Much discussion today has been whether or not Obama should have been willing to sit on a board with Ayers. I can’t see why people should have to justify that kind of connection. But much discussion begs the bigger question, shifts grounds. A wife who sets up panels on which these friends can pontificate, a candidate who announces in the friend’s living room all imply a weightier connection. And the whole board thing seems a less innocuous when it gives charitable money to those who fund a board member’s election bid. And then there is money for Rashid Khalidi, but of course he needs a larger megaphone and Obama recognizes his charitable duty to provide it with other’s funds.
I’d like to point out, though admitting it’s pretty much a distinction without a difference, that Bill Ayers is a professor in an education department and not an English one. Unhappily, this reinforces Lex’s comment to my earlier post – radicals were wise to hi-jack education departments. And perhaps they were most of all wise in making sure that very little understanding of history, political theory, or even literature was rich enough to lead students to the “restlessness” of the educated and aware.
Not that, mind you, my restless students today, taking a long time to find the majesty of Sophocles and the tragedy of Oedipus, didn’t make me long for some Ritalin. (Many were, eventually, moved. I’m no expert on Sophocles or film, but I never tire of Michael Pennington, Claire Bloom, John Gielgud performing the old story. And even my restless students eventually became awed, moved by the inevitability of fate and tragedy.) I would be interested in knowing if others have a version they have enjoyed – those tapes are wearing out. And Obama himself, seem strangely fated – trying to run from the feckless nature of his grandfather, his father and yet denigrating his more dutiful grandmother, leaving his mother out of his narrative. Who is he? Well, he’s half-white, raised by whites. He’s a lot of other things, too. But for all the elegance of the fall of his suits, he doesn’t seem at ease with who he is. The anger from being on-edge leads to tensions; its effect underlies the grievances we heard today.