Bill Ayers spoke at the University of Oregon last week on the subject of teaching and organizing for “social justice.” His speech was not free of the radical sentiments he is well-known for espousing (especially in the company of America’s youth). Case in point: he spoke of the end of America, a new world, and what our role ought to be in all of it.
Almost as interesting as Ayers’ speech itself, perhaps, was how the leftist radical was introduced by the university students. One girl, who described herself as a doctoral student at the university, spoke of the privilege they would have with their honored guest, in an “evening [of] radical imagination.”
Two others, an associate professor at the university and a graduate student, remarked: “Most of us have in one way or another acknowledged the sovereign authority of the U.S. government— or the state of Oregon– in order to be here tonight, either admission to the university, applying for a job, or just paying the parking meter. We have not, however, asked permission of the [Native Americans] whose ancestral home this is, and to fail to acknowledge that this remains disputed territory would in effect be taking sides, [and] reinforce the erasure of indigenous history and indigenous peoples.”
When Ayers spoke, it was largely of how the “American Empire” is over, and what this means for her citizens (though there was a fair amount of “the wasteful American” theme throughout as well):
The great challenge for our generation [is] to find a way not just to live differently as individuals, but to find a way to think differently about what work means, to think differently about citizenship means, to think differently about what it means to be a ‘citizen of the world.’ One of the great dangers that we live in right now, is I don’t think there’s any question, and I don’t think any of you would question, that the American Empire is in decline–that economically, and politically, and in some ways culturally, that we are in decline. And yet, the United States remains the most powerful, weaponized military system the Earth has ever known.
That’s a treacherous combination. A declining economic power, and an expanding military power. And we are going to have to find ways to re-imagine what it means to live in this coun–in this world. And here we are 4% of the world’s population, 4.5% of the world’s population, consuming vast amounts of natural resources, consuming vast amounts of finished goods, and no politician will say that the empire is declining and that the game is over.
It’s over. Now what? [Emphasis added]
Perhaps we will transform into a Euro-style state, though that was not a peaceful transition for Europeans, Ayers noted:
And you know, my optimistic friends say: “Oh boy, we’re going to look like Germany, or England, or France,” and I think “Jeese.” I mean, first of all, for England and France and Germany to become non-empires it took the deaths of millions and millions of people, so let’s remember that.
On a less chilling, and far more familiar note, Ayers called Republicans racist militants:
But let’s also remember that as power shifts, and as people feel something changing, they can either embrace it as a possible good thing in the world, or they can hold on to and become more, you know, reactionary. More racist, more militaristic, and that’s happening too. So it shouldn’t surprise us to see the Republican primaries.
I don’t know about you but I watch the debates as if watching a train wreck, I mean I was just fascinated with it– my wife is just sickened by it– but, I thought it was interesting and also telling that that is a tendency that we’re going to see more and more of.
But how does the leftist radical see the world from here? With all of the protests and the great changes throughout the world, what does Bill Ayers see for our future?
And that means, for me that means, that it’s our responsibility to fight here and now for a little more democracy, a little more participation, a little more peace, and keep putting our shoulder on that wheel because the opposition is fighting for– you know, another world is definitely coming, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a better world, and it’s our responsibility to jump in. [Emphasis added]
(H/T: Hot Air)