Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Justice and Injustice

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
 NWI Times photo by Damian Rico; Dr. King and Rosa Parks in background

The NWI Times did an excellent job covering my Gary Chamber talk.  I love the accompanying photo with the photo image of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King in the background.  Also my Gary Centennial button and Gay Pride ribbon are visible on my vest. 
Times correspondent Rob Earnshaw wrote: Indiana University Northwest emeritus professor of history James Lane was the chamber’s guest speaker. He talked about life in 1955 in the United States and Gary.  The historian, who authored “City of the Century: A History of Gary, Indiana,” talked about Vivian Carter, who founded Vivian’s Record Shop on Broadway and later formed a record company that signed bands such as The Spaniels, who formed at Gary Roosevelt High School and were known for their hit "Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite.  Lane said there were many businesses owned by blacks and whites that were on the same city block as Carter’s record store, including a department store, fur store, fruit market, restaurant, shoe repair and the offices of five attorneys, two dentists and three physicians  ‘In 1955, available housing for African-Americans was pretty much restricted to the Central District of Gary, but it had the effect of making possible the success of black entrepreneurs fortunate enough to have the resources to start a business,’ Lane said. ‘The economic landscape has changed drastically since then, and mom-and-pop stores are largely a relic of the past. But there are still many Gary residents with the skills and the wherewithal to turn their dreams into reality, and that’s why the Chamber of Commerce is so vital to give these people a helping hand.’”
Geologist Ken Brock, who started at IUN in 1970, same year I did, and served for a time as Arts and Sciences dean, was the 2014 recipient of the American Birding Association’s Ludlow Griscom Award honoring his contributions to regional ornithology.  Chesterton Tribune reporter Kevin Nievers wrote: “Brock literally wrote the book on the birds of the Indiana Dunes.  It’s called “The Birds of the Indiana Dunes.”  John Cassady told Nieves: “Ken continues to lead a regular Saturday birding group with an enthusiasm that is infectious.  He always has time to help beginning birders get their binoculars lined up on a bird, answer any ID questions or show them the best place to find birds.”
I came upon a word I’d never heard before – meshuga – in a New York Times magazine article entitled “Planet Hillary” about Hillary Clinton’s disparate groups of “bundlers” as the author terms her supporters.  Yiddish derivation, meshuga means crazy.  The cover photo of Hillary’s head as a planet is pretty unflattering.

Jason Cozmanoff received a 12-year sentence for causing the death of Britney Meux and injuring three other Lake County correctional officers two years ago.  He was going more than twice the speed limit and fled the scene after his GMC Yukon struck the victims.  He got four years each for reckless homicide, criminal recklessness, and failure to stop at the scene of an accident.
Articles in the latest issue of Indiana Magazine of History deal with Lambdin Milligan, convicted of treason by a military court during the Civil War and sentenced to be executed, and the Supreme Court decision Ex parte Milligan that freed him.  A majority on the court decided that trying U.S. citizens in military courts is unconstitutional when civilian courts are functioning in that particular area.  Historian Stephen E. Towne makes clear that Milligan was a traitor who urged his followers to use force to free Confederate prisoners and revolt against the government of Abraham Lincoln.  Lawyers representing Milligan included James Buchanan’s Attorney General Jeremiah Black and future President James Garfield.

When I go east for nephew Chad’s wedding, several high school classmates, including Bettie Erhardt and Wayne Wylie, plan to see me at a bar and pizza place called Giuseppe’s.  It’s in Ambler near where we are staying and near where I lived.  I called old neighbor Pam Illingworth Jennings out of the blue, and we talked for 20 minutes.  Her brother Wally and a bunch of us played countless baseball and football games in the Illingworth yard, frequently crashing through the hedge that was her dad’s pride and joy.  On the night before Halloween (Mischief Night) her old man would hide among pine trees ready to intercept would-be mischief-makers.  Rumor was, he’d have a gun with him.   I don’t think that was true, but, still, we stayed clear of him.   When I moved to Michigan for a year, Pam we wrote letters back and forth, my only source of news from “home.”  After she came to the phone, I said, “Hi, it’s Jim Lane, do you remember me?”  She replied, “Why wouldn’t I?”  Good to see she’s still sassy.   I brought up the table on their porch where a bunch of us worked on a seventh grade English project for Mrs. Biles.  She recalled the poker games we played on that table, something I’d forgotten.  She never attends reunions, but I’m working on her to make an appearance at Giuseppe’s and then maybe tour the old neighborhood the next morning with Terry Jenkins and me. 

Anne Balay’s remarkable daughter Emma is off to St. Louis to start working full-time at Tumblr.  I wished her luck, not that she needs it.  Indiana University should be proud of Anne and value her contributions as a scholar and teacher.  She inspired many, many more students than she alienated.  Instead IU administrators apparently want her gone with as little publicity as possible.  University of North Carolina recently posted this blog entry by Anne, along with mention of her forthcoming book “Steel Closets.”  Anne wrote:
You have no choice about where you are born, and limited choice about where you live. Geographic and cultural mobility is predominantly a Western, middle-class concept. All of my narrators remained in the place they were born. Some live in the same house where they grew up, and others go as far as a neighboring town, but migration to urban centers, or to different job prospects, is just not part of their world. Though Northwest Indiana isn’t an easy place to be gay, most people figure out a way to live here anyway, rather than uproot themselves and go somewhere else, or somewhere easier.  In the rest of the country, significant progress has been made around issues of gay rights and legal protections. Steel Closets demonstrates that this progress has resulted in a backlash within the mills; with queers nationally gaining confidence and status, we become a recognizable, and therefore despised, identity in the mill, rather than a harmless, ineffectual anomaly. A similar pattern is going on with gay people globally as well. As the United States becomes (at least superficially) more and more embracing of gay people and practices, other countries institute antigay policies as a way to renounce Western attitudes.        
Queer rights becomes the paradigmatic symbol of the west. In Russia, gay liberation had gained some momentum until Putin linked gay rights with Western values, which then led to the systematic, legal oppression of gays in Russia today. The government is literally going into homes of gay people and taking their children away. And these Russian gays can’t hide, because during the period of comparative freedom, they had come out, and thus now have public personas. There’s no such thing as going back into the closet—once you’re out, that’s that. Their little window of freedom now makes them a target for state-sponsored abuse as the freedom and progress queers experience in the USA is used to punish queers globally.          
Isolation is, then, the defining fact of gay identity in the mills, and in countries as different as India and Russia, both of which have recently instituted homophobic legislation. GLBT people usually don’t grow up in queer families, so we need to figure out who and what we are by finding other people like us—through the media and literature, and at bars and other known gay hangouts. If, like many steelworkers, you cannot risk making these initial contacts for fear of dangerous self-disclosure, you have to figure it out on your own. One narrator reported intense feelings of relief when she finally told one carefully selected coworker, and finally felt the presence of an ally. It makes a huge difference, as anyone who has survived the seventh grade knows.
Queers in the mill are permanently on their own, even when they know there are others out there. As a gay steelworker, if you reach out to a coworker who you think might be gay, you are putting them (and yourself) in immediate danger. This makes the personal isolation caused by closeting harder to bear. There is no shared community of oppression, which is what makes pride and collectivity possible. And globally, the increased freedoms experienced by American queers puts non-American gay people in this position of fear and secrecy. Ironically, some Americans, including most blue-collar workers, never experienced the freedoms that led to this clampdown.

Anne’s book has been nominated to be next year’s selection for the “One Book . . One Campus . . . One Community: reading initiative.  What a great idea.  In a perfect world this would happen.  Here’s what Mike Olszanski said about “Steel Closets”: This compellingly readable and long-overdue study explores the lives of forty Northwest Indiana GLTB steel mill workers. I've read it and it is unbelievably powerful.  As a long time steelworker and past president of USW Local 1010, I believe this unique work deserves attention and needs to be widely read.” 

Thanks to an unbelievable performance by Hyron Edwards, who scored 32 points, East Chicago Central prevailed 58-50, over Lake Central, the top-ranked men’s basketball team in the Region and number six in the entire state.

Jeff Manes, who lives near Kankakee Marsh, wrote: “Just had 16 to 18 woodpeckers at my feeding station. Most I've ever seen at once. They’re difficult to count and impossible to photograph at once. One pileated (ain't he a beaut!), one yellow-shafted flicker, one hairy and the rest downies and red-bellies.” His SALT column today profiled 77 year-old widower Joe Boguszewicz, who grew up in Robertsdale and worked for American Maize, producers of corn syrup and corn starch.  Manes wrote: When I worked at Inland Steel Co., there was a chap of Eastern European descent who was referred to as “Alphabet” because none of us could pronounce his 13-letter last name. Well, with a surname like Boguszewicz, it didn’t take long for guys at American Maize to nickname my interviewee Roby Joe.”

I bowled three games in the 150s (slightly above my 148 average) but the Bumsteads gave us the bum’s rush, winning all three games.  Cressmoor owner Jim Fowble pulled me aside and showed me some amazing photos of when he was in Vietnam.  Unbelievably, he had a tape recorder there and sent tapes back to his family.  He told me he started listening to them for the first time in 40 years.  I talked to IUN’s Rob Seals about digitizing them, so if Jim agrees, we might get copies for the Archives.

No comments:

Post a Comment