People over 50 remember that period very well, and many much younger people view it with envy and fascination. After all, today's youth listen to the Beatles, Stones, Doors, Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead, considering them their own. (We in the '60s rarely listened to the music of the '20s, '30s and '40s.) College students flock to courses on the '60s, viewing that decade as one of turmoil, excitement, and progressive change. The verdict's in: the war was wrong, segregation and all racism was wrong, sexism and homophobia were wrong—and the limited social progress as we've seen since the '60s is largely rooted in the tireless efforts of the activists of that decade. The '60s were good!Like the attempts to smear Barack Obama as a Muslim or an ACORN supporter or a Socialist, the attempts to link him with Ayers presume there would be something wrong with that if it were true - and any attempt to deny the purported connection only reinforces the implied evil of the person or group they're trying to associate him with (as in "No, he's not an Arab, he's a decent family man...").
But McCain doesn't see it that way. Nor does Sarah Palin. She of course is 44 years old, but obviously atypical of her generation. There's no reason you can't be the popular governor of a state of 676,987 while expressing contempt for such '60s fixtures as "community organizers," sexual liberation and the questioning of wars of aggression. Palin, the lipstick-painted pit-bull, has chosen to attack Ayers as a "terrorist" decades after the demise of the Weather Underground, after he's become a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and received a Citizen of the Year award (1997) from the city of Chicago for his work on education reform. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (son of the infamous Mayor Daley who ordered the police attack on antiwar protesters at the Democratic Convention in 1968), who regularly consults Ayers on school issues, says: "He's done a lot of good in this city and nationally." But for Palin, he's a terrorist, present-tense.
What to do? For the next ten days, we have to content ourselves with pointing out the absurdity of the allegations; but after that, we need to work to correct the implicit (an sometimes explicit) slander against ACORN, Arabs, Ayers, and Islam. We also need to expose the creeps behind this stuff for the hypocrites they are. Most of the people who fall for their bullshit really are decent family people, after all. Their only error has been to put their trust in scoundrels who have led them down the garden path.
We may get some help from moderate Republicans and real conservatives, as they attempt to rescue the party of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt from the ruins wrought by "movement" Republicans - but don't count on it. As Shakespeare had it, "we have scotch'd the snake, not killed it." America won't be safe until Coulter, Hannity, BillO, Rush, and their hate-mongering ilk are rejected even by the right. The message to decent people everywhere must be "America is better than that. You are better than that."