Last July, I wrote an essay called "A God Among Men" about the Cleveland Thinker, which was substantially damaged by a bomb in 1970. The perpetrators of the crime were never caught, but it was widely suspected that the Weathermen had staged the explosion as part of their elaborate protest campaign. As I researched and wrote my essay, I had never heard of Bill Ayers, a notable member of the Weathermen who has garnered his share of press during these volatile campaign days.
My first drafts of "A God Among Men" included incendiary language about the bombers. But the more I read about the Weathermen (whom I imagined as the bombers per public opinion), the more I wanted to portray how The Thinker himself might view them. I changed the descriptions surrounding the Weathermen to language that I thought Rodin's creation may have used. Here are the pertinent excerpts from the essay:
Then beneath the cloak of a fair spring night came other men who embodied the fears of your doting protectors. You beheld them with your pensive gaze. After all, these were your people as well. But anger and danger and heat coursed through their veins, and they’d come to slay you in defiance of privilege and war, of inequity and power. With hands as human as those that lovingly massaged you with wax, they laid a fierce weapon between your muscled thighs, where all men are vulnerable, even those fashioned from thick metal."A God Among Men" is one of my favorite works in my portfolio. And now after all that has transpired in the past weeks, I am stunned by those excerpts. When I reread them, it's one of those few moments when I feel as though I grasped something that was beyond my power as a writer. It is nearly spiritual.
In the dank, deep darkness, the terrible explosion rang …
Your attackers disappeared into that long-ago night –- anonymous and small, never facing retribution. They are alive, dead, aged. They are mothers, fathers, politicos, artists and thieves: molecules in the sea of humanity.