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Mon Aug 14, 2017, 09:35 AM

Ode to Our Viola

“There are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true that they're worth dying for. And if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Syracuse University; July 1965

In February of 2015, the long-lost tape of King's speech at SU was found. It is an important historical artifact, that reflects Dr. King's thinking shortly after the Selma campaign. King spoke about, among other things, the importance of education in the civil rights movement. The violence in Selma, which resulted in several deaths and hundreds of injuries among the victims of racism, would serve to educate white Americans about the realities of the black experience.

King mentioned Viola Liuzzo, who had been murdered by the combined forces known variously as the KKK, the White Citizens Council, or the local police who wore blue uniforms by day, and white sheets after dark. It took the films of the assault on the bridge, and the deaths of Liuzzo and James Reeb shocked the nation. The February 18 murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson by Alabama State Trooper corporal James Fowler, inside a cafe, got far less coverage; Jackson's crime was having attended a peaceful demonstration with his mother.

I find myself thinking of Viola Liuzzo, when I learn about Heather Heyer. It is sad that it takes such a tragedy to really catch the public's attention. Too few realized that the alt-right poses a serious danger to civilized society, that they aren't just the harmless 3rd and 4th generation spawn of European boat people that this nation allowed to immigrate to its southern shores.

There will be attempts to soil Ms. Heyer's reputation, just as there were attempts to soil Liuzzo's. Whenever anyone attempts to blame a victim, rather than the perpetrator of a violent crime, you know that their mind is sick.

“In March 1965, Dr. King asked me, along with many others, to accompany him to Selma, Alabama. I refused to join those brave people. If the 'Hurricane' was attacked by dogs, batons, mounted police, or hoses, he would have to fight back and kill someone or, even more likely, be killed.”
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter; Eye of the Hurricane; 2011; page 83

I used to talk with Rubin about Selma. He was friends with both Dr. King and Malcolm X. We discussed Malcolm's telegram to George Lincoln Rockwell, the head of the US nazi party, in which Malcolm made clear that if Rockwell's forces brought any harm to Dr. King or his followers, Malcolm would bring forces to Selma to fight fire with fire.

In 1998, a group of 17 racist white men in upstate New York had viciously assaulted my nephew, a black high school scholar-athlete, in a dark field serving as a parking lot for the General Clinton Canoe Regatta. Their cowardly surprise attack was witnessed by a lady who was inside her car, who described it as similar to a pack of wolves. They left my nephew – with his hands still inside his pockets – unconscious on the ground, assuming that he was dead. He lived, though he suffered permanent physical injuries.

Thus, I understand the urge to retaliate. To fight fire with fire. Yes, I do. As Rubin said, that was my first nature. Yet, I had to make it my second nature ….to respond to this ugly crime in a higher nature, to harness my better potential, so that the violence did not continue to gain a force of its own, beyond our control.

Instead of going to the thugs' community for “revenge,” I focused upon two things: trying to get justice through the legal system, and using the media to educate the public about the insidious nature of racism. The court hearings went from June to October, and crowds from over 50 miles came, every week, to insist that justice be served. My friend Robert Kennedy, Jr., issued a statement calling for the maximum legal prosecution for this hate crime. Newspaper, radio, and television reporters provided significant coverage of the case.

At first, my nephew's friends questioned the wisdom of this approach. They knew that this would be handled very differently than if a group of black men had assaulted a white teen. I had a couple of men offer to take care of business if I but said the word, and I knew they were serious. But such violence could only lead to more violence.

I've said all of that, to say this: I understand why young people felt the need to fight fire with fire at the Ku Klux Klown – nazi demonstration. I absolutely appreciate the human right to engage in self-defense when attacked. And I admit that, were I young, I would have loved to have been there, and non-violence would have been the last thing I'd have considered.

But I'm not a young man. Haven't been one for many decades now. And so I recognize that, when passions flow, young people might not consider my voice worth listening to. And that's fair. But I hope they will consider what Martin Luther King said, and to look at the lessons of Selma. Evaluate that important historical series of events. Honor Heather Heyer.

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Arrow 24 replies Author Time Post
Reply Ode to Our Viola (Original post)
H2O Man Aug 2017 OP
CaliforniaPeggy Aug 2017 #1
H2O Man Aug 2017 #3
panader0 Aug 2017 #2
H2O Man Aug 2017 #5
democrank Aug 2017 #4
H2O Man Aug 2017 #7
pamela Aug 2017 #6
H2O Man Aug 2017 #8
mia Aug 2017 #9
pamela Aug 2017 #11
mia Aug 2017 #13
H2O Man Aug 2017 #14
pamela Aug 2017 #10
H2O Man Aug 2017 #12
bigtree Aug 2017 #15
H2O Man Aug 2017 #16
Solly Mack Aug 2017 #17
H2O Man Aug 2017 #18
H2O Man Aug 2017 #19
Ken Burch Aug 2017 #20
H2O Man Aug 2017 #21
grantcart Aug 2017 #22
H2O Man Aug 2017 #23
grantcart Aug 2017 #24

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 09:43 AM

1. Yours is the voice of age and wisdom, my dear H20 Man.

We need to grow up, to get old, in order to have wisdom. Even if we do both of those things, we may not be very wise. It all depends on what we bring along with us as we grow emotionally and intellectually.

You have accomplished these tasks, and we all benefit. The brash youth with strong muscles and no patience for long-term solutions would do well to listen to you.

Thank you for your beautiful and thoughtful post.

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Response to CaliforniaPeggy (Reply #1)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 09:59 AM

3. Years ago,

when I was in the "between" stage -- not young and certainly not wise -- I participated in a peaceful march for traditional Iroquois rights. It was a tense time, and the fact that an unknown police officer knew my name was not reassuring. (grin) Some fellow stepped behind me, and struck me with a board. I turned around, and had eye contact with him ....and briefly considered having fist-to-face contact. Luckily, however, he had hit me over my head, so there was no damage done. I still have the piece of that board that broke off after hitting my rock-hard head.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 09:46 AM

2. There is a contrast, to be sure, between the statement by Dr. King

and the quote from Rubin Carter. I like to think of myself as a peaceful man,
but there have been times when I have lost my temper. Less often as I have
grown older. But it's hard to predict how I would act in a situation like Selma
or Charlottesville. I would try to protect others and myself and not initiate
Have you recovered from your fall?

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Response to panader0 (Reply #2)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 10:16 AM

5. Thank you.

I still have some unattractive bruises on my old bag of bones, but am feeling pretty good. I'm glad that I didn't break any bones!

Being human, I am certainly imperfect. A few years back, I was walking my dog on a corner of my lawn, while my young daughters waited for the school bus. I noticed a car slowing down as it approached; after going by slowly, the driver backed up and unrolled his window, preparing to talk to my girls. Old Dad raced across the lawn, and when he saw me, the fellow sped off. By the time I was able to get in my vehicle, he was long gone.

I called the state police. The gentleman who came to our house detected that I was enraged. He later told the girls' mother that he had identified the creep, and had spoken with him. But he said he didn't want me to learn the creep's identity, as he thought I'd go after him.

Although I'm old now, if there is an immediate threat to my children, I can still do a fuck of a lot of damage -- fast. And I reserve that human right. If that threat isn't immediate, I favor using the justice system. Thus, I can't say how I would have responded if I were there Saturday, and could have gotten my hands on the shithead who killed Heather Heyer, who could have been my daughter.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 10:02 AM

4. We can best honor Heather Heyer through nonviolent resistance.

Stand up, speak out, honor principles of social and economic justice, but do it nonviolently.

I think of Jimmy Carter and his hammer, the Rev. Dr. William Barber II and his speeches, Michelle Obama and her garden and so many more. I don't want our message to be overshadowed by fist fights or broken windows, I want our message to be heard because of determined, nonviolent courage to stand up for what is right.....in a way that honors all the peacemakers that have come before us.

Thank you, H20 Man.


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Response to democrank (Reply #4)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 10:21 AM

7. Right!

President Carter, Rev. Barber, and Michele Obama are definitely the voices of conscience that we should be listening to today. I could not agree more. I have the greatest respect for each of them. (And I can admit that I'm not totally objective when it comes to Ms. Obama, as I've had a crush on her since I first saw her!)

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 10:17 AM

6. I'm working on a screenplay about Viola Liuzzo

I'm focusing on the slut-shaming aspect. I feel her story is very timely. She was never really given the recognition she deserved because the attempts (by the Klan AND the FBI) to ruin her reputation took hold and stuck.

Here's a disgusting example: At the first trial of her murderers, the defense told the jury that the medical examiner found a quart of sperm in her vagina during the autopsy. (There was no sign of sexual activity in her autopsy but the prosecution never challenged this.)This type of thing was a typical Klan tactic at the time to smear women involved in the Civil Rights movement as sluts who were coming to the South to screw "negroes."

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Response to pamela (Reply #6)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 10:24 AM

8. Great!

None other than J. Edgar Hoover took the lead in trying to smear her reputation. That alone is ample reason to study her life -- which I'm so happy you are doing! -- and once studied, to honor her dedication to social justice.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #8)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 10:41 AM

9. Thank you for sharing Viola's story.

I had never heard of her before today

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Response to mia (Reply #9)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 11:02 AM

11. There is a good documentary about her if you're interested.

It's called "Home Of The Brave."

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Response to pamela (Reply #11)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 11:33 AM

13. Thanks for the tip.

I look forward to seeing it.

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Response to pamela (Reply #11)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 12:23 PM

14. Thanks for this.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #8)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 10:58 AM

10. I was so happy to see your thread title.

I'm kind of obsessed with Viola Liuzzo-have been for years. I follow her daughters Penny and Mary on Facebook and Twitter. It's really sad how their lives were destroyed by her murder and by the campaign to defame her.

Did you know they sued the government for the what J. Edgar did to their mother? (They lost.) There is a pretty good documentary about all of this called "Home Of The Brave" if anyone is interested.

The 2016 election reawakened my desire to get this story out there. I was really struck by how every smear stuck to Hillary like glue but rolled right off Trump. It just reminded me of Viola because the smears against her were so ridiculous but they stuck. She should be a household name but I am always shocked at how little we hear about her and I believe that is largely because she was smeared so badly. Men in the Civil Rights movement were also smeared but it never really stuck like it did with Viola.

She was an amazing woman-very ahead of her time. Even before Selma she had a history of standing up for social justice and fighting for the oppressed.

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Response to pamela (Reply #10)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 11:07 AM

12. Right.

If I remember correctly -- and at my age, that's not always the case -- her family came from PA. Her mom was a teacher, I think, and her father a laborer. During the Great Depression, they moved south so her father could find a job; neither parent had steady employment/income, and the family lived in a one-room shack. Viola and her family (parents and one sibling) were exposed to the racial hatreds and injustices there.

I know that she had been an activist throughout her adult life, though my mind is a bit hazy on her experiences before Selma. Anything you can add is most appreciated.

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Response to bigtree (Reply #15)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 12:25 PM

16. Thanks, bigtree!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 06:27 PM

20. Deeply honest and painful to read.


A full expression of the deep soul-ache and soul-rage many are feeling today.

Thank you for posting this-especially considering how much inner agony you have to have dredged up within yourself as you talked of what happened to your nephew.

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Response to Ken Burch (Reply #20)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 06:48 PM

21. Thanks, Ken.

On FB today, I saw an article about a demonstration against the selling of the confederate war flag at a county fair. That fair is being held in the town where the cowards that attacked my nephew came from. I said that I wished I had been invited to speak, and a fellow I don't know linked to this OP.

It's also the birthday of one of my cousins, who was murdered in the 1980s over a half-ounce of pot. I spent some time talking with his younger brother.

Strange day, strange times. While I'm in favor of impeachment, I am encouraged that some in Congress -- from both parties -- are beginning to discuss Amendment 25, though behind the scenes. There is an awareness that removing Trump, either way, will result in the ku klux klowns- nazis to engage in more violent attacks against society. Pin heads like Roger Stone are encouraging this shit. And it appeals to unstable thugs like the idiot who drove his car into the crowd. And there are lots of them.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Aug 14, 2017, 07:20 PM

22. Curse you H2O Man, lighting up not a rocket but a whole 4th of July display of deep seated issues.

I wonder if I shall ever have the good fortune to spend an afternoon exchanging stories with Waterman about interesting people. Rubin Hurricane? Well yes that would be interesting. I have had a few but I digress.

Non Violence is both an absolute principle and a discrete strategy.

It simply doesn't work for me as an absolute principle. Wind the clock back and put me in close proximity to Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge Central Committee and I would have worn the suicide vest without a tinge of regret. I saw the killing fields and the hundreds of thousands who crawled into Khao I Dang on the edge of death. Its a calculus that has to be faced. One for millions.

I know people, mostly Mennonites, who live it as principle. Max Ediger worked in South Vietnam at a Mennonite workshop to make prosthesis limbs. He may have been the only American not affiliated with the North (there were a few) to have stayed when the NV came. The battle surrounded his area, his shop and he never moved. He went to work every day, took his lunch every day and returned home every day on a fixed schedule and no war was going to deter him. The NV eventually came by, let him stay for a few years and asked him to leave. He has a deep religious belief that transcends my mortal calculus.

There is a mortal calculus. I remember a graduate seminar we were having on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We were coming up on the end of the 3 weeks we spent on DB and it was late on Friday and we were kind of exhausted and wanted to leave and start our 4 day weekend so the Professor said that he would let us leave if we could identify the single most important lesson, among many that Detrich Bonehoffer provides. Many eager ideas were thrown up about the cost of discipleship and when it grew quiet I offered that while it was courageous to go back to Germany and while he might have given confidence to the 5 plots to kill Hitler that he was involved in the most important point is that Hitler wasn't killed. The professor quietly walked out of the room.

The question that haunts me about your beautifully remembered story about your nephew is that seeking to not respond with violence after the fact is a calling to our higher nature but what if his life was in danger and the only way to save that life was with a violent defense then I would have gone with Malcolm X on that one.

Malcolm X is not an extremist but actually very conservative if you read him without and prior bias. Lots of lift yourself up by your own bootstraps encouragement. But is yielding to a murderer really a higher purpose? Well that is the question, the calculus.

As a tactic to gain moral superiority against a governmental policy then I am with Gandhi, Mendella and King. Not right up there next to them but struggling and buoyed by their strength, and more than a few feet behind them but I stay in line and try to catch up.

But if there is car heading towards Heather I just wish I had a rock I could throw and take the driver out. As the sign held by the old lady says "I can't believe that we still have to put up with all of this shit".

Against this particular demon we need a particular strategy. It seems to me that that we should use what is emerging these last few days, arm everyone with cameras, take pictures and hold the haters to public identification, not because it is non violent but because it is non violent and effective.

Me, I would like to take a Nikon D 800E. Takes great pictures, or so I am told, but it is just big enough that if someone comes roaring by in car it would be big enough and heavy enough to enforce Malcolm X's side of the equation. I am not 100% like Max Ediger but I try really hard to keep it over 50%.

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Response to grantcart (Reply #22)

Tue Aug 15, 2017, 11:54 AM

23. I would welcome

the opportunity to sit down and talk with you in person. I'd love that. Until that day, DU will have to do.

Malcolm had made clear that he did not self-identify as an American while he was in the NOI. Yet his life was one of the most important and inspirational examples of an American experience in the nation's history. And you hit the nail on the head: he was conservative, and an amazing example of self-discipline. That, of course, was why his enemies feared him. He couldn't be tempted, or bought.

The question of non-violence as a tactic versus an absolute principle is one that I have dealt with for the past few decades. I do not fool myself into thinking I've ever fully answered it for myself. The instinct to protect one's family is hard-wired in us genetically for a purpose.

Rubin correctly did not believe in "race." He used to talk in terms of tribes: the black, brown, red, yellow, and white tribes. He noted that the white tribes of Europe (and then North America) often fought among each other, yet when a non-white tribe had a conflict with one of the white tribes, all of the other white tribes joined in. (Reminds me of the model of an extended Irish-American family!)

After reading your post late last night, and thinking of an adequate response, I found myself remembering some of Rubin's late night phone calls. Answering the phone here at 3 am, and hearing his voice say, "Pat! Do you know who this is?" A favorite was when he was hanging out with Nelson Mandela, discussing how to work towards resolving the violence in the Middle East that Rubin attributed to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. (Very different than our discussions on our flower gardens!)

It's in that context that we might benefit from viewing the current situation in the USA. Not the "it can't happen here" position, because as we know, it has happened here. The freaks with their confederate flags are honoring the obvious example of the Civil War. Native Americans were victims of the US version of those killing fields. And on and on.

After WW1, Carl Jung predicted that Germany would soon become nazi Germany, threatening all of Europe. This was from his interpretation of serving as a therapist for average citizens. He noted the common, largely unconscious features that led to his prediction of the rising of the "blonde beast."

We are witnessing the accumulation of largely unconscious behaviors of the synergy of racist and para-military groups today. Their behaviors are no different than the most ignorant, savage, and superstitious of "early man," though one might say they dress in more expensive clothing, and have more modern hair-cuts.

Yesterday, I saw how some of the Trump campaign's people -- not currently in the administration -- are prepping the alt-right internet sites, claiming that the combination of Marxists and the "deep state" are planning to remove Trump illegally (perhaps they are unfamiliar with the Constitution?), and the need for "patriots" to prepare for a war to keep him in office. The sad thing is that the people they are speaking to actually experience and define reality in that way.

Advances in technology have allowed them to network in new, nation-wide ways, instantly. Yet, as you note, that technology allows us new advantages, too. I like your understanding of cameras!

I had thought this OP might get more of a response from the DU community. But I prefer quality to quantity. I thank you for your response!

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #23)

Tue Aug 15, 2017, 12:37 PM

24. People are agitated and need a monument to tear down. In fact so do I.

Charlottesville was the perfect storm for the country in a negative way.

Staring at the depths of the tribal hatred in its racist soul it looked for a leader that would be contrite, sincere and thoughtful in his response to the ugliness. We at DU could have told them that he was bombastic, insincere a highly functional idiot. What has shocked the country is not that the President is a bombastic insincere idiot but that he can't even pretend to be contrite, sincere and thoughtful.

It is like a Twilight Zone episode. It feels like we are on the precipice of a giant cathartic event that will cleanse our national soul. Barring a "massive medical event" it appears that we are going to be dragged down further than we ever thought possible.

On my "smart phone" there is some flip magazine that shows all the hottest stories in various categories. There was one on Trump. There were three on some new fabric that allowed people to see one of the Kardashians nipples when she walked in the sun.

After we processed the evil of WWII it became obvious, even to the devout, that God is either dead or he lost our telephone numbers and we were going to have to straighten this out by ourselves. What really undermines our ability to rise is not our loss of God but our loss of the Sacred. You speak often of our native tribal heritage and I know little of it but what fascinates me is that they don't claim a personal relationship with the great deity but do have a personal relationship with the Sacred: the earth that supports us, the spirit of the animals that accompany us and the remains of our ancestors that came before us.

On TV there is a new horror genre: Arbitrary Marriage Bonding. Bachelor, Bachelorette, 90 day fiancé, Marriage at first sight, and so on. The most sacred thing a person can do is commit their live to another. By trivializing that which is most Sacred in our country we undermine the entire value structure.

President Obama was shepherding the country to a common vision of mutual respect, rebuilding a basis for a shared Sacred in a country with enormously complex internal divisions but that now feels like a previous decade that will soon be featured by CNN in its nostalgic series.

Instead we have a malevolent government, more expensive clothing, more modern hair cuts and a profound fascination with the nipples of the Kardashians. Its hard to know which is more egregious the evil or the banality of it all.

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