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Did Bill Ayers write Obama’s book “Dreams From My Father”? (Part THREE of FIVE)


Who Wrote
“Dreams From
My Father” ?

by Jack Cashill

October 2008



Ayers and Obama have
a good deal in common.

In the way of background,
both grew up in comfortable
white households and have
struggled to find an identity
as righteous black men
ever since.

Just as Obama resisted
“the pure and heady breeze
of privilege
to which he was exposed
as a child,
Ayers too resisted
“white skin privilege”
or at least tried to.

“I also thought I was black,”
says Ayers only half-jokingly.

As proof of his righteousness,
Ayers named his first son
“Malik” after the newly Islamic
Malcolm X and the second
son “Zayd” after Zayd Shakur,
a Black Panther killed in a
shootout that claimed the life
of a New Jersey State Trooper.

Ayers, like Obama, began his
career as a self-described
“community organizer,”
Ayers in inner-city Cleveland,
Obama in inner-city Chicago.

In short,
Ayers was fully capable of
crawling inside Obama’s head
and relating in superior prose
what the Dreams’ author calls
a “rage at the white world
[that] needed no object.”

in Dreams,
it is on the subject of black
rage that Obama writes most

Phrases like
“full of inarticulate resentments,”
“unruly maleness,”
“unadorned insistence on respect”
“withdrawal into a smaller
and smaller coil of rage”
lace the book.

In Fugitive Days,
“rage” rules and in high
style as well.

Ayers tells of how his
“rage got started” and how
it evolved into an
“uncontrollable rage —
fierce frenzy of fire and lava.”

Indeed, the Weathermen’s
inaugural act of mass violence
was the “Days of Rage”
in 1969 Chicago.

As in Chicago,
that rage led Ayers to a
sentiment with which Obama
was altogether familiar,

Ayers writes,
“I felt the warrior
rising up inside of me —
audacity and courage,
righteousness, of course,
and more audacity.”

This is one of several references.

The combination of audacity
and rage has produced two
memoirs that follow oddly
similar rules.
Ayers describes his as
“a memory book,” one that
deliberately blurs facts and
changes identities and makes
no claims at history.

Obama says much the same.
In Dreams,
some characters are composites.
Some appear out
of precise chronology.
Names have been changed.

As a control, allow me to
introduce my own book,
Sucker Punch,
which is no small part
a memoir about race,
specifically in my relationship,
at great remove,
with Muhammad Ali and
the world of boxing.
In the book,
I describe my own unreconstructed
coming of age in racially
charged Newark, New Jersey
as it happened.

I change no names,
create no composite characters,
alter no chronologies.
Most memoirs observe
the same conventions.
Dreams and Fugitive Days,
however, are both suffused
with repeated reference to lies,
lying and what Ayers calls,
in his pitch perfect
post-modern patois,
“our constructed reality.”

“But another part of me knew
that what I was telling them
was a lie,”
writes Obama,
“something I’d constructed
from the scraps of information
I’d picked up from my mother.”

“That whole first year
seemed like one long lie,”
Obama writes of his first
year in college in Los Angeles,
one of at least a dozen references
to lies and lying in “Dreams,”
a figure nearly matched
in “Fugitive Days.”

The reader knows that Ayers —
with some justification —
has much to hide.
He senses that Obama does too,
but he is never quite sure why.
This presumed poetic license
leads to the frequent manipulation
of dates to make a political point.

“I saw a dead body once,
as I said,
when I was ten,
during the Korean War,”
writes Ayers.

This correlation is important
enough that Ayers mentions
it twice.

The only problem is that
Ayers was eight when the
Korean War ended.

Obama tells us that
when he was ten,
he and his family visited
the mainland.

On the trip, back
in their motel room,
they watched the Watergate
Hearings on TV.

The problem,
of course,
is that those hearing started
just before Obama turned twelve.

One could forgive a
single missed date,
but inconsistent dates and
numbers appear frequently
in both books and often reinforce
some moment of lost innocence.

In the same spirit,
both books abound in detail
too closely remembered and
conversations too well recorded.
These moments in both
books occasionally lead to an
awareness of the nation’s
seemingly ineradicable racism.

In 1970,
for instance,
the 9-year-old Obama alleges
to be visiting the American
embassy Indonesia.

While waiting,
he chances upon
“a collection of Life magazines
neatly displayed in clear
plastic binders.”

In one magazine,
he reads a story about a
black man with an
“uneven, ghostly hue,”
who has been rendered grotesque
by a chemical treatment.

“There were thousands
of people like him,”
Obama learned,
“black men and women back
in America who’d undergone
the same treatment in response
to advertisements that promised
happiness as a white person.”

Obama’s attention
to detail is a ruse.

Life never ran such an article.

When challenged,
Obama claimed it was Ebony.
Ebony ran no such article either.
black was beautiful in 1970.



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