Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Colossus

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
         Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”

The most famous lines of “The New Colossus,” carved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France, are: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  How better to describe the Syrian refugees seeking to flee murderous ISIS forces overrunning much of their country.  President Obama bitterly criticized Senator Ted Cruz’s proposal to help only Syrian Christians and not Muslims with these words:
         When I hear folks say that maybe we should just admit the Christians and not the Muslims, when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who's fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted - when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution - that's shameful. That's not American.
 Scott Pelath  

What poet Emma Lazarus asserted is still true: America is a colossus.  The question remains: will the nation live up to its ideals?  Not if the current Know Nothing Party has its way.  Joining a long list of Republican governors, Mike Pence vowed to block resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana even though states cannot legally do that since final authority in this matter is in the hands of the federal government.  House Democratic leader Scott Pelath condemned Pence’s statement, saying “That was the governor just sticking his chest out, wanting to take over a national issue or get a little piece of it.”  Kay Abraham pointed out that Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian refugee, Abdulfattah Jandali.
 NWI Times Photo by Ed Bierschenk

The Geo Group has withdrawn its application for a zoning variance to build a for-profit immigrant detention center near Gary airport.  Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who withdrew her supporting for the scheme, announced: “I’d be surprised if they came back.” At a vigil on the steps of City Hall participating organizations included Northwest Federation of Interfaith Organizations, Black Lives Matter, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and Concerned Citizens of Gary.  Reverend Cheryl Rivera remarked that immigrants built Northwest Indiana and that she was praying for the safety of refugee families. 

Jonathyne Briggs’ class discussed a 1969 article by Stokely Carmichael titled “The Pitfalls of Liberalism” in which the Black Power advocate predicted that when push came to shove, white liberals would side with the oppressors.  I was reminded of when YIPPIE! Abbie Hoffman claimed that liberals got more upset over dirty words and scruffy beards than with American atrocities in Vietnam.  A Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) leader the mid-60s, Carmichael believed in the need for a militant alternative to Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), especially after the assassination of Malcolm X.  By 1968 he was using revolutionary rhetoric and gravitating to the Black Panther Party.  He regarded anything beyond armed resistance as premature and “Custeristic” but called for self-defense, self-respect (Black Pride) and local political and economic control of ghetto institutions, including the police. 

After class I told Jon of Carmichael’s 1979 visit to IUN.  Having changed his name to Kwame Toure, he proclaimed himself a Pan-African socialist.  In a Northwest Phoenix article Joe Slacian and Terry Helton reported that Toure told the Raintree Hall crowd that “the essence of life is to serve humanity” and that “the secret of life is to have no fear.”  In the audience was Richard Morrisroe, a SNCC activist gravely wounded 14 years earlier by a white racist in Fort Deposit, Alabama.  When Toure spotted him, he embraced his former white comrade.  Remembering the scene still leaves me in tears.

Jon’s students were assigned an account in Gerald DeGroot’s “The Sixties Unplugged” of the 1968 Columbia student revolt.  While serious issues were involved relating to weapons research on campus, racist practices, and police brutality, DeGroot claimed that most protestors were drawn simply by the lure of creating mayhem.  That might have been true of egocentric spokesman Mark Rudd, but the characterization is palpably unfair.  As SDS leader Tom Hayden himself observed after a visit with sit-inners at Low Library:
         Polite, neatly attired, holding their notebooks and texts, gathering in intense knots of discussion, here and there doubting their morality, then recommitting themselves to remain, wondering if their academic and personal careers might be ruined, ashamed of the thought of holding an administrator in his office but wanting a productive dialogue with him, they expressed in every way the torment of their campus generation.

A “Jeopardy” question asked who became an ex-Vice President in 1981.  Easy: Walter Mondale, who would run unsuccessfully against incumbent president Ronald Reagan in 1984 after using a negative “Where’s the beef?” ad against the candidate I favored, Democratic challenger Gary Hart. 

Describing Clint Eastwood’s bizarre performance talking to an empty chair at the 2012 Republican National Convention, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann in “Double Down” note that earlier in the day the 82 year-old actor had listened to Neil Diamond’s “I Am . . . I Said,” which contained the line, “I am, I said, to no one there.  And no one heard, not even the chair.”  Eureka!  An idea popped into his head that he refused to share with Mitt Romney’s handlers. Then, going well over his allotted five minutes, Eastwood talked to a chair pretending President Obama was sitting in it, saying silly, off-color stuff such as, “What do you want me to tell Romney?  (pause)  I can’t tell him to do that.  He can’t do that to himself.”  Halperin and Heilemann wrote: “The [convention] crowd seemed nervous for him – as if they were rooting for a doddering uncle as he struggled through a wedding toast.”  Afterwards on the “Daily Show” Jon Stewart crowed: “We owe Clint Eastwood a debt of thanks [for] a truly hilarious 12 minutes of improvised awesome in a week of scripted blah.”
 John Cain on right at his Holiday Reading

I arranged for Richard Hatcher and IUN Vice Chancellor Mark McPhail to meet for lunch at Miller Bakery Café only the former Gary mayor couldn’t make it.  The day before, McPhail had attended John Cain’s twenty-second annual holiday reading (excerpts from John Grisham’s “Skipping Christmas”) at Munster’s Center for the Visual and Performing Arts.  Later in the day he was off to a National Communication Association conference in Las Vegas.  I told Mark about attending Oral History Association conferences in such locales as Anchorage, Alaska, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.  He, too, is an oral history practitioner dating from graduate school days at Northwestern, and we discussed advantages and pitfalls of memory as a research tool.  I told him that my interest in oral history dated from reading sociologist Lawrence Fuch’s “Hawaii Pono” while working on an MA at the University of Hawaii and that it was essential in examining the social history of Gary “from the bottom up,” as Jesse Lemisch put it.

Ron Cohen passed on to me several used “New York Review of Books” copies plus Sean MacLeod’s “Leaders of he Pack: Girl groups of the 1960s and Their Influence on Popular Culture in Britain and America.”  The Crystals (“Da Doo Ron Ron”) and the Ronnettes were my favorite girl groups and while at Miller Bakery Café I heard sexy Ronnie Spector singing, “Be My Baby.”
NWI Times photos by Jonathan Miano
IUN’s Muslim Student Association organized a vigil in support of victims of terrorism.  In IUN’s library courtyard participants placed candles in the shape of an Eiffel Tower peace symbol.  Aneeb Mohidean told NWI Times correspondent Jim Masters, “We’re here today to pray for families of victims in Paris and Beirut, and for world peace.”  Condemning senseless violence, Mona Nour stated that the terrorists “don’t understand Islam and don’t represent us.”  Assem Fares said he was “worried about my sisters and mom when they leave the house,” adding: “I want them to have a normal life.”

1 comment:

  1. I was at this place last week. This is such a joy as a place for food! I had a beautiful time at venues in NYC. It reminded me of another center in Memphis, Tennessee. A beautiful, wonderful place that had excellent atmosphere.