Bill Ayers On Radical Parenting

Bill Ayers. Photo: Supercomputer12 (CC)

Bill Ayers. Photo: Supercomputer12 (CC)

Pirate Papa interviews Bill Ayers, Professor at the University of Illinois and former member of the infamous Weather Underground:

PP: As a father, what were your personal reasons for having kids and how did this decision alter or reinforce your political ideals?

BA: Reason isn’t the exact register. Passion, desire, ecstasy, exuberance, awe…But raising these children was the best thing we’ve ever done, the least conflicted and the purest, the most astonishing and energizing, surprising and humanizing (followed by the experience of caring for our elderly and finally dying parents in our home for many years after our kids had left home).

PP: What were those last few years like living underground with kids? What were some of the ways this affected your family? I would imagine you had strict guidelines that all parties had to live by, structured fictions to deliver under certain circumstances? What else? What was your support community like? What resources were available to you? Did you both have good, steady jobs and sources of income or were you relying on the help of friends and family?

BA: No, none of that. We were quite poor really, sketchy incomes, work in the shadow economy mostly. But we had lots of friends and family, many of whom knew our former identities, some who didn’t. We were who we were, living in the margins but with our values and commitments intact, avoiding political demonstrations, of course, but open about everything but a few delicate details. And being focused on the lives of your children does not require money or equipment or stuff. We hung out in parks and museums and felt we owned them. The only investment the kids want is emotional, thoughtful attention, and money can actually obfuscate that…