Category Archives: Freedom

1000 Words: Not To Be Forgotten

Earlier this week, we celebrated the anniversary of the March on Washington. Its formal name was “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”

Most of us remember it as the time Martin Luther King Jr. uttered the line, “I have a dream.” Those four words were only a tiny part of his 17-minute speech but they’re the ones that ring in our hearts and memories to this day.

King, Speaking at the March on Washington.

An aside: I’m not able to post video of King’s speech here, nor are many people able to do so. Film footage of it is not in the public domain. Members of King’s family own the rights to it, as well as a bunch of other King-related materials. Swear to god, you can get it on Amazon. Acc’d’g to this January 2017 article in the Washington Post, not even the makers of the 2014 film “Selma” could use the footage because it already had been grabbed and paid for by Steven Spielberg for a movie he wanted to make.

I bet a lot of people think the March on Washington was strictly a King rally. A quarter million people gathered on the Mall in Washington, DC on that brilliantly sunny, hot August afternoon. People came on buses, by hitchhiking, by carpooling, by train, even by foot from all over the country. Young and old. White people, too, in a town where, a scant 38 years before, 30,000 members of the Ku Klux Klan marched in a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. By the time of the March on Washington, the KKK had been relegated to the American fringe, albeit an awfully powerful, too often deadly fringe. A fringe that held sway with local, state, and national politicians even as King stood on the speaker’s platform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that August Monday. (A fringe that still carries weight today, albeit under different banners.) King at the time was the biggest name in the fight for civil rights in America. King today is pretty much the only name many of us remember in the fight for civil rights in America.

The fact is King was only one of many activists, advocates, celebrities, and swells invited to the event. So, who was sending out those invitations?

The March on Washington was the brainchild, and the result of the hard work, of two people whose names are largely forgotten in 2023 but who, all those years ago, were titans in the effort to bring equality and rights to all American citizens, even — gasp! — those with dark skin.

These two were A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin.

Randolph (L) & Rustin.

There’s not one child in a hundred today who’d be able to tell you who those two fellows were. Hell, there’s not one adult in a hundred. Well, among white people, at least.

Randolph was a labor union leader. He’d formed the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters back in 1925, the same year that huge crowd of KKK members had marched in Washington I mentioned earlier. Born in Jim Crow Florida in 1889, Randolph remembered seeing his mother sit on the family front porch, a shotgun at the ready in her lap, as her husband, armed with a pistol, set off for the Putnam County jail to confront a white mob trying to lynch a black man being held there.

Randolph felt the crush of institutionalized racism, southern apartheid, northern segregation, and the visceral fear white America felt about Black people, naturally making him feel as though he were not of this holy land. He was pushing 30 years old when the Bolshevik revolution overturned the ruling order of Russia and sent waves of panic around the world. Randolph was inspired by the idea of socialism, as well as the organizing tactics of the socialist Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or “the Wobblies). He wasn’t the only Black person, alienated by America’s vicious racism, who flirted with — and were courted by — this nation’s sworn philosophical enemies. singer, actor and activist Paul Robeson was another. The novelists Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison, too.

The likes of J. Edgar Hoover reacted to these flirtations/courtings by attempting to paint all civil rights activists as dangerous, godless commies.

I’ll attempt to defend Randolph, Robeson, Wright, and Ellison by saying the true horrors of Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union and the potential for tyranny in highly centralized communism were not realized and/or understood for many years. Marx’s ideas sound good on first reading but, in practice, they’re quite a few steps worse than late-stage American capitalism.

By World War II, Randolph had emerged as America’s top civil rights leader. In 1941, he and Rustin began discussing a mass march of the nation’s capital to protest discrimination and demand jobs. The two were partly inspired by Gandhi’s pacifist protests and resistance against the British Raj. A few federal laws and executive orders over the next few years temporarily satisfied civil rights activists but outright racism had re-stoked the fire by the early 1960s.

Rustin labored under two “handicaps”: not only was he Black, he was queer. He was a brilliant organizer, putting together the famous Freedom Rides and helping form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In addition to co-organizing the March on Washington, he formed numerous support groups for tenants, workers and voters. He kept a low profile because of his homosexuality, otherwise his voice might have become as loud, nationally, as King’s.

Freedom Riders.

Raised in relative affluence by his grandparents in a small town near Philadelphia, Rustin as a child met civil rights giants like W.E.B. Du Bois because his grandmother, Julia, a Quaker, was active in the early NAACP. He began talking — and thinking — about things like systematic racism and Jim Crow laws at a very young age. By World War II, he would be a key actvist in the fight to protect West Coast Japanese-Americans who were being interned and their possessions seized.

It wasn’t until the Reagan Era when Rustin finally began agitating for gay rights. He titled his 1986 speech for gay rights in New York City, “The New Niggers Are Gay.” Those were the days when the strategic and thoughtful use of the N-bomb imparted a heft, an urgency, rather than simply being a dirty word.

The March on Washington wasn’t Martin Luther King Jr.’s baby. It was Randolph’s and Rustin’s.


Hot Air: Freedom & Courage

A couple of thoughts, one each for the concepts of freedom and courage.

First, in this topsy-turvy 2020, the word freedom is bandied about almost exclusively by Right Wingers who want to carry semi-automatic weapons into Subway shops (where they can buy sandwiches made with a substance that at least one country has declared not to be bread) and more of them — Right Wingers, natch — who can’t bear the tyranny of having to wear face masks during a global pandemic.

This is a new paradigm inasmuch as, when I was a pup just coming into awareness of national and world events, the freedom heralders and carolers were almost exclusively on the Left. Republicans weren’t calling for freedom in the 1960s; no, hippies and anti-war protesters and civil rights activists and drug culture aficionados were shouting the word from every rooftop.

Again, in the now, those who agitate for, say, racial equality and marijuana decriminalization rarely, if ever, use the term. It has been snatched and owned by The Other Side.

What Does She Stand For?

The truth is, freedom means everything and anything and, as such, really means nothing. You realize, of course, that every single nation, today and in decades past, has crowed, in so many words, that it is the lone and most vigilant defender of freedom on the globe.

What do you think the architects of the Third Reich told their followers about their nation? That it was a crushing dictatorship? Hell no! Dr. Goebbels and the rest of the Nazi big shots all told their fellow Germans that they were free people, that if push came to shove and war broke out, good Germans would be putting their lives on the line for their own freedom. The government of Putin’s Russia tells its constituents they have freedom. Same with Kim’s North Korea. Everybody’s free in their own country; those who aren’t free, the poor slobs, live elsewhere. That’s a universal on this planet.

American Black people fought overseas in the Philippines, World Wars I & II, and on the Korean peninsula even as, at home, they were yoked under Jim Crow laws, legalized voter suppression, and the rotting, ancient remnants of Reconstruction-era apartheid. Those American Black people told themselves they were fighting for freedom. Perhaps, as I’ve written herein before, they actually believed they were fighting for some vague promise of freedom. No such promise seemed forthcoming for American women — Black or white — in the 1940s, though. They rolled up their sleeves and worked in factories for the cause of freedom (they would have gladly informed you) even though the vast majority of them couldn’t own homes under their own names and were compelled by law to submit to sex with their husbands even if the latter were stinking drunk and/or stinking, period.

So what does freedom mean?

I’ll be damned if I know.


Here’s the case of an Indiana woman who lost her job because she told a couple of newspaper reporters a truth.

Kimberley Jackson was a discharge planner for NeuroBehavioral Hospital in Crown Pointe. The New York Times was doing a piece on “patient dumping,” the practice of nursing homes to eject patients who are no longer “profitable.” These extended care facilities transport patients to hospital emergency rooms when, for instance, they need care above and beyond the absolute minimum a for-profit corporation is willing to provide or their extended care coverage is running low or even if their personal wealth is becoming, shall we say, insufficient.

The nursing facilities come up with any and all excuses to label such patients as as in need of immediate extraordinary care (they’re too often not) so they must send them to the ER. Once there, the patients are now the hospital’s problem. The extended care facility has effectively washed its hands of them.

Just Leave ’em There.

I suppose the practice makes good business sense but, in terms of human decency and health care, it sucks. The patients find themselves in a limbo, banned by the nursing home and not all all in need of emergency care. What would happen to them? Who knows? Worse, who cares?

Kimberley Jackson appears to have cared.

By the way, being a discharge planner does not imply that Jackson was responsible for people’s bowel, bladder, sputum, and bleeding schedules. Jackson’s job was to help patients who either stayed at her hospital or had visited its emergency room find proper care after they left the place. Hospitals these days run on an assembly line system: Get ’em in, fix ’em up, and get ’em the hell outta here as quickly as possible. That, hospital administrators have determined, is good business. As such there must be some professional in each hospital who helps patients and their families figure out how they’re going to be cared for, properly, once they’re shown the door.

So she’s quite familiar with the plight of people who been evicted from nursing homes and dumped on her hospital’s doorstep.

As such, she told NYT reporters Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Rachel Abrams how her particular hospital responded to the practice. I should say, her former hospital. She was fired for blabbing to the reporters.

Jackson says she didn’t know it was her hospital’s policy for unauthorized employees never to speak with the media about goings-on there. I don’t buy it; everybody who works in a hospital has it pounded into them from day one that they are to STFU when reporters come nosing around. That way, nobody’ll divulge any potentially embarrassing details. Hospitals, being for-profit businesses (even when they label themselves non-profits) have, after all, brands to protect. Those, my friends, too often are viewed as equally vital to a hospital’s interests as the public’s health.

More likely, Jackson was so repulsed by the patient dumping practice that she felt compelled to reveal all to the reporters and damn the torpedoes. Either way, Jackson showed real courage is speaking with Silver-Greenberg and Abrams.

Jackson was a whistleblower. For my dough, whistleblowers have 23 times more guts then a whole platoon-full of semi-automatic rifle-wielding militiamen.

He Can Learn A Thing Or Two About Courage.

Hot Air: The Inside Story!

Thank the dear lord in heaven up above!

At long last news of our national nightmare has been superseded by an even greater earth-shattering event. The election last November of President Gag now stands in mute humility before the historic incident at the end of last night’s Oscars™ ceremony.


As a public service to the global readership of this communications colossus as well as to the historians and archeologists of the future, I offer a clear and concise elucidation of the event:

Somebody made a mistake.

What Is Freedom?

I caught an interesting take put forth by a native of the United Kingdom, a Londoner to be precise, at a little soiree — entirely unrelated to the Surrender of the Japa…, er, Birth of Our Lord and Savi…, I mean Academy Awards™ presentation — last night.

This person has lived long enough in the New World to have lost quite a bit of her accent. In fact, a careful listener might even be able to detect the sound of an occasional -r in her speech. Nevertheless, she had spent enough of her adult life in England to now be rather familiar with both societies.

This person made an observation about the concept of freedom and how the two cultures, American and British, view it. Says she: In America, we cherish the freedom to…. In Great Britain, and for that matter the rest of Europe, they embrace the freedom from….

That is, we have the freedom to do whatever we want. Or at least we like to think so.

In Europe, people strive for the freedom from financially devastating illness, tyrant kings, and the inability to travel from one corner of their land to another for lack of a titanic SUV.

So here, we’re in thrall to guns (because it’s our right to open carry them even into McDonald’s and Starbucks) while those Continental types have universal health care, parliaments, and subsidized rail.



I can’t argue with her assessment.

War Words

Gonna hit the mics this afternoon with Bloomington’s globe-trotting journalist Doug Wissing. We’ll be recording for this week’s edition of Big Talk, a regular Thursday feature of the Daily Local News. Tune in to WFHB, 91.3FM, on March 2nd at 5:00pm.


Wissing (Center) With The Troops

Doug has written his second book following several embeds with the US Army in Afghanistan. His latest book on that blood swamp is Hopeless But Optimistic: Journeying Through America’s Endless War in Afghanistan. Doug had previously released Funding the Enemy: How US Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban.

The Pencil Today:


“This is my rifle. This is my gun. This is for fighting. This is for fun.” — Gunnery Sergeant Hartman


Jared Loughner. James Holmes. Wade Page.

Second Amendment Beneficiaries

Three mad hatters who found it easy to get their hands on guns.


Here’s how I waste my time. How about you? Share your fave sites with us via the comments section. Just type in the name of the site, not the url; we’ll find them. If we like them, we’ll include them — if not, we’ll ignore them.

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

XKCD — “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”


SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

I Fucking Love ScienceA Facebook community of science geeks.

Present and CorrectFun, compelling, gorgeous and/or scary graphic designs and visual creations throughout the years and from all over the world.

Flip Flop Fly BallBaseball as seen through infographics, haikus, song lyrics, and other odd communications devices.

Mental FlossFacts.

Caps Off PleaseComics & fun.

SodaplayCreate your own models or play with other people’s models.

Eat Sleep DrawAn endless stream of artwork submitted by an endless stream of people.

By Samira Elk on Eat Sleep Draw

Big ThinkTapping the brains of notable intellectuals for their opinions, predictions, and diagnoses.

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

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

Brown County Career Resource Center, Nashville — One day course: Basic photovoltaics, solar energy; 9am-5pm

People’s ParkLunch Concert Series: The Mizfits; 11:30am

◗ Corner of Sixth and Madison streets — Tuesday Farmers Market, Music: Shahed Rafiuddin; 4-7pm

The Venue Fine Art & GiftsDemocratic candidate for State Senate Mark Stoops; 5:30-7:30pm

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Indiana Boys All Star Jam; 6-8:30pm

Buskirk-Chumley TheaterRufus Wainwright; 8pm

The Root Cellar at Farm Bloomington — Team trivia; 8pm

Bear’s PlaceThe Natives, Cocunuts, Mr. Hipster; 9pm

The BishopTerrapin Flyer with Tom Constanten of the Grateful Dead; 9:30pm


◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • “40 Years of Artists from Pygmalion’s”; opens Friday, August 3rd, through September 1st

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • Qiao Xiaoguang, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts” ; through August 12th
  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th
  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th
  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th
  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th
  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st
  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012
  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st
  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits:

  • Coming — Media Life; August 24th through September 15th
  • Coming — Axe of Vengeance: Ghanaian Film Posters and Film Viewing Culture; August 24th through September 15th

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesClosed for semester break, reopens Tuesday, August 21st

Monroe County History Center Exhibits:

  • “What Is Your Quilting Story?”; through July 31st
  • Photo exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th