Marita Vargas
The not so mysterious case of the commie ghost writer
By Marita Vargas
October 9, 2009

If William Ayers' admission that he wrote Dreams From My Father means anything, it means that we have to admit that God does not dole out talent based on wealth, education, parentage or political ambition. Writing is a metaphysical business, and any writer hoping to set his course for true North, had better be careful about taking on too much iron — or he'll never get where he's going. What qualifies as iron? Ego. A will to deceive. Faulty assumptions. Hidden fears. A lack of sensitivity to the spirit. A venal itch.

Where does the "will to create a little god" out of an as yet unknown community activist fall on this list? It very likely encompasses every item. Perhaps exercising Svengali-like powers appealed to Mr. Ayers — and to use words, writing, the craft to do so — what writer of a certain type could resist? It might even be a good joke on the American people.

Yet I don't know why Mr. Ayers helped Barak Obama establish himself as a literary star. It is assumed that the two shared the same political goals and wanted to see the United States remade along lines that Saul Alinsky would have applauded. Besides, the domestic terrorist and the future pol were friends.

No one knew in 1995 how far Mr. Obama's star would rise. And yet, one wishes that the whole affaire offered more mystery, more literary intrigue. Instead the case of Mr. Obama and the commie ghost writer seems sadly predictable. A politician has written his way to power with the help of an invisible pen. And a compliant press. And a fawning gaggle of critics. And a public that hasn't asked the right questions. So, what else it new?

If it means anything, it means that the American people have put up with the packaging of the president for far too long — without even reading the label. If we wanted a true revolution in this country, the kind that would return us to founding principles, all we would have to do is require our politicians to write their own speeches. That would put fear in their hearts. Then we would discover how little they really have to say.

But it was not always so. Our founding fathers could write. Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Franklin, Paine, Jay, and Washington all knew how to handle a pen — irrespective of their individual backgrounds and educations. The "shot heard 'round the world" was first the "word heard 'round the world." Humankind awaited the events unfolding across the seas with baited breath. Could the Americans establish a land of freedom? As Providence would have it, we could. And the world came to our shores.

The first arrivals, new heirs to the American tradition, were happy to study the words of those who had established this country. Washington's Inaugural and Farewell Addresses were classic texts. Our first Commander-in-Chief delivered an address to his troops that is a model of what it takes to inspire men to confront tyranny. "Let us, then, rely on the goodness of our cause, and the aid of the Supreme Being, in whose hands victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble actions," he said. The full speech could be read profitably from the floor of the House or Senate today — if our legislators had any guts.

Lincoln joined the ranks of the immortal with the two-hundred and seventy words of his Gettysburg Address. Not so long ago school children were required to commit his speech to memory. Every other phrase has become part of the American vernacular, but every other exhortation has perhaps not become part of the American character. Whether "we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of they people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth" is still left to be seen.

Not since Martin Luther King, Jr. have we had anyone whose inspiring and rich thoughts were fortified by biblical and literary allusions, served up with style and rhetorical flourish and delivered with a full command of cadence and intonation. We have accepted poor standards on the oration front, and we have been rewarded with the marketing of the presidency. Mr. Obama is not the first occupant of the Oval Office to have gotten there through chicanery, but he should be the last.

And what of William Ayers? Why has he come forward to tell the world of his authorship of Dreams? There is perhaps some mystery in his story after all. Only the creator of a true icon, such as a writer of religious verse like that of England after the Roman period, could give expression to something that has become popularly known and loved without wanting to be known himself. But then the anonymous writers of religious verse were hoping to create icons of the real that would point to the True. Mr. Ayers, in the end, is not an icon maker, but an iconoclast, and the little god he helped to make has left him as empty as any idol. Americans must make sure that his name translates as "yesterday" in our national book, the future pages of which still remain to be written. The only question is: Who will do the writing?

© Marita Vargas


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Marita Vargas

Marita Vargas believes in freedom of speech and in civil discourse. Because for decades the American people have been silenced, intimidated, and poorly informed, they are in danger of losing their freedoms for the simple reason that they rarely discuss the underlying reasons for the current state of affairs. She can be reached at


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