism today, I understood their motivations very well. I was a student at Michigan State, one of the primary campuses where the anti-war movement took shape (link)*. I was an anti-war protester and leader of my graduate department’s student anti-war group. I knew several members of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and very possibly a Weatherman or Black Panther, at least to say hello to. Did that make me a pal of terrorists? Hardly.

There’s no proof Barack Obama and Bill Ayers are or were anything but associates in one or two endeavors, and neighbors.

Palin, and subsequently Republican pontificaters, are making a big point about the New York Times article “Obama and ’60s Bomber: A Look Into Crossed Paths”, studiously ignoring the last two words of the headline and the text which explains that their association was minimal.

But that begs the issues. So what if they were now really close buddies? Ayers by any accounts is as patriotic an American today as any of us, McCain and Palin included.

To understand the fear and fervor that led to people like William Ayers to engage in violent anti-war protests you’d either have to have been there or be a pretty damn good historian of the era.

McCain wasn’t there. He was being the good soldier, aviator in his case, following the family tradition, no doubt believing in the rightness of the cause. Of course he missed the anti-war movement entirely having been a POW.

Palin, had she been old enough, would probably have been one of the “America, Love it or Leave It” types who believed in the mantra “our country right or wrong” pro-war zealots.

But in those days we were zealots on both sides.

Few people had no opinion.

I remember one pro-war man got so enraged at anti-war protesters that he drove his car through a march of some 20,000 men, women and children as it made its way from the university to the state capitol building. He injured several people.58,260 names are carved in polished black granite on the Vietnam Memorial Wall thanks to American politicians, and there would likely have been more if there was no public hue and cry to get the hell out.

I once got out of a movie and smelled tear gas wafting in the wind. I looked up the street and saw crowds of police and students, I saw rocks hurled and windows of stores being broken.

On another occasion I watched a group of students come into the student union with their heads all bloody. They been at a small protest where the police had beaten them with billy clubs because they wouldn’t disperse.

Undercover FBI and police agents not only infiltrated student groups but tried to incite groups wanting to protest peacefully into committing violent acts. Peaceful demonstrators were always being photographed from rooftops, we now know, by members of what was called the Michigan State Police Red Squad.

This was a time of us against them and the “them” was the United State government. The “them” was drafting us and sending us to kill, die or be maimed in a useless war.

As students we studied this, and in many cases we knew more than the general public who were being fed propaganda.

I managed to stay out of the military as did most of my student friends, but we watched others not lucky enough to get low lottery numbers or deferments ship out, some never to return, and others to come back as broken human beings.

In my own career as the director of a mental health center a decade later I started one of the first PTSD treatment programs for Vietnam veterans which wasn’t part of the Veteran’s Administration. (Eventually I contracted with the VA to pay for a therapist. * see below)

The next worst thing to being there or having lost a loved one in the war was having a vet with PTSD who you were close to. My staff and I got to know many veterans very well. They brought the war home in the form of severe PTSD and their struggles and suffering profoundly effected us.

Our evening therapy groups never ended on time and usually spilled out into the parking lot where members stayed on to talk after I had to lock up and go home myself. The police never minded since some of our members were police officers themselves.

Our program helped a lot of vets but we also had a suicide, a spouse’s suicide, a suicide homicide, and a death from agent orange caused cancer. And that was the worst. I got to know many vets who despite the best therapy possible would live with indelible scars, memories not only of the typical horrors of war but of things they did that they could never forgive themselves for.

So, Sarah Palin, just shut up about Bill Ayers. You don’t know anything.


* Michigan State anti-war protests

The book “Campus Wars: The Peace Movement at American State Universities in the Vietnam Era.” chronicles the anti-war protest movement at Michigan State University and several other state universities. Almost all the Michigan State professors and students described in this book review I knew or knew of.

Michigan State University gained notoriety with a 1966 Ramparts Magazine article. It was a cover story with a drawing of Vietnamese first lady Madame Nhu as a MSU cheerleader, “The University on the Make”. This article is “a specific, if shocking, documentation of the degree of corruption and abject immorality attending a university which puts its academic respectability on lend-lease to American foreign policy.” The article exposed the cooperation between MSU and the CIA that occurred during the 1960’s.

**My experience with Vietnam vets a decade after the war.

Picture: Nov. 4, 1982 Ingham County News, articles about Mason Mental Health’s Vietnam vets program.


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Comments

  1. Kibitzer

    War wounds, opened up again….sad, bad, tragic stuff.

    What Gov. Palin doesn’t understand is that the can of worms that she has opened up leads ineluctably to some of her own current supporters, in the war industry (aka the military-industrial complex), who would love there to be more of the same under a Repub administration. (Think Halliburton; KBR; etc etc ad nauseam.)

    Not that the Demos don’t have their own skeletons rattling away, needing to be put to rest, aka closure; after all, it was LBJ who led the opening up of the Vietnam War to its full potential, of a nice, ongoing money spinner. Never mind the grunts. They’re just cannon fodder. What is REALLY important is propping up the capitalist system with wars and competition and such. Gov. Palin should read Antony Sutton sometime, to get a handle on what the Vietnam War was really all about, and find out about all the American corporations that were making fortunes selling materiel to the Soviet Union that was then used against their own people in the war.

    Did I say “their own people”? Sorry. Since they don’t have a sense of being true Americans – the word globalists comes to mind; Have Business, Will Travel – that attitude really wouldn’t have intruded into the equation. And it was that awareness, however inchoate at the time, that the Vietnam anti-war activists were trying to bring to the public’s attention. And that exercise in conscioussness-raising continues into our time.

    Do your homework, Gov. Palin, before casting stones. As it were.

  2. sherry

    Ayers was prosecuted. He got off due to prosecutorial misconduct. He was illegally wiretapped and the damning evidence against him was thrown out. Therefore, no case.

  3. Flapsaddle

    Strange how perspectives differ, isn’t it?

    Following my return from an extended time across the water – where I could attest to the effects of small-arms fire, grenades, heavy MG rounds, shrapnel, Claymores, flechettes, etc. – I got back to graduate school and had to deal with campus protests from clueless people who had no concept of the real meaning of the term “in harm’s way” involved. For me they were a nuisance rather than an example of any moral clarion; I ignored them up to the point where they got in my face.

    In two instances, I was forced to personally perform an attitude adjustment on protesters who thought their freedom to demonstrate included the freedom to trash my research work and to bar my access to lab and classroom facilities. After each such incident, I found that their desire to act as vehicles of protest was considerably diminished.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  4. sherry

    Hal, are you suggesting she campaign in a Janet Reno costume, to kinda lose her edge? 🙂
    They poked fun of Hillary’s pantsuits. Made comments about the Clinton’s “ugly” daughter.
    Regardless of what happens with Obama’s career, he daughters are adorable.
    I wonder if dems are unahppy because well, no one would accuse Michelle of being beautiful. She is not unattractive, but she doesn’t look like the homecoming queen. Is that what all this is about?
    If you don’t agree with Palin, it’s all good. Let’s just stop talking about her looks.

  5. JerryG

    Palling around??? Palling around would be flying in a friend’s plane to vacation at his house in the Bahamas. Palling around would be, oh say, being an investor in a buddies construction venture. Palling around would be graciously attending the $1000 a plate dinner your buddy is hosting for you to be re-elected.

    Oops! I must be confusing the John McCain and Charles Keating relationship with an imaginary one conjoured up by the grasping-at-straws-GOP’ers!

  6. griff

    Those same “revolutionaries” have seen fit to not only make peace with the Establishment, but over the last forty years has insisted we do so as well.

  7. bryan mcclellan

    True children of the 60’s lived in fear that the letter would come welcoming them to join a blood bath.
    I protested the war until I found myself in the middle of the RVN, in the 11th Cavalry.
    I came home to vile insult and spitting of curses such as baby killer, mercenary.( I later was turned away from the good paying jobs because I had the stigma of Viet Nam on my resume).
    The Army in it’s screwed logic then trained me in the tactics of crowd control in D.C.
    I had to stand with bayoneted weapon in a line of green troops attempting to quell protesters.
    I’d have turned my weapon upon myself before harming those who were in reality working for myself and my fellow service members benefit.

    The war dogs then and now can kiss my ass and I’ll buy a beer for any who joined in the effort to stop the madness that comes from the M.I.C.

    The wars today are secreted for the fact that 60’s coverage would incite the people once again.

    So if you were born after 1960, all you little Sarahs out there, shut the hell up, for you know nothing of the sacrifice and effort it took to stop the bloodiest and greatest military debacle in our history

  8. Hal Brown

    I don’t think it is strange at all how perspectives about Vietnam differ.

    Your war experience comes from being there. I don’t know how it is you came to go to Vietnam. I do know about the tragic part of the homecoming because I saw how some people blamed the vets themselves for the war they were against. But by far most people I knew welcomed the vets back with open arms.

    The returning vets I knew and knew about at the time fell into three groups:

    * those still pro-war, some who took an active stance against the anti-war protesters,

    * those who just wanted to get on with their lives, not be reminded of what they experienced, and ignored the protests,

    * and those who were anti-war and joined or sympathized with groups like Vietnam Vets Against the War. When we had teach-ins we always had some speakers who were Vietnam vets.

    My most meaningful experience came from hearing about the war from combat veterans like yourself, a few when they returned, but mostly ten years later. The vets I got to know then were bearing deep emotional scars. Once they got to trust me and my co-therapists they related their experiences in vivid detail often with tears and sometimes were close to having flashbacks.

    The therapy groups, some with 20 or more members, were so powerful I remember them in great detail. Nobody got away with lying or embellishing because if they did others called them on it.

    Even this late because of confidentiality rules I can’t tell about the experiences that were related in therapy except to say I would still be having nightmares if I experienced what some of our group member did.

    Remember I wasn’t a casual listener. I was a therapist who listened in a way that those who haven’t been in therapy with an effective therapist may not fully understand.

    It is hard for me to write about being an empathic therapist, one who listens with their heart as well as their head, one who doesn’t treat clients like names in a schedule book filling a given hour, without sounding immodest. So judge me as you will.

  9. Hal Brown

    Thanks for sharing Bryan,

    Read what I wrote to Flapsdaddle above.

    The homecoming, the baby killer shouts and all, were despicable. I know that had I been there I would have been one incident away from taking my rage out on a civilian. I knew vets who did just that. And I know about how the VC were not above hiding a grenade in an infant’s clothing.

    Not reported is what is really happening in Iraq where are troops are also engaged in a war where inconveniently the enemy hides among civilians and doesn’t wear uniforms.

  10. Flapsaddle

    Not unexpectedly, perceptions seem to be most influenced by our source(s) of information. My own observation is that few people other than those who were there or someone like yourself who played/plays a role in the recovery of some of the affected can really understand it – yet still have considerably different perceptions of it. That’s probably true of all wars ever fought.

    A common fallacy I find is that too many people believe that Vietnam was the fire of Moloch that swallowed up a generation of youth like World War I did. If you look at the numbers, only a third of all draft-age males were even inducted during the Vietnam era, and only a third of them went to Vietnam.

    Another misconception is that the major portion of those who went to Vietnam committed unspeakable atrocities and returned as a drug- or alcohol-dependent derelict unable to cope with life after war. Yes, there were atrocities – war itself is an unspeakable atrocity, and we as a species are all too fond of it – and there were drug and drinking problems. But I’d bet that in reality they were not worse than those found during and after the world wars or Korea were we to have applied the same psychological evaluation tools available after Vietnam.

    Another misconception I find common is that every soldier who went there ultimately became anti-war in general and anti-Vietnam war in particular. That, as you have said above, is not the case. What the war taught me is that few if any wars are ever really justified. There is nothing noble or heroic about them, and they can never rise above being grim necessities of last resort. My own feeling is that Vietnam was a crusade gone awry – an attempt to defeat the demonstrable evils of a totalitarian system by intervening in a civil war where the putative good guys were themselves were representatives of a repressive colonial regime.

    What was interesting to me was that I was perceived by my contemporaries on campus as an anomaly – a vet with no ax to grind, no anti-war attitudes, no drug/alcohol problems, with a family and stability – as I did not fit the pattern they had been told was the sine qua non of the war. It was actually disconcerting and made some of them angry because it challenged their cherished prejudices and preconceptions.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  11. colocritic

    This post isn’t really about your subject matter but does concern the health care all of us seniors or soon to be seniors that read this website should be interested in. This article should be reprinted on the first page of all national newspapers. It’s on the Huffington Post web page this morning.

    McCAIN PLANS TO CUT MEDICARE AND MEDICAID

    John McCain would pay for his health plan with major reductions to Medicare and Medicaid, a top aide said, in a move that independent analysts estimate could result in cuts of $1.3 trillion over 10 years to the government programs.

    The Republican presidential nominee has said little about the proposed cuts, but they are needed to keep his health-care plan “budget neutral,” as he has promised. The McCain campaign hasn’t given a specific figure for the cuts, but didn’t dispute the analysts’ estimate.

    Here is the link:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/06/mccain-plans-to-cut-medic_n_132169.html

  12. ECT.

    ECT. of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario Canada

    A sincere thank you Hal for a well written and true article.

    I remember the 60’s campus anti-war movement. And I recall the many young American anti-war men who came to Canada seeking refuge from that horrendous war.

    The majority of Canadians did not call these young men deserters. The citizens in many communities welcomed them and helped them get established with homes, jobs etc.

    Many Canadian citizens fought the USA Government when they tried to have these young men arrested and shipped back to the USA to stand trial…for not answering the draft.

    In regards to McCain / Palin if American citizens choose to foolishly elect these two misfits…two war mongrels. I will fight my Canadian Government to the best of my ability to not become involved with another of your USA wars.

    Your President Bush and his cronies invaded another Country…Iraq. And look what it has cost the fine good USA citizens. Not only in the lives of far to many young bright men and women. But the returning Veterans are also hurting…from lack of full Government support. The cost of the Iraq War is also horrendous money wise. Money that could well have been used in positive areas such as Education and Health for all USA citizens. But most of all the USA of America has lost it’s beautiful image, and the power it once had. To become the laughing stock of the world is not easy to take…and your citizens get angry. But face facts…USA citizens voted Bush in…and then voted him in for another four years.

    McCain / Palin are Bush’s followers, which Country will they invade?

  13. bryan mcclellan

    Thank you ECT, well said, and I wish we could hear more from citizens of other nations at CHB, although the disgust and at the same time the laughter would no doubt be deafening.
    P.S. how’s the Walleye fishing.

  14. Helen Rainier

    I remember those years very well. I had graduated from high school in 1968 and the war in Vietnam had been going on for a few years already. In fact, I have a cousin who was, at the time, a US Navy pilot who was shot down over Hanoi before McCain was. I wore a POW bracelet with his name on it. After I graduated, I spent a year at college and then moved to Madison, WI, which, Hal, I’m sure you’ll recall was also a hotbed of student protest activity. Am sure you heard of Paul Soglin. I was living in Madison when the US Math Research building was bombed by the Armstrong brothers and one other young student. I remember being able to smell tear gas at my apartment which was a good ten blocks away from the main UW Campus area.

    One night, I went with a staff photographer for one of the Madison daily newspapers as he was shooting photos of a demonstration on the Capitol Square. I became immersed in the “hippie culture” and evolved to the point where I believed then, as now, that war is not an answer but that peace is the more desirable way to live.

    In fact, it was during those years that I came to the conclusion that the world was too screwed up to bring children into it. I vowed I would never have children because the world was too damned crazy and insane.

    I remember the murders of Kent State and the images of the Ohio National Guard in full combat gear patrolling the Kent State campus and the deaths of students.

    This period of time also reinforced my disgust for all things organized — particularly politics and religion. To do this day, I am now a practicing organized religionist (I consider myself a secular humanist) and I have never been a registered member of either political party.

    I am still anti-government but believe that the people of a country are an entity separate of their government. The years have only proven that politicians do not care about the good of the people or the tolerance of those whose lives, politics, and cultures are different from ours.

  15. Helen Rainier

    This sentence should read: I was living in Madison when the UW (not US) Math Research building was bombed by the Armstrong brothers and one other young student.

    This sentence should read: To do this day, I am NOT (not now) a practicing organized religionist (I consider myself a secular humanist) and I have never been a registered member of either political party.

    Sorry about the typos.

  16. pollchecker

    Hal, did you see Olbermann’s rant last night about Sarah Palin’s “terrorist” remarks? He hasn’t had a rant like that in a long time and he nailed it. You can watch it at the link below if you missed it.

    Olbermann “Special Comment” On Sarah Palin (VIDEO)

    Also, the AP story about McCain being on the board of a domestic terrorism organization himself is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Think Progress reports this today:

    McCain Voted To Protect Domestic Terrorists Who Carry Out Violence At Abortion Clinics»

    On multiple occasions throughout his career, McCain sought to limit the government’s ability to punish violent anti-choice fanatics by:

    – Voting against making anti-choice violence a federal crime. As the Jed Report notes, McCain voted in 1993 and 1994 against making “bombings, arson and blockades at abortion clinics, and shootings and threats of violence against doctors and nurses who perform abortions” federal crimes.

    – Opposing Colorado’s “Bubble Law.” McCain said he opposed Colorado’s “Bubble Law,” which prohibited abortion protesters from getting within 8 feet of women entering clinics [Denver Post, 2/27/00]. The law was later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    – Voting to allow those fined for violence at clinics to avoid penalties by declaring bankruptcy. NARAL Pro-Chioce America notes that McCain “voted to allow perpetrators of violence or harassment at reproductive-health clinics to avoid paying the fines assessed against them for their illegal acts by declaring bankruptcy.”

    Of course this should be no real surprise considering he selected Palin, who believes that a child who ends up pregnant from incest should carry the child and give birth to her relatives baby. Perhaps McCain’s views on abortion are more extreme than he paints himself and if he gets control of the Supreme Court that could be very dangerous.

  17. Hal Brown

    Preaching to the choir, the pro-Obama choir, is what Olbermann does, so he doesn’t sway any undecided voters. The 11 minute segment you linked to was spot on as far as I’m concerned, but all but a few people who comment regularly here (probably 5% of the total) would probably agree with me.

    Neither Olbermann, you or me will change the minds of the anti-Obama posters.

  18. sherry

    Olbermann has gone from thoughtful commentary to just angry. He lost any respect I may have had for him as a journalist when he went for Obama so obviously in the primaries.
    The network has more than earned the derisive moniker, “BSNBC”
    Any reference to the network evokes the eyeroll, as if you would watch that trash?
    And Hal, you are correct, I would NEVER vote for Obama, but it looks as though he will win.
    My dear it promises to be a loooooooong 4 years.

  19. Hal Brown

    This column will probably be moved to the archives after, hopefully, I have something somewhat original to write after the McCain – Obama town hall encounter (hardly a debate but we’ll see).

    So I want at least one more chance to address the possibility of a President Palin should McCain win and become infirm or die.

    I watched he most recent speech to a rally in Florida.

    I though of the many times we all watch President Bush address the nation in speeches and press conferences, and saw him sitting with world leaders.

    I cringed at his mangling the language and his deer in the headlights looks as many of you also did.

    Now I am forced to envision a President Sarah Palin in the same role.

    I can see wistfully remembering George W. Bush and seeing him as a statesman in comparison.

    I have to believe that the some 41% who think she is qualified to be president aren’t really brain dead, but truthfully it is a stretch for me to do so.

  20. bryan mcclellan

    They are all hoping for a chance to peek up her skirt Hal, McCain said it himself, this campaign will not be about the issues, but about hormones and dirt.

    They are less than brain dead as they would chose to surely imperil our country further to elect the cheesecake/mad bomber.

    Sexistracistfascist, it’s the new poetry of the Neoconists.

  21. sherry

    Bryan, those voting for McCain are not really for McCain, they are opposing the disaster that is Obama.
    If elected, hopefully McCain will remain a healthy man.
    If not, Sarah may decide she really, really misses Alaska.

  22. jgw

    This Ayers thing has me confused. This guy is supposed to be a serious terrorist yet he was, evidently, never prosecuted, nor has he ever been convicted of anything. He did, evidently, found an organization and then, evidently, removed himself when things got strange. Perhaps this is similar to the more recent situation wherein a co-founder of Greenpeace left that organization due to its slide into utter extremism. In any case it would seem that if Ayers has been found, by the political establishment AND law enforcement, as being guilty of nothing then why the problem? Even if Obama was his very best pal it was way after the supposed bad stuff which, in fact, has evidently been not all that bad afterall?

    As has been pointed out these were very strange times. I can remember, for instance, unions marching to keep the war going and the soldiers (their own children) in VietNam dying, rather than home competing for their jobs (ie, they were willing to sacrifice their own for their jobs). one might consider just how strange it was is when you realize that many of the anti-Vietnam ‘love’ generation (hippies, liberals, commies, terrorists, et.al.) have morphed into serious drug warriors and greedy, world class, self absorbed narcissists.

    jgw
    Port Angeles, WA

  23. Hal Brown

    Perhaps we’ll see just what the political shelf of this already stale Ayers story is tonight. I hope Obama sends it to the dumpster where it should have been thrown a long time ago.

    Anyone thinking of a future political career has to take seriously the new version of the saying “don’t do or say anything you don’t want to read about on the front page of the New York Times” even years later.

    Now substitute for the Times media like Drudge, Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Free Republic, The National Enquirer, and watch what you say over drinks with someone who could become the next Doug Thompson.

    In a way it’s too bad, because the would be politician may have to avoid talking to their perfectly friendly next door neighbor because of something that might be considered unsavory in their past. Hell, they might have to consider moving.

  24. Ladywolf55

    Olbermann isn’t the only one in America who’s just plain damn angry. And he has a right to be, given the outrageous behavior both the White House and Congress have pulled the past several years.

    If you think the next four years are going to be long, it can’t hold a candle to how interminable the last 8 years have been with the Bushista Crime Family in charge for those of us who don’t worship at their feet.