Hot Air: The Real Deal

Much as I strive to avoid simplistic explanations for complicated phenomena, I can’t deny there are often basic, one-line, easy answers. For instance, it’s demonstrably true that many conservatives are drawn to authoritarian males, thus explaining why Christian fundamentalists of the Right dig such a seemingly un-Christian President Trump.

It’s also eminently provable that some 150 years of humanity burning fossil fuels has led to a crisis point in our species’ history.

These examples, though, are outliers. The phrase, “If only we could…,” is one of the most dangerous in the language. Take economics. We understand there’s a basic inequality wherein a few thousand of our planet’s human inhabitants control as much wealth as the remaining seven billion of us. Lots of folks today say, “If only we could tax the rich….” As if that alone would remediate the wealth gap.

Just this AM, though, I came upon an interesting piece in the latest issue of The Atlantic. The author, Gilad Edelman, exec. ed. of Washington Monthly, a liberal-ish mag covering politics and gov’t, writes about our current fascination with Pete Buttigieg. Mayor Pete, posits he, is viewed as “authentic.” Edelman riffs on the whole idea of “authenticity” in our national political candidates. Mitt Romney, sez Edelman, wasn’t. Barack Obama was. Donald Trump was, too. Hillary Clinton was not.

Authentic

So what determines political authenticity? Edelman writes:

Candidates from Obama to Trump to the Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg seem authentic to the extent that they seem to be saying what they’re really thinking, rather than what they’re “supposed” to say. The key word here is seem.

Edelman cites a recent paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The paper’s authors, Rachel Gershon of Washington University in St. Louis and Rosanna K. Smith of the University of Georgia, have found that when people believe a speaker is saying something for the first time, they tend to believe that person. When presented evidence the person is saying something s/he’s said before, listeners tend to discount the statement’s authenticity.

Edelman writes:

…[W]e’re wired to assume that all speech is extemporaneous. When that assumption is revealed to be false, we penalize the speaker. This is true, the authors found, even in contexts where it makes no sense to expect speakers not to repeat themselves, such as listening to a tour guide or a stand-up comic.

Hillary Clinton, Edelman argues, had a pat stump speech. In other words, she repeated lines and ideas. Add to that her wooden delivery and distant manner, and you’ve got a huge swath of the electorate who conclude she’s as honest as a used car salesman.

Donald Trump, OTOH, is a notorious improviser. Even his staffers are frustrated by his almost obsessive desire not to hew to a line of thought or stick to a script. Voters, tens of millions of them, loved the fact that no one could predict what might come out of Trump’s mouth next. “He’s real,” they say. This despite the fact that Trump’s entire history screams used car salesman.

Buttigieg, an academically-accomplished, well-versed speaker, seemingly never repeats lines. He, too, is a fine improviser. Ergo, he’s authentic.

“Authenticity,” Edelman concludes, “is not about being honest; it’s about seeming unscripted.”

Gershon & Smith, BTW, are academics specializing in marketing. The Democrats have traditionally been the party of issues and ideas; the Republicans more concerned with perceptions and emotions. In other words, the GOP is the marketing party. It’d behoove the Dems to market themselves a tad more efficiently this time around.

Big Talk

Tune in to Big Talk this afternoon at 5:30pm. My guest this week is Bloomington city council District 5 candidate Ryan Maloney. He is, I believe, the only candidate in this year’s local election not to have been born in this holy land. Maloney hails from Australia. His family moved to Nevada years ago. His mom, BTW, was a lounge singer who, according to him, could do a mean Dolly Parton.

Maloney schooled me in the proper pronunciation of his family’s adopted state. It’s neh-VA-duh — the A in the middle syllable pronounced as the A in cat. I thought I was being all sophisticated by pronouncing it neh-VAH-duh. Nevadans, Maloney insists, bristle at the sound of neh-VAH-duh.

Anyway, tune in to WFHB, 91.3 FM immediately following the Daily Local News. AS always, if you miss the show, fret not: I’ll post the podcast link herein tomorrow.

Next week: District 1 candidate Denise Valkyrie. That’ll be the last in my series on challengers for city council seats. Primary election day in Tuesday, May 7th.

Hot Air: Superheroes Galore

One of my fave journalists, a real muckraker and intrepid digger, Matt Taibbi, has been barking at length in recent days, his ire directed against the entirety of the American journalistic community. You know, the gang that baited us for going on two years that the Mueller report would magically set this holy land back on track.

I was suspicious of the whole Russiagate idea from the get-go. My reasonings?

  1. Donald Trump and team never thought they were going to win the election. In fact, he was shocked he’d even emerged as the Republican nominee. He had no real interest in becoming president as he had other, more important things to do, like build his brand and make bigger piles of dough. His run for prez was a lark, a masturbatorial series of orgiastic pep rallies, feeding his ravenous ego and, yes, building his brand to a level previously unattainable via his tried and true griftings. The job of the presidency would take him away from those profitable enterprises. So — for the ten thousandth time — why would he collude with anyone in hopes of getting elected?
  2. No one surrounding Trump — other than Steve Bannon, who came aboard long after the supposed “collusion” began — was smart enough to set such a scheme in motion.
  3. The Russians didn’t give a good goddamn who won the election, so long as they could play havoc with the American electoral system and with the American psyche. No matter who would have won in 2016, the Russians could sit back smugly and say, “Mission accomplished.”

Anyway, Taibbi likens the mania for Russiagate to the fever dream conspiracies bandied about by the participants of the online QAnon. You remember them, don’t you? The guys — of course guys — who shrieked about, among other things, high-ranking Dem officials, including Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, who were part of a child-sex ring operating in broad daylight out of a Washington, DC pizza parlor.

No one but the loons who inhabit QAnon bought the theory but those boys bought it like gospel.

Taibbi holds that Russiagate was almost as ridiculous a conceit. Yet, tens of millions of us bought into it. Better yet, wished, hoped, prayed, almost willed it into fact.

Here’s Taibbi today on the journalists who we looked to, imploringly, for confirmation that Trump was just another paid spook for Vladimir Putin:

…[D]id America’s entire “respectable” news media really spend 22-plus months humping a transparent conspiracy theory, praying out loud for a former FBI chief to save them from Donald Trump, like cultists awaiting passage to Heaven’s Gate on the Hale-Bopp Comet?

The Trumpists fell all over themselves for their candidate because he was the lone gunslinger, the Shane, the Dirty Harry, the superhero who’d come in and clean out all the lying elitists in Washington. We Americans love petty messiahs. Even those of us who detest Li’l Duce. Our petty messiah was Robert Mueller.

Rival Superheroes

We were so let down when Mueller turned out to be just a guy who did his job.

More Movies

The Gadabout Film Festival national tour is hitting Bloomington May 4th, a week from Saturday.

The GFF is a do-it-yourself affair, featuring motion pictures decidedly unlike the stuff Hollywood’s been throwing at us for years. Don’t expect hundred-million-dollar Marvel Comix productions or big-star laden caper flics. The GFF people say about their tour/fest, established in 2002:

We bought a van, got a projector, screen and PA then took a program of independent short films out on the road. We screened in basements, art houses, music venues, collective spaces, warehouses, parking lots, park, etc. Each year since, we’re continued to create a new program and taken it on tour.

Cool, huh?

Bloomington’s stop on the tour this year will be the FAR Center for Contemporary Arts, 505 W. 4th St. As noted in these precincts previously, the intersection of 4th and Rogers streets is fast becoming this town’s locus for cutting edge, imaginative, avant garde, and envelope-pushing creative types.

Anyway, the GFF slate begins at 8:00pm and costs a measly five bucks. Look, you’re not even going to get a coke and a box of peanut M&Ms at the local cineplex for a fin. Rather than dropping a cool fifty on two tix, a big popcorn and couple of soft drinks, spend your dough on something a little more interesting than the latest iteration of The Avengers.

Hot Air: That’s A Ticket

Y’know what? I’d take a Warren/Sanders ticket any day of the week.

Sure, I’ve been skeptical of the Bernie rock stardom from the start, even though I did vote for him in the 2016 Indiana Democratic primary. I could think of a hundred reasons why a Sanders presidency would turn out to be a disaster — but not a one of them had anything to do with his ideas, his plans, his pledges. (Warren’s appeal for me needs no such caveat or explanation.)

The Republicans did everything in the world to stonewall the Obama presidency, and he was as centrist as a politician could possibly be. He was Dwight Eisenhower v. 2.0. Nevertheless, Obama accomplished a thing or two, closer to a thing than two.

The Republicans would fight Sanders and Warren — and I don’t care which of them is at the top of the ticket — with all the zeal and truckload of tricks they employed against Obama, up to and including portraying the two as commie rats.

So what?

Bring it on. With this holy land slipping into serious decline and our beloved democratic republic transforming itself before our very eyes into a fascist oligarchy, we need to call out our bravest, our strongest, our best and brightest. No, not the type of Ivy League-prepped, wingtip-wearing, Brooks Brothers suit-sporting, football tossing, bureaucratic/corporate ladder-climbers of the JFK presidency, the kind who led us straight into Vietnam. I mean people, perhaps, from less-adored temples of success who had to work their way through school, who know what common people know like how to stretch a package of rice to last a whole week, how to patch a pair of pants, where to find the cheapest gallon of milk, and — because we expect more from our leaders — are familiar with the workings of social services, can identify Ukraine on a map, can count votes on the Senate floor, and know a little something about Hitler, Stalin, the Kingfish, Eugene V. Debs, the fall of the Roman Empire, and Frances Perkins.

Yeah, if by some bizarre twist of fate the Dems winnow the field down to these two old birds, Warren and Sanders, I’ll be thrilled.

There are any number of combinations of Democrats I’d take over the current administration. Truth is, I’d prefer one or the other of Warren/Sanders to remain in the Senate where that person’d continue to raise holy hell from the outside looking in. But if they are the two the Dems settle on, I’m good. Real good.

Can’t Live Without ‘Em

Cool happening tonight at the IU Cinema. The movie, Year of the Woman, is on the sked. The light’s’ll dim at 7:00pm.

YotW stars scads of names from the era of Second Wave Feminism including Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug, Germaine Greer, and Shirley MacLaine as well as hangers-on like Warren Beatty and troglodytes like Norman Mailer. Hell, every movie’s gotta have a villain, right? Even Art Buchwald makes an appearance.

Anyway, Wikipedia describes YotW as “the first feminist film ever made,” although no citation is provided. The movie was released in 1973, a year after the anthem, “I Am Woman,” charted. Roe v. Wade, BTW, was decided in ’73 as well, so women’s lib, as the movement was popularly dubbed at the time, was in full flower. Later that same year, Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in a tennis match, a necessary cultural landmark for those who weren’t in the habit of reading Simone de Beauvoir or Betty Friedan.

Acc’d’g to Bustle magazine, YotW ran a mere five days, “before vanishing into obscurity.” Now, nearly half a century later, the documentary is making the rounds. A Huffington Post piece on the re-release of the doc during the 2016 presidential campaign, called it “belligerent, hilarious, and it reveals exactly what the Clinton campaign is missing.” The movies covers “one of the most pivotal moments in feminist history.” Read on:

The setting is the Democratic convention in Miami Beach. The time is July 1972. New York Rep. Shirley Chisholm has just completed a groundbreaking campaign for the presidency (“I ran ran because someone had to do it first,” she would later write), and the National Women’s Political Caucus, founded by icons Betty Friedan, Dorothy Height and Gloria Steinem, is trying to leverage women’s power atat a political convention for the first timed. The feminist activists want Democratic candidate George McGovern to make the legalization of abortion a part of his platform. And it all goes terribly wrong. McGovern’s campaign instructs his delegates not to support the abortion plank and allows an anti-abortion activist to speak from the floor. The betrayal feels so deep that Steinem eventually tells Nora Ephron, through tears, “They won’t take us seriously…. I’m just tired of being screwed, and being screwed by my friends.”

It’s an appropriate time watch this thing, mainly because this holy land has proven itself incapable of turning to a woman as our national leader. Oh, sure, there are female senators, congresspeople, mayors, governors, and chief executive officers but overall, when the choice was put to the American public, tens of millions of people eschewed the eminently qualified 2016 woman candidate in favor of a grifting, bankruptcy-declaring reality TV star.

Would we still run likes scared bunnies from a female contender? All I know is the women in the Democratic 2020 field so far are getting a hell of a lot less ink than the male political rock stars of their party.

Hot Air: Godly

The most baffling question of the day is How can so many self-professed Christians embrace Donald Trump? He is, after all, the antithesis of a kind, caring, merciful, loving deity.

All those MAGA-hat wearing Christians have to be mistaken, right?

No. We’re the ones who are mistaken. We’re the ones who don’t get god. They, the Christians who scream wild-eyed at Trump rallies, know the true god of the Bible. And they know Trump is just like him.

Proof? Here:

[ h/t to Chip Berlet ]

Politics

Here’s the podcast of yesterday’s Big Talk with Bloomington city council District 2 candidate Daniel Bingham. He’s running in the Democratic primary against incumbent Dorothy Granger and fellow challenger Sue Sgambelluri. The winner will take on Andrew Guenther, running unopposed in the Republican primary, in the November general election.

Next week on Big Talk, Ryan Maloney, who’s challenging incumbent Isabel Piedmont-Smith in District 5.

Time flies, natch: after Maloney I’ll welcome Denise Valkyrie, one of two Democratic challengers facing District 1 incumbent Chris Sturbaum. Valkyrie’ll make for an appropriate bookend; my first guest in the ongoing series featuring council candidates was Kate Rosenbarger, who’s also facing Sturbaum.

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Coming up on Big Talk in May will be Phil Proctor and David Ossman, a couple of old vets from the Firesign Theater, as well as WKRP in CIncinnati star Gary Sandy. The gang of them will be in these parts later next month for a show at the Brown County Playhouse.

Hot Air: Free Bear

Just saw a social media post about a bear that’d been encaged as a cub and made to perform tricks at roadside zoos for years and years.

Back in the early ’90s when I was traveling to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I noticed a caged bear exhibit on the side of the road outside Gatlinburg, Tennessee. He was obese and scruffily unhealthy looking. He sat on the concrete inside his cage like a blob. People could drop quarters into a little machine that’d spray out some dried corn kernels and the bear’d eat each portion. That was the entirety of his life.

All I wanted to do was turn the cage upside down and set the poor guy free. And if he and I were lucky, maybe he’d rough up the people who ran the exhibit or the bastards who’d been taunting him with sticks when my party and I pulled up.

From the moment I became aware of such things, I’ve been disgusted by all the different enterprises that offer so-called animal entertainment. Not that I disliked zoos as a kid or even an adult. I loved to simply stand there and watch elephants and tapirs and wild asses do nothing but live their lives. Then, after I became enlightened about how critters don’t quite thrive in enclosed spaces, I stopped going to zoos.

As an adult, I’d often go to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium on the lakefront. It featured an enormous dolphin tank, the perimeter of which was surrounded by grandstands. People’d pay ten or fifteen dollars a ticket to watch the keepers make the dolphins jump through hoops and perform other stupid tricks. I never bought a ticket to that show.

I’d walk underground where there were broad windows affording wide views into the tank. I’d get to watch the dolphins just swim by. I was fascinated by them. Sometimes I’d even fancy that they were noticing me, too. Now and then, I’d imagine I’d caught one or another dolphin’s eye. I wished I could convey to her/him that s/he, the being, was of interest to me, not the trickery going on above the surface.

Funny thing was, kids’d run up to the windows, gape at the dolphins, and then dash off. I’d want to scream, Don’t you see these magnificent creatures? Look at them, you dumb little shits!

The adults shepherding all those hyper little kids might cast a perfunctory glance in the direction of these gorgeous mammals. These sleek, aerodynamic, supple, muscular paragons of evolutionary mutation were riveting. Somehow, though, the kids and adults were spectacularly unimpressed with them except when they were jumping through hoops.

I suppose I’m the oddball. And, I might add, proud of it.

In any case, this bear I mentioned in the lead graf, was named Fifi and she is white-ish. She was captured some 30 years ago. Some people affiliated with PETA freed her — extralegally, perhaps — and now Fifi lives in the The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. This happened in 2015. Apparently, Fifi is now healthier and happier than ever. Her fur has grown rich and full and she bounces and flounces around the Sanctuary like a big kid.

One more thing: Fifi? Really? A mighty, impressive being like a bear ought to be named after, say, Eleanor Roosevelt or Rosalind Franklin or any great female, not some French poodle.

Oh, alright, one more thing: I’m not at all infatuated with the PETA people but that doesn’t mean everything they do is objectionable or uncalled for. Rescuing this bear was an act of grace.

Hot Air: Aid & Comfort

My old pal Kenneth Morrison, proprietor of The Whale and ringleader of the Ever-So-Secret Order of the Lamprey, found this revealing, compelling anecdote:

In 1992, Sinead O’Connor ripped up a picture of the Pope on live television, in protest of the rampant child sexual abuse the Catholic Church was actively covering up. In the weeks that followed, Joe Pesci said he wanted to give her “such a smack”, Frank Sinatra said he wanted to “kick her ass”, and millionaire producer Jonathan King said she “needed a spanking”.

She was 26.

Ten days later, she was scheduled to perform at Madison Square Gardens, as part of a celebration of Bob Dylan. As soon as she got to the microphone, the audience began loudly booing her, seemingly in unison. She talked later about how awful the sound was, and how she thought she was going to be sick.

The organizers tasked Kris Kristofferson with removing O’Connor from the stage. He instead went out and put his arm around her and checked in on her and stayed until she’d steadied herself and was ready to perform. Sinead replaced the Bob Dylan song she was supposed to sing with Bob Marley’s ‘War’, changing some of the lyrics to be about child abuse.

As she came off stage, Kristofferson grabbed her in a bear hug and kissed her cheek. In the video — posted below in the comments — you can see that she pulls away at one point and throws up. He just wraps her back in his arms and holds her tight.

About the incident, he says:

“Sinead had just recently on Saturday Night Live torn up a picture of the Pope, in a gesture that I thought was very misunderstood. And she came out and got booed. They told me to go get her off the stage and I said ‘I’m not about to do that’. I went out and I said ‘Don’t let the bastards get you down’. She said ‘I’m not down’ and she sang. It was very courageous. It just seemed wrong to me, booing that little girl out there. But she’s always had courage.”

The recent Gillette ad has started/furthered a lot of conversations about what alternatives to toxic masculinity look like. This is it.

I find this fascinating even if Kristofferson calls a grown woman “that little girl.” Or maybe because he calls her that.

Hot Air: Hipness, Highness, & His Husband

Shades

The Swedish actress Bibi Andersson died yesterday. She was a big favorite of director Ingmar Bergman, appearing in eleven of his films, including Persona and The Seventh Seal. She also worked with American directors Robert Altman and John Huston. Clearly, she had some chops, considering three of the greatest directors of all time were eager to work with her.

Here’s a photo of her from the mid-’60s:

Anybody who wants to discuss Andersson’s career or the deeper meanings of Bergman’s movies is entirely welcome to. All I want to know is why those very basic, clunky, horn-rimmed dark glasses make virtually anybody who wears them look like the coolest person ever to walk the Earth.

This Time, Inhale

This month’s Science Cafe comes to the daytime headquarters of this global communications colossus, Hopscotch, day after tomorrow. Cannabinoid researcher (and personal pal) Alex Straiker will talk about The Science of Cannabis.

The Cafe’s April session will be at the coffeehouse at Dodds and Morton (or, if you will, the B-line Trail) rather than its previous homes. Finch’s/The Roost is no more after 13 years slinging it on Kirkwood near the Sample Gates. As for Mother Bear’s, Science Cafe organizers are interested in drawing a few young’uns this time around; MB’s is a 21-and-over venue.

With medicinal pot becoming a big business and recreational weed becoming legal in more and more states, understanding what’s going on when the plant’s lipids interact with your neurons becomes more essential by the day.

Anyway, Hopscotch is at 235 W. Dodds and the April Science Cafe will begin Wednesday, April 17th, at 7:00pm.

Staying Power?

I like Pete Buttigieg. He’s a straight-talking, straight shooter who did a marvelous job as mayor of South Bend. I met him a couple of years ago at a house party for Democratic women. He spoke eloquently but simply. He embodies those characteristics we like to pretend all Midwesterners have: a sense of justice, fairness, stick-to-it-iveness, a down home grasp of the issues, and so on. All Midwesterners, needless to say, do not embrace these traits. Fewer and fewer do as the years pass — this is something we’re discovering as we learn that President Gag’s core supporters come largely from our flyover country.

Check out this podcast of Big Talk featuring Pete chatting with the Dem Fems.

I do wonder how long Pete-mania will last. He’s a rock star right now, raising scads of dough and eliciting swooning testimonials from all corners of the Democratic universe.

One of the criticisms leveled at him is we don’t know precisely where he stands on certain global issues. Check this March 21st New York magazine article that elaborates on the public’s gaps in knowledge of his overall platform (you’ll have to scroll down to the 11th graf). A March 20th Esquire magazine online interview with Mayor Pete reveals a few of his key ideas. Elle magazine chimes in with a laundry list of important issues and where the candidate stands on them in its March 29th online effort. And, finally, Ebony magazine in its March 25th online posting offers a “Q&A with Mayor Pete Buttigieg about His Plans for Communities of Color.”

In any case, I tend to mistrust too-early splashes in any presidential beauty contest. Like love at first sight, they rarely last. Here’s hoping Buttigieg proves that observation wrong, at least this time.

And, to be honest, the devil is partly behind my wish: If the brown-skinned Barack Obama made Right Wing America hyperventilate, imagine how near asphyxiation they’ll be should we elect ourselves a husband-smooching male president!

Pete & Chasten Outside the Church.

Hot Air: Odin Odium

Myth Madness

The New White Power?

This Holden Matthews knucklehead — the alleged Louisiana arsonist — has been found to be associated with a whole new ilk of white supremacist lunatics. Revering the Germanic god Odin, this growing number of pitiable dopes range from the merely sad and innocuous to the potentially murderous. They embrace the ancient theology because its pantheon is populated by Scandinavian types. In other words, the whitest of the white.

At times like these I’m astonished our benighted species has lasted this long.

Anyway, here are a couple of pieces connecting Matthews to Odinism and here’s a description of the cult from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Checking Out

Kel McBride remains a Bloomington institution even though she skedaddled out of town years ago for love and Louisville. One of the driving forces behind the originally-monikered Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls, this town’s annual Krampus Night fete, and the late, lamented Eroticon, her business for the last few years has been death.

Kel styles herself The Lively Death Lady. Her outfit, Clearly Depart, helps people plan for their own and for loved ones’ final bon voyage. Employing the tag line, “A Death-Changing Experience,” McBride offers practical advice for the ultimate planting — it’s no secret the death industry in America is a huge, too often byzantine, biz — as well as psychological and emotional resourcing. If only it were as easy as The Dude and Walter lugging Donny’s ashes in a Folger’s coffee can to the San Pedro cliffs.

In any case, McBride’s throwing a Thanatic confab later this month. Labled the Before I Die Festival, this year’s second annual iteration “for the living about dying” will be held at various locations around our town from April 16th through the 30th.

Who says death has to be a drag? The festival will feature, among other things, the following events:

  • A Death Café
  • Death Over Dinner (yep, a big dinner for future mourners and die-ers
  • Drink to Your Death (a cocktail party for same)
  • New ideas including green burial mushroom suites
  • An “Obits and Bucket Lists” writing workshop
  • A Rose Hill Cemetery Picnic
  • A fundraising skee-ball tournament

Phew. Interested? Contact Kel McBride at kel.mcbride@clearlydepart.com or phone her at 812.322.3754.

In The Arena

My guest on yesterday’s Big Talk was independent mayoral candidate Nile Arena. Here’s the link to the podcast. Tune in Monday during the 5:00pm Daily Local News for Big Talk Extra, when Arena will discuss his platform issues.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. All Big Talks are archived here.

Hot Air: Charlotte

Great news on the Charlotte Zietlow front!

She’ll be sprung from her Stonecroft digs, where she’s been cooling her heels since her February stroke, Friday. She’ll be heading to her Green Acres homestead with the requisite keepers who’ll help her navigate as necessary.

Charlotte’s a tough old bird, as if I needed to tell you that. You’d have had to read between the lines with the diligence of a CIA code breaker to sense any frustration or discouragement on her part post-stroke, but it was there. Oh yeah, it was there. And nobody ever could accuse her of being a shirker — she’s been toiling mightily to regain her strength and balance and she seems to have done just that, ergo the Stonecroft decision makers giving her a parole.

She’s been keeping up with Bloomington news as well as the national political soap operas throughout her ordeal. Most important, she’s fairly disgusted with what she considers the mob mentality following the March 25th blockbuster Amanda Barge IDS story. I ventured to suggest to her that I felt betrayed by Amanda. Charlotte countered she felt betrayed by public and Democratic Party officials who reacted to the IDS revelations with, as she characterized it, meanness and a lack of civility.

Nobody ever has to guess where Charlotte Zietlow stands on any issue. Nothing — not even a stroke — can alter that aspect of her character.

Hot Air: A Better Day?

It was an unusually warm early spring day, that Thursday, 51 years ago.

When the news hit that Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed, I ‘d already begun gaining awareness of the outside world. I’d just turned 12 precisely a month before. Politics, the nation, the world, Vietnam, civil rights, women’s lib, unrest here and around the globe, Mayor Daley, President Johnson — they all held me rapt. I’d even written an essay for my elementary school newspaper, the Lovett Lantern, earlier that school year, explicating how I, putatively named the next president’s Secretary of State, might strive to solve the world’s problems. Those solutions seemed so logical, so achievable to me, a bright, cocksure pre-teen. Perhaps my favorite preamble line in those days: All we have to do is….

The following likely illustrates the overarching atmosphere in this holy land at the time — upon hearing the news that King was dead, I wasn’t at all surprised. In fact, if there were any wonder at all it would have been in thinking How did he survive this long?

Somehow I knew someone would get to King. Growing up in the neighborhood I did, it was clear there’d been an almost palpable desire on the part of the citizenry that some hero would come along and put the nation’s preeminent freedom fighter out of white America’s misery.

My first instinct was to suspect the FBI had pulled the trigger. The truth is The Man, in the person of J. Edgar Hoover or George Wallace or Strom Thurmond or any of a million other powerful whites needn’t have squeezed that trigger or even held the rifle steady for the shooter. For after some punk-assed loser had fired a round into King’s jaw and neck on that motel balcony in Memphis, all The Men and all The Little Guys in my neighborhood rose as one as if to cheer their team winning the World Series.

There was no need for conspiracy. Out of a then-American population of 200 million, surely there’d be enough lone wolves, “hellhounds” (as aptly described by author Hampton Sides in his history of the assassination), to ensure that King would not trouble white America into the 1970s. Who knows how many moral runts like James Earl Ray trailed King through his final years, his final days? Only one’d be enough to get that clear shot, that killshot. And Ray got it.

Even more disturbing, who knows how many wealthy segregationists — oilmen, football team owners, industrial scions, et cetera — shelled out dough to Ray and countless other wretches, for whom a rich man’s pocket change was a veritable fortune, so as to keep them fed, roomed, gassed up, and pumped up as they followed King around the country, waiting, waiting, waiting for that perfect moment.

The next day, Friday, even more warm and oppressive, my city exploded. My family didn’t live terribly far from the West Side that had begun going up in flames in the morning. The sun was hazed over by the smoke from the fires wafting overhead. The sounds of sirens and helicopters cut through the miasma throughout the day, into the evening, and until a terrifying midnight storm, like the wrath of god, descended upon the city, cooling things down, if temporarily.

We don’t need to have freedom fighters gunned down anymore. We simply gaslight them into irrelevance.

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