All things considered, would you do it again the same way with the Weather Underground?
I feel like I’ve lived a very blessed life. Having three amazing kids and three amazing grandchildren, being a teacher for 40 years, it is all terrific stuff. And opposing the war in Vietnam with every fiber of my being? I couldn’t be happier or prouder of that. In terms of opposition to the war, I have no regrets. People want me to say I really regret being in extreme opposition of the war, and I don’t regret that. I’m happy for every cringing politician, every restrained bombing mission, and every piece of destroyed military property. I think it’s all worthwhile. Am I sorry about things we did in those days? Absolutely. I’m sorry we were stupid. I’m sorry we were young. I’m sorry we were naïve. I’m sorry we were sectarian and dogmatic. I’m not sorry about using every ounce of my energy in bringing that war to an end…
But were you excited when Obama was elected president in 2008?
Politics has very little to do with ideals. All through the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama said, “I’m a pragmatic, middle-of-the-road, pragmatic, compromising politician.” The right looked at him and said, “No! He’s a secret Muslim, secret socialist who pals around with terrorists and has a soft spot for Palestine,” while the left looked at him and said, “I think he’s winking at me.” Why did they think he was winking at them? He was saying the truth. And the other thing he said that was very telling in 2008 was he was asked by Stephanopoulos, “Who would Martin Luther King Jr. support?” And Obama’s response was, “He wouldn’t support any of us. He’d be in the streets building a movement for justice.” That strikes me as something only a community organizer would say, and it strikes me as absolutely true. Why should everyday people spend our time looking worshipfully at the sites of power we have no access to: the White House, the Pentagon, Wall Street, and Congress? We spend too little time looking at the power we do have access to: the community, the classroom, the streets, the farm, and the workplace—and that’s where we ought to spend our energy. Voting for someone in the two great war-making, capitalist parties? Why would they do what you think they ought to do? So to say Obama’s smarter, more compassionate, a more decent human being, that’s all true. But it has nothing to do with policy.