At last night's Clinton-Obama debate hosted by ABC News, former Clinton White House official George Stephanopoulous asked Barack Obama about his acquaintance with William Ayers, a former leader of the Weather Underground. The Weather Underground was a short-lived splinter group of the Revolutionary Youth Movement faction of the Students for Democratic Society. RYM split from SDS at the organization's national convention in 1969 in Chicago, where the Worker-Student Alliance Caucus led by the Maoist Progressive Labor Party captured control of the organization. The following fall, a minority of the RYM leaders staged a riot under the name "Days of Rage," in which one person was killed and 600 vehicles were damaged. The leaders of Days of Rage failed to appear in court and went "underground." They took the name the Weather Underground; the original RYM manifesto had used Bob Dylan's verse from Subterranean Homesick Blues ("You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows") as an epigraph.
I know all this because as a 19 year old member of the Yale SDS chapter I attended the 1969 SDS conference. Subsequently my telephones were tapped by the New Haven police and I was overheard on an FBI National Security wiretap of the Black Panther Party office in New Haven. Thanks to a later lawsuit, I now have documentary records of my activities at that time (even transcripts of phone calls) and won a small amount in a lawsuit for illegal wiretapping. I was with the SDS Worker-Student Alliance Caucus for a couple years after that, until I decided it was better to have friends than to build a base for the revolution.
Apparently RYM could have used a better meteorologist, because prevailing winds were heavily blowin' in the direction of white backlash. Only five years before the Days of Rage white racist terrorists captured and murdered three activists working to promote democracy in Philadelphia, Mississippi, buried their bodies in a dam, and were acquitted by an all-white jury. I remember that too. Goodman, Schwerner, and Cheney came from different places, but they ended up together.
Which gets me thinking -- I wonder if any U.S. presidential candidates or members of the Senate have ever had any acquaintance with, or socialized with, any white racists, former members of the Ku Klux Klan or the White Citizens Council or any of the other groups that supported anti-democratic racist terrorism in the United States when I was a teenager? Why don't the media check that out? Maybe they'll understand why some people were enraged -- and not only Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Maybe Barack Obama was only eight years old in 1969 -- but I was a little older.
(Cross-posted at DailyKos.)