Monday, January 12, 2015

Je Suis Ahmed

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire

Millions marched in France, including half a dozen heads of state, on behalf of free speech after two Muslim terrorists stormed the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed eight staff members.  One of the victims, 76 year-old cartoonist Jean Caput, known as Capu, was a close friend of IUN Political Scientist Jean Poulard.  In fact, Capu had written an introduction to the French edition of Poulard’s book “The Champagne Cellars of Mareuil.”  The London Daily Mail described Capu as “an almost legendary cultural figure in France.”  According the The Independent, Capu was the highest paid cartoonist in the world, contributing to such publications as Le Monde and Paris Match.  Subject of the 2006 documentary “Politiquement Incorrect,” Capu said, “Cartoonists make a living out of people’s stupidity, a trait that only seems to be on the increase with the passing of the years.”  That year Capu (below) drew a cartoon for Je Suis Charlie showing The Prophet in tears, declaring, “It’s hard to be loved by jerks.”
Many demonstrators held signs reading “Je Suis Charlie” to show solidarity with the victims.   Post-Trib columnist David Rutter castigated American news outlets that condemned the violence yet were too timid to reprint any of the cartoons that so angered the perpetrators of the massacre.  On the other hand, columnist Clarence Page noted that the offensive cartoons were scatological – picturing the Prophet Muhammad getting buggered, for instance, and to show them would be in bad taste.  Charlie Hebdo had also printed cartoons showing the pope wearing a condom and portrayed black French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira as a monkey.  Page preferred the slogan “Je Suis Ahmed,” in honor of a Muslim police officer killed in the attack.  With this horrific tragedy sure to inflame anti-Muslim sentiment, especially in Europe, the slogan is a reminder that the vast majority of Muslims are nonviolent and condemn violence.  As Imran Ahmed wrote on Vox website, “Ahmed Merabat protected people.  He was the true face of modern Islam.  His murderers were not.”

Religious extremism continues to wreak havoc and be an impediment to peace and progress, and Charlie Hebdo poked fun at those who opposed same sex marriage as sacrilegious.  The Genesis song “Jesus He Knows Me,” which I heard on WXRT, ridiculed huckster preachers who prey on gullible followers in order to enrich themselves.  One verse goes:

I believe in the family
With my ever loving wife beside me
But she don't know about my girlfriend
Or the man I met last night.”

On the 1991 album “We Can’t Dance,” “Jesus He Knows Me” became a popular video with Phil Collins playing an unscrupulous televangelist similar to a role he assumed in a 1985 episode of “Miami Vice” as con artist “Phil the Shill.”  I recall Collins’ realistic portrayal of a real slimeball.  During the 1980s several evangelists, including Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart were exposed as fraudulent sexual perverts.

My favorite scene in “Repo man” (1984) is when Otto (Emilio Estevez) asks his burn-out parents for money they’d put aside for him and learns they’ve given it away to a TV evangelist, who in the background is saying, “I want your money because God wants your money.  I want you to go out and mortgage that home and sell your car.”

The answer the other day to “Final Jeopardy” was British graffiti artist Banksy, which to my surprise all contestants knew.  Not me.  The question quoted Banksky as saying he was used to authorities painting over his work, not honoring it.  In 2006 pop singer Christina Aguilera bought an original Banksky of a lesbian Queen Victoria astride the face of a partner.

Saturday at Camelot Lanes watching James bowl, I lost it upon learning that Mike Sebben, 53, took his own life.   All I could think of was how hard this must be on loved ones, including Cressmoor owner Jim Fowble, who regarded him like a son.  Mike had worked at Cressmoor most of his life and seemed such an upbeat guy.  He and his wife bought Hebron Lanes recently, so perhaps financial pressures became too much to bear.  I paid my respects at Burns Funeral Home, overflowing with mourners, among them numerous bowlers (i.e., Robbie Kooswyck) and folks wearing Hebron Lanes shirts.  Outwardly holding up well, Vietnam vet Jim Fowble said he’d last seen Mike just a few days before, and he’d seemed fine.  The Cressmoor bartender, in tears, said, “We were like family.”  A guy in the lobby asked, “Why would anybody commit suicide?”

The Lady Redhawks lost a heartbreaker to Ashland University on a last-second tip-in of a missed shot.  IUN trailed by five with three minutes to go, then forged ahead and had several opportunities to clinch the victory only to have shots by Nicki Monahan and Danielle Zandstra rim the basket and come out.  The only faculty member I saw other than announcer Chuck Gallmeier was Education professor Glenn Lauzon, there with a son.  They had attended homecoming a few weeks ago and gotten hooked.  Both Danielle Zandstra and Bernadette Grabowski are students of Lauzon’s.

According to William Mann’s “Behind the Screen,” the first silent screen idol, Jack Kerrigan, was gay and did little to hide his effeminate mannerisms.  The “Great God Kerrigan” once told a reporter, “I love the ladies devotedly . . . when they leave me alone.”  The movie industry liked their stars unmarried, and Kerrigan claimed his closest relationship was with his mother.  Both she and his longtime lover lived with him.  Kerrigan’s popularity took a hit when he admitted he had no intention of volunteering to fight in World War I, and in his last two films, “The Covered Wagon” and “Captain Blood,” critics believed he lacked the ruggedness that the roles demanded.

An article in Sports Illustrated by Rhett Miller pointed out that in 1952 Gary native George Taliaferro threw the first touchdown pass for the Dallas Texans in that franchise’s inaugural year after a syndicate bought out the New York Yanks and brought the team to Texas.  The only other African American on the squad, Buddy Young, was on the receiving end.  The Texans won just one game that year (against the Bears) and then the owners (including Rhett Miller’s dad) went bankrupt.  One reason: Cotton Bowl stadium officials only allowed black fans to sit in end zone areas, and as a result most of the black community boycotted the games.

During the few days we got Showtime free I watched the first two episodes of “Masters of Sex,” about the sex research team of Masters and Johnson.  Like “Mad Men” it emphasized the sexism of the 1950s and early 1960s, when William Masters and Virginia Johnson were conducting their research at Washington University in St. Louis.  Doctors regarded nurses as sex objects, and in the case of Johnson’s male friend, becomes enraged and smacks her when he cannot have his way.
 Neal Birdsong; photo by Jim Karczewski

Post-Trib correspondent Shelley Jones profiled Lake County Sheriff Department officer Neal Birdsong for the paper’s Vietnam Veteran Series.  When Birdsong was a marine stationed at Chu Lai, Ernie Hernandez, whose papers are in the Archives, interviewed him, and I used a photo of Birdsong, then 19, that Hernandez took.  A Tolleston High School grad, retired steelworker, and small businessman, Birdsong is active in the Gary VFW, Post 2151.  Mike Chirich partnered with him on a work-release unit for prisoners until funds for the useful program dried up.  Mike had his phone number, so I was able to speak with Birdsong and send him the Shavings issue he’s in.

It being the first day of second semester, I called old colleague Paul Kern, who was preparing to watch the college championship game with son Colin, an Ohio State grad (the Buckeyes upset Oregon).  I told Paul that if he hadn’t moved to Florida, he could sit in on Dave Parnell’s Roman History class, as I am planning to do in Nicole Anslover’s Women’s History course and as Bill Neil did when Paul taught seminar of Siege Warfare.
Margaret Skurka is the 2015 Chancellor’s Professor recipient.  Like previous winners David Klamen and Chuck Gallmeier, Skurka is very deserving, having written over 30 scholarly articles and been a campus leader and model teacher.   She loves doo wop music, animals, and traveling abroad, and I recall how excited she was after addressing Chinese scholars in her field, Health Information Management.

Westchester Museum in Chesterton gave the Archives a “mystery photo” had contains no caption but obviously was not taken in Chesterton given the fire hydrant.  It doesn’t seem like it could be Gary; more likely it was taken in Hammond or Crown Point.  I suggested that we show it to Jerry Davich, whose readers may solve the mystery.

As Michael Bayer pointed out Capu was an outspoken critic of racial profiling and militarism, as seen in these cartoons of his.
Capu, above, "No Racist Controls; below, "These Clowns that Suck the Blood of Europe"

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