The one-time Weather Underground fugitive talks about his life as a political bogeyman.
While Ayers (Teaching Toward Freedom: Moral Commitment and Ethical Action in the Classroom, 2004, etc.) may be just as radical in his politics as ever, in temperament, the years, fatherhood and a distinguished career as a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago seem to have mellowed him—a bit. “I’m genetically wired to speak up and speak out, and not always with considered judgment,” he admits. However, it’s not his outspokenness against militarism, racism, imperialism and other isms associated with the status quo that has drawn Ayers often unwittingly (not to say, unwillingly) into the national political spotlight. Oftentimes, fate has played a hand—on September 11, 2001, for example, when the New York Times by chance ran an article on Ayers’ then newly published memoirs of his radical past Fugitive Days under the title “No Regrets for a Love of Explosives.” The appearance of the article the morning the Twin Towers fell saddled Ayers in the minds of an influential portion of the media (both liberal and conservative) with the epithet “unrepentant terrorist” and made him too hot to handle for many bookstores, education conferences and college campuses. During his first presidential campaign, Barack Obama’s proximity to Ayers as a neighbor and occasional colleague was brutally, albeit ineffectively, cited by both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin as evidence of the future president’s own alleged dangerous radicalism. Despite his notoriety earning him death threats, canceled invitations and the indignity of being denied the honorific “emeritus” by his university upon his retirement, the author is surprisingly bemused, and often charmingly amusing, about his predicament. His writing is thoughtful, penetratingly insightful and marvelously lacking in self-pity.
No matter how they feel about his politics, readers of this memoir should find the author’s humanity irresistible.