Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Civil Disobedience

“I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
 Post-Trib photo by Jm Karczewski
NWI Times photo by Sarah Reese
At a sentencing hearing before Judge Jesse Villalpando the “Whiting 41,” who were arrested last May for protesting at the BP Refinery and calling for a switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy, accepted an agreement where they’d each pay a fine of $110 and their cases would be dismissed in six months on the condition that they didn’t commit any new offenses.  Post-Trib reporter Becky Jacobs wrote:
Five at a time they appeared before Judge Jesse Villalpando to accept the agreement, which Villalpando called “outstanding” and “wonderful,” as he commended the defendants for their “good spirit” and jovial atmosphere in the courtroom.
        “The vibe in the courtroom could not be better,” Villalpando said.
Attorney Roy Dominguez, representing most of the defendants, told a crowd outside the courthouse afterwards, “I’m honored to be No. 42."  Demonstrators marched down Hohman Avenue to Hammond’s Federal Plaza, where they delivered a message to Senator Joe Donnelly, calling on him to oppose Donald Trump’s cabinet choices of Exxon Mobil’s Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and Texas Governor Rick Perry for Energy Secretary. Leading chants of “You can’t drink oil,” Hobart attorney Joe Hiestand said, “I’m so glad to see small-town America doing this.  We can’t leave it to the cities as progressives. We have to do this kind of thing in small-town America.”  Jacobs wrote:
      In front of the federal building, with people inside peeking out the windows at the scene, the group performed a “spill drill.”  People held blue pieces of fabric to represent water, as people holding a pipeline circled the group.  The group put on black garbage bags to represent the oil spilling into the water, representing situations like the March 2014 processing error that dumped gallons of oil into Lake Michigan.
Over the long weekend Toni and I ate at LongHorn Steakhouse before playing bridge at the Hagelbergs with our monthly  group.  I watched magician Aaron Rodgers guide Green Bay to a 34-31 victory over the hated Dallas Cowboys.   We saw “Hidden Figures,” based on a true story about three women who in the early 1960s provided NASA with key mathematical data prior to John Glenn’s orbiting the earth.  Forced to use separate bathrooms and coffee pots, and forbidden to check out books from the white section of a Virginia public library, the women persevered against great odds with dignity.  It is unconscionable that their talents were undervalued and almost forgotten until Margot Lee Shetterly wrote the book upon which the film is based.  Toni is very well-read on the NASA space program but had never heard of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan or Mary Jackson.  I also found on HBO the Coen Brothers’ satire “A Serious Man” (2009), about a Jewish professor beset with one problem after another. Richard Kind, so good as Larry David’s cousin Andy in “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” plays the pathetic Uncle Arthur.
 Richard Kind
Rep. John Lewis

MSNBC carried 76 year-old civil rights veteran  John Lewis’ Martin Luther King Day speech in Miami sponsored by My Brother’s Keeper, Inc. Beforehand, Republican Senator Marco Rubio said of the Georgia Congressman, We throw the word ‘courage’ around these days very lightly.  You are sitting in the presence of a true American hero.” Miami Herald reporter Patricia Mazzei wrote:
  “Never, ever hate,” Lewis implored the young men of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, the mentoring and scholarship program that hosted the breakfast. “The way of love is a better way. The way of peace is a better way.”
  Lewis covered the span of his life as a poor son of an Alabama sharecropper: picking cotton, raising chickens and dreaming of being a minister. His local college wouldn’t accept him because he was black, so he went to school in Nashville, writing to King along the way, who urged him to fight for admission — although he warned that it might cost his family their hard-earned 110 acres. “My mother was so afraid, my father was so afraid, that we could lose the land, our home could be burned or bombed,” Lewis said. “So I continued to study in Nashville.”
  “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, we have a moral obligation to do something, to say something and not be quiet,” he said. “You must have courage. You must be bold and never, ever give up! When you know that you’re right, be brave.”
above, Cornell West; below, Faisal Kutty
On Martin Luther Day King Cornell West spoke at a Valparaiso University convocation, calling the civil rights leader “a prisoner of hope.”  Also honored for their contributions to diversity were History professor Heath Carter and Muslim law professor Faisal Kutty.  West told NWI Times reporter Jon Scheibel:
  I think it's always important to talk about love and justice, no matter what context, no matter what generation. There's no doubt now we're in the moment of Donald Trump. We need more truth telling, and we need more witness bearing when it comes to justice. We needed it under Obama, we needed it under Bush, we needed it under Reagan. We need it each and every generation. That's how timeless the message of Martin King is, how timeless his life remains.

With three days to go until the Trump inauguration, in an essay titled “The Leopard cannot change its spots” Ray Smock wrote:
All through the campaign the word was pivot.  When would Trump pivot from being a mad dog and start acting presidential. The pivot never came. Then once he won the election everyone waited for him to move from campaign mode to that of the leader of the free world, the symbolic and real head of state, the commander in chief, the unifier of the nation. He held a press conference that pissed off the entire nation and most members of his own party and frightened our allies around the world.
He refuses to believe he is not popular. Today he attacked the polls showing him to be the least popular newly elected president in the last half century. He says the polls are rigged. John Lewis, an American icon, says Trump is an illegitimate president and Trump blasts Lewis for his run down district, which includes the wealthiest and most diverse parts of Atlanta, including Emory University. Trump's attack on Lewis unleashed a torrent of Klan tongues including an elected official in Lewis's state of Georgia, who called Lewis "a racist pig" and his word for Democrats was "Demonrats."  This official apparently can't wait for Trump to get into office so he can put on his brown shirt and jackboots.
And everyone is now holding their breath looking for a statesman-like inaugural address that will be filled with vision, humanity, strength, and magnanimity. Is there something wrong with me to think we are expecting too much? Why do I think the speech will be about Him and how HE is misunderstood. Or why to I think He won't lash out at critics? Why do I think his best idea and his boldest vision might be to return Americans to the moon, because that idea worked for Kennedy and seemed really bold more than a half century ago. I am sure he will say somewhere that he plans to make America great again. He could start that process by resigning from office before he does decades of major damage. But that won't happen. He knows he is in over his head but he probably still believes he is right about everything.  Eisenhower once said that "only Americans can hurt America."  Which is another way of saying what Pogo said, We have met the enemy and it is us. We are in for Darth Vader America, not Luke Skywalker's version. We will be at war with ourselves again. It has already started. How long can it stay rhetorical, political, and cultural, without turning to actual war?  

I spoke to Steve McShane’s students about their oral history assignment to interview someone who lived in Northwest Indiana during the 1990s. I went over some dos and don’ts, mentioning mistakes I had made in the past, from pushing the wrong button on my recording device to not getting my interviewee to turn off his television.  I gave everyone copies of Steel Shavings, volume 45, and told them my intention on publishing their articles in a future issue.

At duplicate bridge Charlie Halberstadt told me that Helen Boothe, who plays in our group and must be well into her eighties, is planning to take part in Saturday’s Women’s March.  He assumed she was planning to go to Washington, D.C., like Alissa and some of her friends, but there is a rally scheduled for Valparaiso, which Toni will attend, and my guess is that is where Helen will be. Either way, hat’s off to her.

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