The Pencil Today:


“I love America more than any other country in this world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” — James Baldwin


I didn’t want to make a big deal of this yesterday mainly because I painted a less-than flattering portrait of the American Dream — on the Fourth of July, no less.

I didn’t want it to appear as though I were piling on.

It strikes me, though, that the vast majority of people we celebrate on the anniversary of this holy land’s birth seem to be soldiers.

Military Vehicles In A Fourth Of July Parade

Several of my most loyal readers are proud former soldiers so I don’t mean to insult them. One was in the regular Army and served in Iraq. Another was a Marine officer. Others served in the National Guard and the reserves. Much as I hate to admit it, there’s a need for people who are willing to go out and kill other people for the sake of the country. I’m glad there are plenty of people who can do that; I know I couldn’t have.

I’d have refused induction, deserted, or been thrown in the brig had I been drafted during the Vietnam era.

One of the most heroic acts in American history, I feel, was the stance Muhammad Ali took when he got his “Greetings” letter from the Selective Service System. He chucked his lucrative career as a world champion boxer, reported to his induction center, and refused to say “Here” when his name was called.

Muhammad Ali After He Refused Induction Into the Army

He explained: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. They never called me nigger.” Later he said, “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from my home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

My own reasons for not wanting to fire deadly weapons at the Vietnamese included my refusal to participate in what I knew to be an arrogant, wrong-headed war, one that could only have been waged by a people who felt superior to all the other peoples on this weird, weird planet. That and the fact that I believe it is a superlative accomplishment to go through this mad life without killing, maiming, or otherwise injuring another human.

Sometimes, sure, there’s a need to kill another. Studs Terkel had the right idea when he entitled his oral history of Word War II, “The Good War.”

Somebody Had To Clobber These Dopes

You’ll note that there wasn’t as broad an epidemic of mental illness among the veterans of that war. Certainly the people who had to blow the brains out of Nazis and Japanese suffered emotionally and psychologically. But so many of the veterans of Vietnam, Iraq I & II, and Afghanistan have suffered profound emotional torture upon their return to this country.

Why? Perhaps because World War II veterans understood that they were fighting for a righteous cause. That can go a long way toward ameliorating one’s psychic fallout after participating in the brutality of war.

World War II vets could say to themselves, “I had to kill bad guys.”

What can the veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom say to console him or herself?


So, I’m not unmindful of the role the armed services have played in the existence of these United States.

On the Fourth of July, though, you can be excused for thinking the only people who have meant anything to this nation’s existence were soldiers.

Let’s not forget people who didn’t have to blow people’s brains out for the good of their country:

  • Jane Addams — Philosopher, sociologist, and settlement worker, she founded Hull House
  • Roger Baldwin — Co-founded the American Civil Liberties Union with Crystal Eastman and Walter Nelles
  • Ella Baker — Co-founder with Bayard Rustin of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, of which Martin Luther King, Jr. was president, she also helped organize the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
  • Daisy Gatson Bates — Journalist, led the effort to desegregate Little Rock schools after the US Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision

Daisy Gatson Bates

  • Philip and Daniel Berrigan — Catholic priests and radical anti-war protesters during the Vietnam Era.
  • Nellie Bly — Undercover journalist, exposed conditions for the poor and marginalized people
  • Rachel Carson — Wrote “Silent Spring,” awakening the nation to the threat of environmental pollution
  • William Sloane Coffin — President of SANE/Freeze, anti-war activist, civil rights advocate, gay rights supporter
  • Dorothea Dix — Fought for insane asylum, poorhouse, and prison reforms

Dorothea Dix

  • WEB DuBois — Co-founder of the NAACP, the first black to receive a doctorate from Harvard University, an educator, author, historian, sociologist, philosopher, and poet
  • Marian Wright Edelman — Founder of the Children’s Defense Fund and civil rights activist
  • Barbara Ehrenreich — Investigative, undercover journalist who exposes corporate and employer abuses as well as poverty conditions
  • Daniel Ellsberg — Delivered The Pentagon Papers to the New York Times
  • Matthew Gaines — A former slave, freedmen leader, and state senator, he helped establish free public schools in Texas
  • William Lloyd Garrison — Abolitionist, advocated women’s suffrage, co-founded the American Anti-Slavery Society
  • Alex Haley — Authored “Roots: The Saga of an American Family”
  • Mary Harris “Mother” Jones — Labor and community organizer, co-founded Industrial Workers of the World

“Mother” Jones

  • Seymour Hersh — Investigative journalist, exposed the My Lai Massacre as well as many government abuses
  • Hubert H. Humphrey — Forced the Democratic Party to adopt a civil rights platform at the 1948 national convention
  • Robert La Follette Sr. — Progressive senator, fought against the corporatocracy, an unapologetic liberal

“Fightin’ Bob” La Follette

  • Malcolm X — Grew to reject violence and separatism in the fight for civil rights
  • Biddy Mason — A freed slave, became a wealthy entrepreneur, donated huge amounts to charities
  • Lucretia Mott — Helped organize the Women’s Rights Convention, her home was an Underground Railroad station
  • Ralph Nader — Consumer advocate, fought against the corporatocracy
  • A. Philip Randolph — Labor leader, civil rights advocate
  • Bayard Rustin — Civil rights advocate who help organize civil disobedience protests, espoused nonviolence and pacifism, advocated for gay rights

Bayard Rustin

  • Mario Savio — Free speech advocate
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton — Advocate for women’s rights, abolitionist, universal suffragist
  • I.F. Stone — Independent investigative journalist, exposed racism within the FBI, revealed South Korean instigation of hostilities prior to the Korean War
  • Lucy Stone — Advocate for women’s rights, abolitionist
  • Sojourner Truth — Abolitionist and supporter of women’s rights
  • Howard Zinn — Iconoclastic historian, insisted on telling Americans what we’ve been rather than what we wish we were.

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

◗ IU Theater AnnexChildren’s musical,  “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs,” presented by Indiana Festival Theater; 11am

Monroe County Public Library“What It Was Like,” Fairview Elementary alumni share reminiscences of the school from the 30s-70s; 4-6pm

Bear’s PlaceDavid Linard Trio; 5:30pm

David Linard

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Kara Barnard & Chuck Willis; 6pm

Third Street ParkOutdoor concert, Hungry Dog Blues Band featuring Snarlyn Carlyn Lindsay; 6:30pm

The Player’s Pub The Blue Rivieras; 6:30pm

◗ IU Wells-Metz Theatre“The Taming of the Shrew”; 7:30pm

Cafe Django“Singing to Katmandu,” fundraiser for BloomingtonKatmandu exhibit featurng local artists and musicians; 7:30pm

The Comedy AtticRyan Singer; 8pm

◗ IU Auer Hall, Simon Music Library — “Quattro Mani,” Alice Rybak and Susan Grace perform Creston, Beach, Rzewski, Bowles, Bolcom, & Hovhaness; 8pm

Alice Rybak

Serendipity Martini BarTeam trivia; 8:30pm

Max’s PlaceBluegrass, New Old Calvary; 9pm


◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibit, “I’m Too Young For This  @#!%” by John D. Shearer; through July 30th

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibit, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts by Qiao Xiaoguang; through August 12th — Exhibit, wildlife artist William Zimmerman; through September 9th — Exhibit, David Hockney, new acquisitions; through October 21st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryKinsey Institute Juried Art Show; through July 21st, 11am

Monroe County History CenterPhoto exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

One thought on “The Pencil Today:

  1. You’ve earned your supper with this one.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: