Please have a good Memorial Day holiday today. If you are working, I hope you are getting paid time-and-a-half.
Please take at least a little bit of time today to reflect on the reason for this holiday.
Here is the weekly round-up of the Texas Progressive Alliance. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas. The round-up is at the end of this post.
With the round-up this weekend, since Memorial Day tomorrow, is a group portrait of African-American officers taken in Houston in 1918. The names of the men are given as —Lieutenant Benati H. Lee, Lieutenant Harry Murphy, Lieutenant Fred Johnson, Lieutenant Claudius Ballard, Lieutenant Harry Allen, Lieutenant Edward Douglas, Lieutenant Louis Washington, Lieutenant George L. Amos, Lieutenant Samuel A. McGowan, and Lieutenant Frank McFarland, 370th infantry. This picture is at the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress.
I did not know that black officers would have been stationed and trained in a Southern city such as Houston as long ago as 1918.
As it turns out, the fact that these troops were in Houston was a source of tension that led to a riot
“In the spring of 1917, shortly after the United States declared war on Germany, the War Department, taking advantage of the temperate climate and newly opened Houston Ship Channel, ordered two military installations built in Harris County—Camp Logan and Ellington Field. The Illinois National Guard was to train at Camp Logan, located on the northwest outskirts of the city. To guard the construction site, on July 27, 1917, the army ordered the Third Battalion of the black Twenty-fourth United States Infantry to travel by train with seven white officers from the regimental encampment at Columbus, New Mexico, to Houston. From the outset, the black contingent faced racial discrimination when they received passes to go into the city. A majority of the men had been raised in the South and were familiar with segregation, but as army servicemen they expected equal treatment. Those individuals responsible for keeping order, especially the police, streetcar conductors, and public officials, viewed the presence of black soldiers as a threat to racial harmony. Many Houstonians thought that if the black soldiers were shown the same respect as white soldiers, black residents of the city might come to expect similar treatment….On August 23, 1917, a riot erupted in Houston. Near noon, two policemen arrested a black soldier for interfering with their arrest of a black woman in the Fourth Ward. Early in the afternoon, when Cpl. Charles Baltimore, one of the twelve black military policemen with the battalion, inquired about the soldier’s arrest, words were exchanged and the policeman hit Baltimore over the head. The MPs fled. The police fired at Baltimore three times, chased him into an unoccupied house, and took him to police headquarters. Though he was soon released, a rumor quickly reached Camp Logan that he had been shot and killed. A group of soldiers decided to march on the police station in the Fourth Ward and secure his release…. Maj. Kneeland S. Snow, battalion commander, initially discounted the news of impending trouble. Around 8 P.M. Sgt. Vida Henry of I Company confirmed the rumors, and Kneeland ordered the first sergeants to collect all rifles and search the camp for loose ammunition. During this process, a soldier suddenly screamed that a white mob was approaching the camp. Black soldiers rushed into the supply tents, grabbed rifles, and began firing wildly in the direction of supposed mob. The white officers found it impossible to restore order. Sergeant Henry led over 100 armed soldiers toward downtown Houston by way of Brunner Avenue and San Felipe Street and into the Fourth Ward. In their two-hour march on the city, the mutinous blacks killed fifteen whites, including four policemen, and seriously wounded twelve others, one of whom, a policeman, subsequently died. Four black soldiers also died. Two were accidentally shot by their own men, one in camp and the other on San Felipe Street. After they had killed Capt. Joseph Mattes of the Illinois National Guard, obviously mistaking him for a policeman, the blacks began quarreling over a course of action. After two hours, Henry advised the men to slip back into camp in the darkness—and shot himself in the head…Early next morning, August 24, civil authorities imposed a curfew in Houston. On the twenty-fifth, the army hustled the Third Battalion aboard a train to Columbus, New Mexico. There, seven black mutineers agreed to testify against the others in exchange for clemency. Between November 1, 1917, and March 26, 1918, the army held three separate courts-martial in the chapel at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. The military tribunals indicted 118 enlisted men of I Company for participating in the mutiny and riot, and found 110 guilty. It was wartime, and the sentences were harsh. Nineteen mutinous soldiers were hanged and sixty-three received life sentences in federal prison. One was judged incompetent to stand trial. Two white officers faced courts-martial, but they were released. No white civilians were brought to trial. The Houston Riot of 1917 was one of the saddest chapters in the history of American race relations. It vividly illustrated the problems that the nation struggled with on the home front during wartime.”
From these facts—
“More than 350,000 African Americans served in segregated units during World War I, mostly as support troops. Several units saw action alongside French soldiers fighting against the Germans, and 171 African Americans were awarded the French Legion of Honor. In response to protests of discrimination and mistreatment from the black community, several hundred African American men received officers’ training in Des Moines, Iowa. By October 1917, over six hundred African Americans were commissioned as captains and first and second lieutenants.”
The battles we have had to fight have been both at home and abroad.
Here is the round-up—
WhosPlayin notes that the Dallas-Fort Worth area has once again failed to meet its 8 hour ozone attainment, forcing TCEQ to implement contingency measures. Have you had your two teaspoons of ozone today?
Rand Paul explains why Texas Republicans don’t mind pollution, notesCouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme.
Gas and greed divide neighbors in Argyle, TX. A tale of avarice, lies and corruption and civil disobedience in the Barnett Shale brought to you by TXsharon at Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS. Continue reading
Hamburger Wearing An Astros’ Hat Spending Day With Gulf Of Mexico Oil-Free Turtle—Good Friends Help In Difficult Times
Two close friends of mine are Hamburger Wearing An Astros’ Hat and Gulf Of Mexico Oil-Free Turtle.
These two are hanging out over the holiday weekend.
Hamburger says that the Astros’ season so far this year is a disaster. But Oil-Free Turtle says that the oil spill is an even bigger disaster.
No matter—When good friends get together they are able to leave their problems behind.
For the Memorial Day weekend, please be safe on the roads.
Our roads and highways are full full of drunk, distracted and crazy people.
Above is a Memorial Day parade in Cripple Creek, Colorado from 1896.
I’m sure a number of those folks in the picture enjoyed a drink after the parade.
But they did not have cars to get into after they got drunk.
Though I suppose they might have shot each other.
Today we have drunk drivers and guns.
The good thing is that we also have Memorial Day to recall our soldiers.
Please make sure it is as safe a holiday as it can be given how it is we often act in this society.
President Obama is holding a press conference today at 11:45 Central Time. I’m going to watch that conference on C-Span.org and blog about it as it is taking place.
Above is the famous press conference where a man tossed a shoe at former President George W. Bush.
11:40—Watching the CNN coverage leading up the press conference. Blah. Blah. Blah.
11:49—The press conference has begun.
11:52–The President is saying that the Federal Government has been been strongly involved in addressing the spill and that BP is under the direction of the government. This may be so, but why are we hearing this strong assertion of the government’s role 35 days into the crisis. Why does Mr. Obama seem to wait until political trouble has begun to say tough things?
11:56—Mr. Obama says that the Gulf Coast is still a good place to visit. He says that only a small number of beaches in Louisiana are impacted by oil. I’d encourage you to visit Galveston, Texas on the Gulf Coast. It is a great place to take a walk and have dinner.
12:00—President Obama is making the case for regulation of the oil industry. By extension, he is making the case for government regulation in a number of regards. How can people look at this disaster and feel that private firms can be left to regulate themselves?
12:02–Mr. Obama says that this spill is a clear call for new sources of energy. But what about conservation? Don’t the people themselves bear some fault for our need for all this oil?
12:06—Just got up to get some macaroni salad for lunch. The macaroni salad package was open and I had to e-mail my wife to make sure that she was the one who had opened it rather than some crazy person at the supermarket. She replied and said that she had indeed opened the package.
12:09—Question asking if all possible has really been done when many are saying this is not the case. The President says our response has not been perfect, but does reflect the fact that all that can be done in a realistic sense has been done. I suppose you could say that about just about anything in life.
12:15–Question is about calls that the government take command of the spill response from BP. By that logic, which I have no problem with, the government could take over a number things that the private sector can’t seem to get right. Health care would be a good start.
12:18–The Texas Observer has a great story about how the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is a friend of industry rather than a friend of the people of Texas. Some people in Texas live in a kind of oil slick of bad air each day. These folks need a disaster response plan as well.
12:22—The President is again saying that oil companies have not been well-regulated for offshore drilling. The next thing the President could better regulate is overfishing in the Gulf of Mexico that is being conducted by some of the very same people now upset that they can’t fish.
12:25–A question was asked if “heads should roll” over this spill. Below is Francisco de Goya‘s The French Penalty.
12:32–Helen Thomas wants to know when we are going to get out of Afghanistan. I was wondering a few days ago why opposition to our two wars seems to have become silent with Mr. Obama in office. It could have to do with the fact that the Iraq War is winding down. It could also be that some of the opposition was politically motivated and left-of-center political groups don’t want to criticize Mr. Obama. Helen Thomas is 89! Good for her.
12:38–Questions now about how Mr. Obama could have ever thought that the oil companies would do the right thing in the Gulf. Yeah–I agree. I don’t know how he could have thought that at anytime before or after the spill.
12:41—The President just referred to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina by his first name. I bet the Tea Party in South Carolina already has a press release up calling Senator Graham a socialist for being buddy-buddy with Mr. Obama.
12:46—Question about immigration and the Arizona immigration law. I think that the border of Texas with other states should be policed to make sure our ignorant textbooks don’t crossover to dumb down students in these other states.
12:50—The President says that the spill is what he thinks about when he goes to bed at night. He also says that he comes from Hawaii “where the ocean is sacred.” Here is how the sacred ocean in Hawaii is being treated in regard to health of coral reefs in that state.
12:55—Over and out. Here is a NY Times report on the conference.
(Below–Gerald Ford holds a press conference in the Oval Office. You see Helen Thomas dressed in black and taking notes, and a smirking Dick Cheney leaning on the President’s chair.)
Houston Memorial Day 2010—Governor Rick Perry Talked About Treason Yet Now He Is Speaking On Memorial Day
Memorial Day for 2010 in on Monday, May 31.
It is good to honor our veterans by attending a Memorial Day event.
What Memorial Day events are taking place in Houston?
(Above—Houston National Cemetery)
The Cypress Times reports the following event—
“A special Memorial Day Service will be held on Monday, May 31, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. at the Houston VA National Cemetery, located at 10410 Veterans Memorial Drive. This year, the Department of Veterans Affairs is pleased to announce Governor Rick Perry will give the Memorial Day address.There will also be many symbolic highlights including a flyover by the U.S. Coast Guard; a performance of Taps; a cannon salute; a riderless horse procession by the Houston Police Mounted Patrol; Amazing Grace performed by the Houston Highlander Pipe Band; a white dove release; and a rifle salute by the VFW District #4 Ceremonial Detail accompanied by Co. A 13th U.S. Regular Infantry with muskets. Medal of Honor recipient David McNerney will lead the pledge of allegiance with Peggy Slay, president of the Houston Gold Star Mothers. The Memorial Day Service, honoring deceased United States servicemen and women, is free and open to the public.”
A Memorial Day ceremony should avoid politics. It is right that the Governor of our state should come and speak about sacrifices made by our soldiers. Even though I don’t support Governor Perry , in almost every case I would not care about the political party or the political beliefs of a Memorial Day speaker. In this situation however, we need to remember that Governor Perry has talked about Texas leaving the union. No matter how you look at it, that kind of talk is a call to treason. I don’t understand how anybody could think that Rick Perry should speak on behalf of any American solider who fought for what is best about our nation.
Here is another event in the Houston area—
“Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, a Vietnam War veteran who also served during the 1990 invasion of Panama, will be the featured speaker at the annual Precinct Three Memorial Day Ceremony in Bear Creek Pioneers Park on May 31st. This year is the 25th anniversary of the Precinct Three ceremony in which Harris County military personnel killed in war zones are honored. In advance of the ceremony, the names of those who have fallen in the previous year are etched in bronze on the Memorial Wall in the park.”
Seawolf park on Pelican Island in Galveston will be holding a Memorial Day event. The time of the event is not posted as I write this tonight. Here is the link to Seawolf Park.
Here is a video I made a few days ago. I filmed this video in front of a car demolition lot near the Houston Ship Channel. This video lasts 58 seconds.
In this video, I list eight points I’ve observed about democracy.
These are not hopeful points, but you have to move ahead.
A car demolition lot near the Houston Ship Channel might not be seen by all as a nice place, but it is a place that has a purpose. All places have a purpose.
All people matter. All places have a purpose. You can believe these things and still have no illusions about the world.
Creativity can be found in expressing plain facts about everyday life in the places where everyday life occurs.
Here is the latest report from Texas Liberal New York City Correspondent Lyuba Halkyn. In this post, Ms. Halkyn write about practicing yoga in New York City. I don’t know anything about yoga. However, if Ms. Halkyn’s post makes you think yoga would be a good idea for you, maybe you should consider looking into the matter. I’m certain we all need a way to slow down. Living at a pace where we can manage our lives helps us be more thoughtful, creative and decent people.
(Above–The view of New York from Ms. Halkyn’s apartment. Both pictures in this post were taken by Ms. Halkyn.)
From Ms. Halkyn–
I often attend my favorite yoga class, which meets twice a week on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It is my favorite class because of the teacher who continues to inspire week after week. Another reason that I prefer this class is because many of the same students consistently attend. I have found attending class more beneficial than following along at home to the many yoga DVDs that I have purchased throughout the years. The connection that is felt by coming to class is different than popping in a DVD at home. Having a daily practice at home and being able to attend class would be ideal.
If you have never tried yoga, it could be confusing to figure out what kind of yoga or where to take your first class. I found that staying in a basic Hatha class has allowed me to progress further. I have taken more vigorous classes as well and may take advanced classes from time to time. Some yoga instructors may teach one class at different levels by giving options to students that may be more advanced or new to yoga.
Yoga focuses on breathing and stretching. I have been told that when you do this type of yogic breathing, you release toxins that would otherwise store in your body. Yoga also includes a variety of postures and poses that you will become familiar with the more you do yoga. Some yoga postures massage your internal organs. Inversions are yogic poses that can reverse the effect that gravity has on our bodies, in essence keeping us looking younger. Because we are on our feet much of the day, an inversion can help release tension in our legs. A simple, yet very effective example of this would be lying on the floor with your feet up against the wall.
Throughout the last ten years, I have taken classes with many instructors, at many different studios here in Manhattan. Keeping an open mind, while studio hopping, eventually helped me find a consistent practice.
My most difficult challenge, in my yoga practice throughout the years, has been consistency. Weeks or months would go by and I would not have attended class. A suggestion that was given to me, however basic it may sound, was to write it down in my planner as if I had an appointment. This suggestion worked and I have been going to several classes consistently for the past two years.
We normally begin and end class by chanting Om. Om is the oldest and most sacred sound in yoga. Om creates an inner vibration and can be very calming. My yoga teacher talks extensively about Om and other yogic principles. She relates these things to everyday life.
Yoga is an activity that can combat stress and fatigue. It has also been known to slow the effects of some diseases.
I have been able to incorporate yoga, a very peaceful activity, into my sometimes busy, hectic NYC lifestyle.
(Below–The Om symbol. Here is some basic information about yoga from the American Yoga Association.)
Some of the big news in Texas in this past week has been meetings of the Texas State Board of Education to determine what can be taught to school kids in our Texas schools.
Far right-wingers, in control of the board, are purging textbooks of facts that disagree with their world view.
While Texas conservatives very much want you to have the right to bear arms no matter where you go, they are less open to the right to arm yourself with knowledge.
( In the picture above, I illustrate how history is now being taught in Texas. In the picture you see that the Samuel Slater bobble head has just walked off the Mayflower in West Texas–that is why there is a cactus–-and is being greeted by a Care Bear. You can teach any crazy thing in our schools now as long as it is false.)
These folks want to take Thomas Jefferson out of our schools. Please click here to learn about Thomas Jefferson. The good news is that the federal protection of the First Amendment allows me to tell you about Thomas Jefferson no matter how much some of individual states of our Federal Union want to lie about our shared history.
Some of the best blogging about this issue has been done by leading Houston-area blogger Martha Griffin at her blog Musings. Martha was at the hearings and is an expert on education in Texas and about education issues nationally.
From this history—“During the latter half of the nineteenth century the educational system in Texas still operated on a sporadic and localized basis. Some Texans regarded education as a private matter and resented any state involvement. Private and church schools continued to play key roles in the educational development of Texas and in some areas offered the only choice of formal schooling. Schools short of funds often faced problems of low supplies, inadequate facilities, and poorly trained teachers. Since the days before the republic some government officials had called for guidelines specifying the qualifications of teachers.”
I suppose we have made some progress since that time. Maybe. Sort of.
Here is the round-up—
This week at Left of College Station, the spring semester ends and Teddy has made it through another twelve hours of classes. He wasn’t too busy to take a look at the developments in the campaign for TX-17, and how the Republicans are attempting to nationalize the midterm elections.
TXsharon of BLUEDAZE: Drilling Reform for Texas took some EPA officials from D.C. on a Barnett Shale tour last week.
WhosPlayin has the final results from the Texas DSHS investigation of blood and urine for residents of Dish, TX; the conclusions are not by any means an exoneration for the industry because of significant limitations to the investigation. Continue reading
Instead a making a post of any great length today, I went to the park with my wife.
Folks in Houston enjoy visiting Hermann Park on the weekend and all days of the week.
You might wish to consider visiting a park near you.
You could do so with others or by yourself. Either way has advantages.
I’m Glad The Federal Government Has Weapons To Protect Freedom From People Like Rand Paul—Representation Of Armed Black Man Defending Our Nation
I’m glad that the Federal Government is well-armed to protect me and other freedom-loving Americans from people like Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Above you see a representation of an armed Interior Department employee as he patrols in defense of the American people. You’ll note that he is black. While Rand Paul would be okay with private business places deciding not to hire black folks, the federal government hires black people and passes laws saying that business places can not discriminate on the basis of race.
Is this the type of issue Republicans in Kentucky want us to revisit? Is this what the Tea Party folks are all about? Are we going to move back 50 years?
Candidate Paul has said that it would be okay for business places to not serve black people.
Paul: Well what it gets into then is if you decide that restaurants are publicly owned and not privately owned, then do you say that you should have the right to bring your gun into a restaurant even though the owner of the restaurant says ‘well no, we don’t want to have guns in here’ the bar says ‘we don’t want to have guns in here because people might drink and start fighting and shoot each-other.’ Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant?”
Dr. Paul has now also said that President Obama’s criticisms of BP about the oil spill are “Un-American”
Here is part of what Dr. Paul said—
“What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.’ I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.”
Coal miners and other working people in Kentucky are , of course, free to vote for Dr. Paul this November.
I just wish those folks good luck with mine safety and any measure of protection as working people with Rand Paul representing them in the U.S. Senate.
People like Dr. Paul, who would allow discrimination and defend polluting companies, are just exactly why millions upon millions of Americans feel that government has a role to play in our lives.
Above you see a magazine ad for Jello Mousse Temptations.
The ad says you should give in to the temptation of this mousse dessert.
You should give in even as obesity rates soar and we are in a recession caused in part by people spending beyond their resources.
That picture is nasty.
It looks like a spoonful of dung or tumor.
Somebody was paid plenty of money to come with that ad.
That person might be making more money than you are making.
Yet you do your job well and this person came up with that picture.
Nasty. Nasty. Nasty.
In 2010, Memorial Day is Monday, May 31.
Here is some history on the origins of Memorial Day and, also, links appropriate for Memorial Day
Here is a brief explanation of the origins of Memorial Day—
Memorial Day originated in 1868, when Union General John A. Logan designated a day in which the graves of Civil War soldiers would be decorated. Known as Decoration Day, the holiday was changed to Memorial Day within twenty years, becoming a holiday dedicated to the memory of all war dead. It became a federal holiday in 1971, and is now observed on the last Monday in May.
The American death toll in Afghanistan recently passed 1000. Here are pictures of each of the dead along with their ages and hometowns.
(This representation of a disagreement between Tecumseh and William Henry Harrison is a reminder that sometimes U.S. troops were called upon to do harm to the native population. Tecumseh died in the War of 1812.)
Here is the article that broke the story of mistreatment of veterans at Walter Reed Hospital. We say we care about our veterans, but that does not always appear to be the case.
Here is Iraq Body Count. This organization counts the number of Iraqis killed in the Iraq War. All people have equal value.
( Both a strong military and a strong resistance against going to war are important aspects of democracy. )
Here is information about the Civil War. (Photo below is of dead Union soldier.)
War crimes take place in all wars and are committed by all sides. It is not a contradiction to acknowledge this fact and still respect the great majority who served honorably. At the same time, it is disrespectful to the concepts of democracy and human rights to ignore these facts.
I called my father from the Korean War Memorial and asked him about the historical accuracy of how the troops were sculpted. He said based on my descriptions, it was an accurate portrayal. ( Photo below)
I’ve been able to visit Punchbowl Cemetery in Honolulu. Many of our dead from wars in the Pacific are buried here. This is one of the most important and impressive locations you can visit in Honolulu.
Below is Arlington National Cemetery. I was fortunate to once visit Arlington on Memorial Day weekend and see the American flags at each gravestone.
Without people willing to die to protect the freedom of others, I would not be able to express my views in this blog post. Without such people, none of us would be able to enjoy the day-to-day freedoms we often take for granted.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker Needs To Make Greater Distinction Between Stormtroopers and Jedi Knights–The Need For Progressive Politics In Houston
In her campaign for Mayor last year, then Houston City Controller Annise Parker, a Democrat, actively courted both Democrats and Republicans.
She may have felt she needed to do this to win–and she did win–but it sure was depressing from the standpoint of hoping that strongly Democratic Houston could elect a Mayor based on progressive ideas.
A few weeks ago Mayor Parker proposed a hike in city water rates. She did this because we need the money to run the city.
Yet despite all the appeals to Republicans in last year’s campaign, Republican former Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt is aggressively challenging the increase.
Mr. Bettencourt is possibly best known for quitting the tax office not long after winning reelection in 2008. Regretfully, though now out of office, Mr. Bettencourt is not finished harming the public’s best interests.
I don’t know what’s gained, beyond serving your own electoral interests, in courting Republicans to win in a Democratic city. Once elected, these folks won’t allow to you to govern.
If the feeling is that seeking Republicans is necessary because Democrats don’t show up for municipal elections, than at least try to do something about it after you get elected. Maybe making such an effort would allow you to run your next campaign in a way more consistent with your values as a Democrat.
Houston has plenty of Democratic officeholders sitting in safe seats. I’m sure in some cases these folks also have campaign war chests saved up.
What do these folks do all day? How do they go forever saying nothing about the low turnout in some of Houston’s minority communities, and saying nothing about the failure of Houston progressives to demand more from Democrats running for office around here?
Above you see a picture of Mayor Parker. The Mayor is dressed in white and standing in front of some stormtroopers.
I wish the Mayor would make a greater distinction between Darth Vader and his stormtroopers on the one side, and Princess Leia and the Jedi Knights on the other side.
Sure–Everybody is all smiles when someone is winning an award or receiving a proclamation. But when the trouble starts you can bet that Mr. Vader and his troops will be fighting for the Dark Side.
If Mayor Parker starts talking about the high poverty rate in Houston and all the people in Houston without health insurance—both subjects the Mayor so far seems intent on ignoring—you can be certain that Mr. Vader will take out his light-saber.
Ms. Parker began in politics as a fighter for the human rights of gay folks. An additional legacy the Mayor could leave is that of someone who worked both in public and behind the scenes to bring a more progressive politics to Houston.
Hellhound On His Trail Is Useful Addition To The Study Of Martin Luther King—Extreme Right-Wing Views Remain A Threat
An addition to my Martin Luther King Reading & Reference list for the next year will be Hellhound On His Trail–The Stalking Of Martin Luther King Jr. And The International Hunt For His Assassin. This book is written by Hampton Sides.
This book is an account of how James Earl Ray, living as an escaped convict with the alias of Eric Starvo Galt, plotted the death of Dr. King.
(Above–James Earl Ray.)
Martin Luther King was killed on April 4, 1968.
I’ve long found the shooting of Rev. King to be an emotional subject and I’ve avoided the topic as I’ve studied King. When in Memphis, Tennessee 12 years ago, I did not visit the Lorraine Motel. The Lorraine is where King was killed as he stood on a balcony.( There is now a museum at this location)
I was just a few blocks from the Lorraine while I was in Memphis. I just did not figure that seeing where King had died would add to my knowledge. I did not want to see such a terrible spot.
I decided to read Hellhound after reading a review written by Janet Maslin in the New York Times. Here is the Maslin review.
(The book was released in conjunction with a PBS documentary on Ray and King called Roads To Memphis. I have not watched this show. Roads can be watched online at the PBS web home.)
In Hellhound, the narrative details the months leading up to King’s shooting by following the lives of both King and Ray. There is no mystery in the outcome—Ray will kill King in Memphis. But the story is told with such discipline and with such an inevitable detail-by-detail push towards a tragedy you wish you could stop, that you feel caught up in the event. There are also chapters in the book detailing the Civil rights movement after King’s death and, as the title of the book suggests, the search for Ray after he pulled the trigger.
While it is no surprise that Ray had been a volunteer for the 1968 presidential campaign of segregationist George Wallace, it is hard not get angry that a man in many ways indistinguishable from someone today attending a Tea Party rally or calling Rush Limbaugh, could do such harm. It is a reminder that racist views and racist people can’t safely be dismissed even as much as we would like to tune them out.
This is the virtue of the book beyond the value it has as a well-told story. You must remain involved and aware. Not is some crazy vigilante sense–but in the regard that your actions in life help lessen the hate we have in this society. And that when the hate can’t be stopped, you must make an ongoing effort to be on the side of justice and concern for others.
Ray’s alias of “Galt” may have come from a character in a novel by the brutal Ayn Rand. Ms. Rand wrote novels of extreme free market economics that extolled the virtues of being a selfish person. The connection between these law of the jungle economic views and States Rights’ racism can be found easily enough in the collection of political stands held by many in the Tea Party movement and in the Republican Party today.
Hellhound does not deal much with the idea of the King Assassination as a conspiracy. I would not have read this book had that angle been the focus. All we have to do is look at the hatred we see in our society today to know that the foundation is always in place for bad acts to be committed.
I recommend Hellhound as a well-told story, as a useful report on an important event in American history, and as a reminder of both the progress made and the work still to be done in the never-ending fight to make America a more just and decent society.
The good news is that there are many millions of people in our nation and in our world who know right from wrong, and who make being a decent person a big part of they are both in their political and personal lives.