Friday, July 22, 2016

Tainted Justice

“William Worthy isn’t worthy to enter our door
Went down to Cuba, he’s not American anymore
But somehow it is strange to hear the State Department say
You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay”
                  “The Ballad of William Worthy,” Phil Ochs
 Bill Worthy and attorney William Kuntsler

The current Journal of American History contains an article by H. Timothy Lovelace, Jr., a professor at IU’s Maurer Law School, about Baltimore Afro-American reporter William Worthy, convicted of entering the United States without a passport after spending 11 weeks in Cuba in 1961.  Like James Baldwin, Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, and other writers, he had joined the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, which advocated objective press coverage of the Cuban Revolution.  A frequent critic of U.S. imperialist policies in Iran and Latin America, he had been refused a new passport in 1957 after visiting communist China.  While hundreds of Americans visited Cuba despite a State department travel ban, Worthy was singled out for prosecution under the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act.  Attorney William Kunstler of the ACLU represented Worthy and successfully got the conviction overturned on appeal. A Circuit Court ruled that the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed the right of citizens to return to the U.S. without criminal penalty.

The Journal of American History contains positive movie reviews of Trumbo and Spotlight.  Michael Socolow’s only quibble with the latter is the omission of contributions of reporters at the Boston Phoenix, the city’s alternative newspaper, in investigating the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal prior to the Globe’s inquiry.  Regarding Trumbo Jennifer Frost mentions this invented scene:
  Former HUAC chairman J. Parnell Thomas, convicted of payroll fraud, turns up at the same federal penitentiary as [Dalton] Trumbo.  This encounter provides an opportunity for a Trumbo witticism about the irony of being put behind bars with the man responsible for putting him there.  It did not happen.  Thomas served his sentence in another federal penitentiary – yet still ironic – with two other members of the Hollywood Ten, Lester Cole and Ring Lardner, Jr.
 George Van Til in 2012

Former Lake County surveyor George Van Til is finally back home after spending more than a year in federal prison for actions that are commonplace among officeholders.  Post-Tribune columnist Jerry Davich is researching a book about corruption in Lake County, and I challenge him to look into the actual reasons behind federal investigations that in most cases have resulted in plea bargain offers that those prosecuted (persecuted) couldn’t turn down.  Two Gary mayors, R.O. Johnson and George Chacharis, served prison time, Johnson (for violating the unpopular Volstead Act) because U.S. Steel officials in the 1920s deemed him too independent (they preferred a segregationist) and Chacharis because he had alienated not only Steel officials but Gary Hobart Water Compan executives and Post-Tribune publisher H.B. Snyder.  Mayor Richard Hatcher was one of the most investigated mayors in American history; and while U.S. attorneys could never get sufficient dirt on him, some of his supporters, such as Katie Hall, Mary Elgin, and George Van Til were not so fortunate.  Like R.O. Johnson and George Chacharis, Van Til also paid dearly for not being compliant to big industry.
 Keith Cooper and attorney Eliot Slosar

Chicago Tribune correspondent Christy Gutowski wrote about Keith Cooper, wrongly convicted of armed robbery 20 years ago and sentenced to 40 years.  In 2005 the conviction of his co-defendant was overturned.  Given the choice of a new trial or immediate release, Cooper, whose family had frequently been homeless, chose the latter.  Since then, a jailhouse snitch has recanted, witnesses have withdrawn their accusations, and DNA evidence has exonerated him. Since 2014 Cooper has been seeking a pardon from Governor Mike Pence to clear his name, an action the Indiana parole board has recommended.  Odds are that Pence will not act on the matter, at least until after the November election.

I’ve added these paragraphs to an essay about Gary Freedom Fighter L.K. Jackson, “The Old Prophet”:
  The post-World War II period was a time of anxiety, as America entered the atomic age with an untried leader, President Harry S Truman.  The nation did not sink back into another depression, as many feared, but experienced economic uncertainty, especially for African Americans, and frequent steel strikes. In the fall of 1945 white students boycotted classes at Froebel, known as Gary’s immigrant school, demanding that blacks, whose numbers had increased dramatically during the war, be transferred elsewhere.  The Froebel school strike received national headlines and led to singer Frank Sinatra making an appearance at a Tolerance Concert urging an end to the walkout.  At a school board meeting Reverend L.K. Jackson made an impassioned appeal to keep Froebel integrated, declaring, “We don’t want any fascism in Gary.” 

While the recalcitrant Froebel students eventually gave in, segregated housing patterns remained, with almost all blacks residing in the overcrowded Central District; thus the new neighborhood school policy had scant impact.  De Facto segregation remained the norm.  During the 1940s African-American physicians gained the right to practice at Methodist Hospital, but the wards remained segregated.  After an appearance by heavyweight champ Joe Louis at a Parmakers golf tournament, African Americans could finally play North Gleason Park’s 18-hole course but were physically assaulted when they attempted to use Marquette Park beach facilities. Steel mill employment opportunities were plentiful, but blacks were relegated to the dirtiest coke plant assignments with little opportunity for promotion
About the only things worth listening to at the Republican convention were selections by G.E. Smith’s house band, including (ironically?) the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Get What You Want,” David Bowie’s “Station to Station” (about “the return of the Thin White Duke” - cocaine), and “Rock the Casbah” by the Clash.  Ray Smock wrote:
The Paranoid Style of American Politics, explained so well many years ago by Richard Hofstadter, is amply on display at the GOP convention where real and imagined errors or acts of incompetence become magnified from human frailty into a giant conspiracy and acts of treason punishable by death. This paranoia has been inflamed beyond anything reasonable in American political discourse. Trump has been a champion of conspiracies, preferring them to history that can be documented. The GOP convention is full of this paranoia and irrational, frightening talk about trying Hillary Clinton for treason and murder and then calling for macabre and public acts of capital punishment. This is the single worst, and most dangerous thing about Trumpism and its enablers.
Lisa Rangel, drawing "You Are My Prison"  in "River's Edge" (2000)

A 2000 issue of the literary magazine River’s Edge contains two of William K. Buckley’s poems, both about the Calumet Region, “On Kenney Ave”(“cold winds bring arctic signals through girders”) and “We’ve Always Seen the Moon” (“a whole world on heavy canvas where relatives look cut from stone”).  Two prose pieces caught my eye, Andrea White’s “No Ordinary Sin” (about a friend’s son involved in a hit-and-run accident) and “The Murderers” by Brigette James, about a woman incarcerated for stabbing to death her abusive boyfriend.  After four years, the woman’s sister declares, “we are no longer getting harassing phone calls, hate mail, or offensive stares when we are out in public, and for that I’m truly grateful.”
Judy and Gene Ayres viewed the IUN display of Gary church cookbooks Judy donated and checked out the Calumet Regional Archives, where a run of Ayres Realty newsletter are housed.  Steve McShane showed them several collections, including a box of Miller beach material and original South Shore posters from the 1920s.  The day before, Judy took a friend of her late mother to the Lake Station Dairy Queen for her 99th birthday, repeating a practice started by her mother.  The person who served her refused to take any money.  That happens to me a lot, she told Judy.
Jeff Manes and members of audience
At a well-attended book signing for “All Worth Their SALT,” volume III, Jeff Manes read excerpts of past columns with those he interviewed, such as woodcut artist Corey Hagelberg, St. Augustine Church deacon Paula Du Bois, and Miller Historical Society officer Cullen-Ben Daniel, and had stand-ins fill in for others who couldn’t attend (i.e., Bailly Alliance leader Jack Weinburg) or had passed away (i.e. civil rights activist Lydia Grady). Naomi Millender, reading her mother Dolly’s lines, also recited poems young people wrote about things they noticed walking around their neighborhood.  One kid composed a poem about trash, another about a tree growing out of an abandoned building.

sisters en route to Alissa's bachelorette party in Chicago

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