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Jerry Weinstock, M.D. (Psychiatry, retired), of Key West, replied to yesterday’s “Burning Man and other fun ceremonies, Key West and beyond” post at this website:
Sloan: an eclectic, multifarious,fascinating read—
I enjoyed it.—–Jerry
Thanks, does multifarious have any connection to nefarious? In case you are interested, letting that all fly today seemed to trigger a giant poison purge in me, which event ends up going into the nearest available sewer line, if any is handy. Otherwise, it’s the bear in the woods thing
Sloan it just means varied (basically) it is usually taken
as a compliment for writers–which it was. [take it easy-
you seem too stressed out.]—–Jerry
Morning, Jerry – I’d never heard of multifarious, my reply was meant to be a joke, I am indeed stressed out, it is my state of being for a very long time, the angels seem bent on proving to me that I’m a lot tougher than I think. Yesterday, my landlady, who is from Shri Lanka, asked me how I’m doing? I said, I’m still adjusting to not living in the forest, like Mogli. That, is true. Living in the city again is very different from living in the forest, which I did for 3 1/2 years, with my cat and lots of wild creatures. I was plenty stressed out then, too, though. The angels never let up. Sloan
Connie Gilbert of Key West wrote yesterday, re the fairly recent “Catch-22 Soundings, vaja con Dios, Solares Hill?” post at this website:
Granted I’m way behind in reading your blogs . . . Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and all that . . . but while I deeply appreciate your sharing the dismay we all feel about the demise of Solares Hill, you need to know that the anonymous “Editor” of Paul’s indictment had nothing to do with it. In the first place, with Tom Tuell’s departure last month, the Citizen doesn’t have a real editor. A relative newcomer and real pro named Sandra Frederick is filling in at the moment; I believe her title is News Editor. But Cooke Communications is a corporation, and Cooke Corporate killed Solares Hill. Publisher Paul Clarin (a nice guy as near as I know) might have been in on it–or not. But he didn’t have the last say. The economics are more complicated than just not enough ad revenue coming in for SH–word is they lost a major, major client (having nothing to do with SH) and SG was the sacrificial lamb. Also–I suspect they weren’t really fond of SH’s political slant–they’re the ones who forced the Citizen to endorse Romney over the objections of the majority of the editorial board–even the Republicans, I understand.
Today is Sunday, and the condolences I’ve received reflect a big yawn for the SH features carried over (three endless book reviews and a couple of columns–frankly, I love the columns). I hope they’ll run my stuff, but I’m not holding my breath.
Ginger, of Jupiter Beach, who has come to Key West several times on cruise ships, continued our conversation reported in yesterday’s “Burning Man” post at this website:
Sloan, I think you have made a difference and your voice has been heard. I agree with you on one level. Write about the problem but don’t go nuts trying to solve the problem. Key West has a homeless problem because people come down from colder climates in the North and settle in Key West because they can live year round on the beach or “homeless”. In reality, they are living like our ancient ancestors who lived on the beach in Africa 100,000 years ago. The Australians aborigines actually were identified through DNA as having lived in the Southern tip of India and then travelling by boat southward island to island until they reach Australia 50,000 years ago. The problem is they are living at a lower level than the ancient people because they aren’t doing anything and don’t really have a civilized organized society. It would be interesting to take the individual homeless communities and tell them they have to organize their communities to get food, have clean living conditions, protect themselves, eliminate crime, etc; Anyway, I have other problems to deal with for the remaining 10 or 15 years of my life. Virginia
The homeless communities known to me, and the ones I used to know, do not cotton well to self-government. Most homeless people, at least the ones who have been homeless a while, street people, are just getting by, have no exit strategy, no plans for an exit strategy. It’s become their way of life, it’s what they know, are comfortable with, so to speak. Mayor Cates seems convinced it is his calling to try to motivate them to be different, to get their acts together, to return to mainstream living. He has been heavily influenced in that thinking by Robert Marbut, who never met a homeless situation he could not turn about, in his own mind, but, as I keep writing, what it seems Marbut, and others who take similar tracks, are doing is cleaning up a lot of homeless people, putting them into a regimen, sort of like an Army boot camp for homeless who stay in the shelter, and they work in the shelter, get jobs outside the shelter, and eventually some of them graduate, while some of them do not. The graduates, for the most part, cannot afford to pay their own way, and have to be provided subsidized housing. That’s probably easier to do in a city where there is land for such housing, but Key West has not the land for it.
Also, you can be sure that the graduates don’t all keep moving ahead. Lots of them relapse. Especially, if they were addicts before they went into “homeless rehab”. This is a vicious revolving door all recovery organizations and workers know all too well. But you don’t hear Marbut talking about it. You don’t hear the local rehab outfits, Florida Keys Outreach Coalition and Samuels Housej, talking about it. Mainstream addicts go into rehab, to dry out, get counseling. They come out of rehab and start attending AA and NA meetings. Are they fixed? Not in the least. One drink, one pill, one injection, and they are back in their habit. They, however, have friends and family who tend to enable them to be back in their habit. Recovering homeless people, who fall back into their habit, do not have enablers to keep looking after them, unless they have gone home to live with their family and friends. The City of Miami spent a whole lot of money building subsidized housing for “rehabbed” homeless people. Now, it is seen that is not really working. It truly is a homeless welfare state Miami has created, and I’m sure there are other cities which have done the same. Key West is stuck, because its market rate rents are sky high, and because its subsidized housing already is full, with long waiting lists for people who are not recovering homeless people/addicts; and, because it has no land to build subsidized housing for recovering homeless people/addicts.
I will be surprised if Mayor Cates and a majority of the city commissioners do not plow ahead with the homeless rehab shelter. I keep hearing, “We HAVE to do something.” Wrong. They don’t HAVE to do anything. They WANT to do something, is what is happening, and I expect they WILL do it. Then, they will learn if they LIKE what they did. And, if they don’t like it, they will say at least they TRIED, and that justifies what it ended up COSTING the taxpayers, because you can be darn sure Cates and the city commissioners will not PAY for any of it, other than as taxpayers. I really don’t see any way through it for Key West, because it does not have the space for the homeless rehab housing, and Florida Keys Outreach Coalition and Samuels House cannot absorb the graduates from the rehab shelter. As you wrote, we live in interesting times, and how this goes with Key West will be interesting to watch, as long as I stay in an observer and commentator role, and do not let myself become a crusader who feels his very well being depends how it turns out.
I long have wondered where the Australian aborigines might have originated. Australia is so different from other land masses. No worms, for example. Termites do there what worms to elsewhere. The native animals are found nowhere else, and I suppose that is true for the native plants. A woman named Marlo Morgan once wrote a report of her walkabout with a tribe of aborigines living in the old way, before the white man arrived in Australia. Some of the tribe never had left living the old way. Others in the tribe had tried living the white man way, and then had realized they were losing their souls, to put in in my lingo, and so they went back to living in the old way.
As Morgan reported it, the members of this tribe were telepathic and did not need to speak to each other, and only spoke because she was among them and she was not telepathic. They made no plans. Each day, they woke up and waited on a nature sign to show them which way to travel that day. A snake crossing in front of them, a bird flying overhead. They viewed each day as a new adventure, and likewise adverse events and pleasing events. They viewed each other as equals, and as each other’s teachers and reflections. Their senses of smell, hearing, sensing, were suprahuman, compared to white people. They had mystical powers. They viewed what they called dream time as the real time, and what people call waking time as a pale shadow of the real time. They could travel into dream time, and back into waking time. They could disappear right before Morgan’s eyes. They were far more advanced in the soul sense than civilized people.
They viewed themselves as the REAL PEOPLE, and they viewed Morgan and other civilized people and even other aborigines, who had taken to living like white people, as MUTANTS. They had quit reproducing, after making a collective soul decision to leave this planet altogether, for the MUTANTS to do with it as they would. They did not dislike MUTANTS. They wished them well, but they were on different trajectories from MUTANTS, and it was time for them to leave.
MUTANT MESSAGE DOWN UNDER was rejected in Australia. Activist aborigines said it was made up, a lie, an insult to all aborigines. Morgan caught a great deal of flack, but she refused to recant, based on all I read, even as people sent me stuff to read, in which she allegedly recanted, but I never saw a recant in it. When I read the book in perhaps 1991, I felt there was something really important there. Maybe Morgan took some poetic license, maybe she invented some scenarios, but still, in my soul I felt something deep and gripping.
When I was in Kakadoo, outside of Darwin, in November 1995, an aborigine man and woman came to me in a vision, as I was in the back of a SUV with several young white Australians. I figured immediately they were from that tribe. I spoke to them telepathically. They spoke back telepathically. They said they came to welcome me into their tribe. I wept.
The other day, tooling around Key West on my bicycle, I kept crossing the trail of two white women on bicycles. I saw them finally stop and ask a man for directions to somewhere. I figured, given where we then were, just across Whitehead from the Green Parrot bar, that they were asking for directions to Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park. I was headed to the Martin Luther King Center, to see if I could catch up with some Spanish men who liked to play chess. I crossed the two white women’s trail again, and shouted to them, from behind. They slowed down, I caught up with them, asked if they needed help finding something? Yes, where was the Hemingway House? We were on Thomas Street, one block directly west of the Hemingway House. I told them to pedal the half block to Truman Avenue, then turn left at the light and go up the sidewalk one block, and then turn left and there across the street they would see the brick wall and probably an artist out front, showing his art and perhaps painting. An old friend of mine. They thanked me and I headed on to the MLK Center. No chess players, so I head back to the Hemingway House, to see what I might find.
The artist was there, set up. He was painting. The two women had gone past and were now coming back on the sidewalk, pushing their bicycles. I waved them over to the artist, and they started looking as his work. I told them he pretends to have an Austrian accent, to impress the tourists (he is Austrian), but actually he is from Provo, Utah, and is a Mormon, actually, a born-again Mormon. One of the women exclaimed, her son lives in Provo, Utah. I said, “How did I know your son lives in Provo, Utah?” No answer. No sense that they wondered how I had nailed that one out of the blue. I didn’t know how I had nailed it, either, but I sure did nail it, and it was no lucky guess. Somehow, I knew to say that my artist friend was from Provo, Utah, although he is from Austria.
The second woman asked if I got a commission on the artist’s work? I said no, I once commissioned him to do yon lighthouse across the street, but to jazz it up some, not something tourists would want. I said this artist really doesn’t like doing this stuff he sells to tourists, he prefers doing abstract art. He pulled out two small originals, and a few prints, which were abstract. The second woman said she preferred abstract.
I asked if she had ever read MUTANT MESSAGE DOWN UNDER?
She said, yes, she had read it. I said, I once met members of the tribe in that book, when I was in Australia. She asked, did they make me walk barefooted on stickers in the outback? No, they, and some of their spirit world confederates (the angels), sent me to Key West, with no money, to do that. She said that would not be hard, I could absorb water out of the air in Key West. In the Australian outback, it’s arid, water is scarce.
I let it go. She did not get what had just happened, again. Furthermore, humid as Key West is, what happens when it’s hot is you sweat profusely and have to drink loads of water to avoid dehydration, which she would have known if she had lived outside in Key West.
Morgan claimed she was taken by the tribe into the outback to do walkabout. I was sent to Key West to do walkabout. I did not get stickers in my feet. My feet bottoms did not turn into hooves. I got other things. Some less fun than others. Certain birds became spirit messengers for me. I started passing out just before something important was to happen, which I was supposed to engage. I was guided by dreams throughout.
I once read about NASA losing a satellite in orbit. Search the heavens they did, and they could not locate it. An aborigine walked into a satellite observation station out in the countryside in Australia and told the staff where they could look in the sky and find that satellite. They found it where the aborigine told them to look for it. By then, he was nowhere to be found.
I am not convinced homeless people are not closer to being REAL PEOPLE, than mainstream people are. I sometimes post a likeness of Krishnamurti saying, “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
The REAL PEOPLE told Morgan, she reported, that it is so very difficult to change a MUTANT into a REAL PERSON. But, one of them had a soul contract with her, so they all were going to try to help her become a REAL PERSON.
Playing chess this morning with Patrick the Terminator, in reply to him asking how I’m doing?, I asked if he had ever read Robert Heinlein’s book, STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND? Sure, Patrick said. I said, well, I feel like that human kid the Martians sent back to Earth, and they used him as a camera for them to watch humanity, to decide what they were going to do about humans, who had out-worn their welcome on Mars. Another race had done that before humans arrived on Mars, and the Martians finally dealt with that by concentrating their psychic powers and blowing up the other race’s home planet, which then became the Asteroid Belt.
I told Patrick, the kid the Martians sent back to Earth developed a following, and he was shaking things up, and he was killed for it. I said I did not develop a following and did not get killed, although I often have wished otherwise
Sloan , I began reading Morgan’s book 3 years ago and then misplaced it when moving. It was amazing. I believe the telepathy. She noticed they could mentally talk to someone in their tribe at a distance and they would be told by someone ahead of the group where water was.
They did DNA work and found they came from the southern tip of India and they believe those people came across the red sea spot and basically walked along the sea shore to India for hundreds of years…around Saudi, over to Pakistan, across to India and down the sea shore past Bombay. They don’t know how long they remained at the southern tip or Ceylon, but then they began going island to island. Virginia
Sounds like they were trying to get away from something and go somewhere they would be all by themselves, given their final destination; then, the tall ships came and there was no place else for them to go, I don’t suppose. The woman in whose home I now am living, as a tenant, is from Cleylon, now known as Shri Lanka.
The positive thing is they had AUSTRALIA to themselves for 50,000 years. It’s horrible how they were treated when the British came. As usual the British treated the native people like inferior citizens. In India, they were one of the world’s earliest civilizations–6000 years before the British got their act together or developed a language.or math. However, if the aborigines can use telepathy, it means the ability is there in all of us; it just has to be developed.
Morgan reported that the members of the tribe who had tried living in civilization had started losing their aborigine abilities, telepathy, dream time, magic, but after the returned to living in the old way, their abilities returned. The two who came to me spoke to me telepathically. None of the other people in the SUV saw, much less heard, what I saw and heard.
Tonight on Mallory Pier, I sensed I needed to go over and see a person sitting under a tripod made of wooden poles. I had seen him there a few times before. He seemed to be portraying Native American symbols and ways. Before I got to where he was, a man and a woman came and started talking with him. I eased on up, listened.
The two men were talking about Voodoo, the man under the tripod said some Voodoo was very bad, children’s body parts were taken, used, even burned. He could not allow that, he had to do what he could to prevent.
The other man said we are what we think, we create our own reality; we don’t have to deal with that kind of stuff, if we choose not to deal with it, it does not exist.
I said, the man sitting under the tripod told the truth, there is all sorts of stuff in the other realms most people have no idea is there. I deal with other realms stuff every minute of my life, even when I’m asleep. The two men continued their discussion.
I turned to the woman, and we had an interesting conversation. She said she heard things, she knew things, which she had not known. I told her that I knew I needed to come over there, to where the man sitting under the tripod was. I thought I was supposed to speak to him, but it was to her I was to speak. I said it was arranged. When? Yesterday, last week, last month, last year.
I said, suddenly I know something. Suddenly, I hear something. I gave her some examples. I told how I was brought into this work by Jesus and Archangel Michael, who later were joined by Magdalene-Melchizedek. Sometimes they let other spirit entities have at me for a while, Kali sometimes, others. I said, for me, it is no longer about what I want; I am conscripted, I do what I’m told to do.
I said, unlike shamans who travel into the spirit realms to deal with really bad stuff, I deal with really bad stuff in the human realm, and as I deal with it, I see, sense, feel, hear, what is behind it in the spirit realms. That is how the angels taught me to work, and as I do it, they are there, watching, and they let me know when I need to alter my course.
I said I don’t plan. I don’t go looking. I wait on the angels to bring it to me, to engage it. I said sometimes being civil doesn’t get it. Sometimes I have to use lots of testosterone, not physically, but in how I say something, or write it. And when there is nothing going on, I read a book, or go to a movie, or go to a sports bar and watch football, or ride my bicycle around.
I gave her a goodmorningkeywest.com business card, and said I might have something up tomorrow, which might interest her, and if she read that and the past few days posts, she would get a sense of what sort of stuff the angels have me doing.
I said she might be hearing from the angels. She asked what did I think the angels wanted with her? I said I had no clue, and any guess I might make would make an ass out of me, so I would not guess.
Peggy Butler, of West Palm Beach, formerly of Key West, sent this yesterday. I was born and raised and practiced law in Birmingham.
Appalled by the murder of four little girls, a white Alabaman spoke out against racism—and was forever shunned for it.
In the next few days, you are likely to be inundated with 50th anniversary reminiscences of the Birmingham church bombing of September 15, 1963, a blast that killed four young black children and intensified the struggle for civil rights in the South. This is as it should be. The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church was the most terrible act of one of the most terribly divisive periods in American history, and it’s not too much of a leap to suggest that all that came after it—including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965—would not have come as quickly as it did without the martyrdom of those little girls.
What you likely will not hear about in the next few days is what happened the day after the church bombing. On Monday, September 16, 1963, a young Alabama lawyer named Charles Morgan Jr., a white man with a young family, a Southerner by heart and heritage, stood up at a lunch meeting of the Birmingham Young Men’s Business Club, at the heart of the city’s white Establishment, and delivered a speech about race and prejudice that bent the arc of the moral universe just a little bit more toward justice. It was a speech that changed Morgan’s life—and 50 years later its power and eloquence are worth revisiting. Just hours after the church bombing, Morgan spoke these words:
Four little girls were killed in Birmingham yesterday. A mad, remorseful worried community asks, “Who did it? Who threw that bomb? Was it a Negro or a white?” The answer should be, “We all did it.” Every last one of us is condemned for that crime and the bombing before it and a decade ago. We all did it.
He had written the speech that morning, he would recount years later after he and his family were forced to flee Birmingham because of the vicious reaction his words had generated from his fellow Alabamans. He had jotted down his remarks, he said, “from anger and despair, from frustration and empathy. And from years of hopes, hopes that were shattered and crumbled with the steps of that Negro Baptist Church.” He had had enough of the silent acquiescence of good people who saw wrong but didn’t try to right it.
A short time later, white policemen kill a Negro and wound another. A few hours later, two young men on a motorbike shoot and kill a Negro child. Fires break out, and, in Montgomery, white youths assault Negroes. And all across Alabama, an angry, guilty people cry out their mocking shouts of indignity and say they wonder, “Why?” “Who?” Everyone then “deplores” the “dastardly” act. But you know the “who” of “Who did it” is really rather simple.
There was little in Morgan’s early life to suggest that he would have the courage to speak out in this fashion—but you also can see signs of the civil rights lawyer to come. He was born in Kentucky, the son of parents who moved their family to Birmingham in 1945 and were always courteous to the “black help.” Like so many other local sons and daughters of the time, Morgan went to University of Alabama. By the time he got there he was interested in law and politics. He would spend his life enmeshed in both.
The “who” is every little individual who talks about the “niggers” and spreads the seeds of his hate to his neighbor and his son. The jokester, the crude oaf whose racial jokes rock the party with laughter. The “who” is every governor who ever shouted for lawlessness and became a law violator. It is every senator and every representative who in the halls of Congress stands and with mock humility tells the world that things back home aren’t really like they are. It is courts that move ever so slowly, and newspapers that timorously defend the law.
He was always a Democrat, which in Alabama in 1948 meant that he was present at the creation of the chasm on race that defines American politics to this very day. Tellingly, he was drawn first to James E. Folsom—”Big Jim”—who served two non-consecutive terms as governor from 1947 to 1959. Folsom was a populist, which wasn’t uncommon, but was also an early and ardent integrationist. “As long as the Negroes are held down by deprivation and lack of opportunity the other poor people will be held down alongside them,” Folsom had said, in 1949, the year after Alabama went Dixiecrat.
It is all the Christians and all their ministers who spoke too late in anguished cries against violence. It is the coward in each of us who clucks admonitions. We have 10 years of lawless preachments, 10 years of criticism of law, of courts, of our fellow man, a decade of telling school children the opposite of what the civics books say. We are a mass of intolerance and bigotry and stand indicted before our young. We are cursed by the failure of each of us to accept responsibility, by our defense of an already dead institution.
I suppose it was inevitable that a smart young man interested in law and politics would pass the decade of the 1950s in Alabama at the center of a constant storm of racial tension. And 1954 clearly was the dividing line. Before it there were the deplorable conditions that generated the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. After it there was the virulent opposition that the ruling generated in the South. What did Morgan say he learned during this tumultuous time? That voices of moderation must have the courage to speak up—or accept the pain of being left out.
Yesterday while Birmingham, which prides itself on the number of its churches, was attending worship services, a bomb went off and an all-white police force moved into action, a police force which has been praised by city officials and others at least once a day for a month or so. A police force which has solved no bombings. A police force which many Negroes feel is perpetrating the very evils we decry. And why would Negroes think this?
He got married. He became a lawyer. He was active in state and local politics. By 1958 he had his own firm. And through this era, of Citizens Councils and Little Rock, he struggled to reconcile his love of the South with his aversion to its racism, his loyalty to Birmingham with his frustration at its opposition to integration. What he learned during this time in both law and politics, he would later say, was that the topic of race was a trap and that “every white man in Alabama was caught up in it.”
There are no Negro policemen; there are no Negro sheriff’s deputies. Few Negroes have served on juries; few have been allowed to vote; few have been allowed to accept responsibility, or granted even a simple part to play in the administration of justice. Do not misunderstand me. It it not that I think that white policemen had anything whatsoever to do with the killing of these children or previous bombings. It’s just that Negroes who see an all-white police force must think in terms of its failure to prevent or solve the bombing and think perhaps Negroes would have worked a little harder. They throw rocks and bottles and bullets. And we whites don’t seem to know why the Negroes are lawless. So we lecture them.
In 1960, The New York Times‘ correspondent Harrison Salisbury wrote a flammable piece on Birmingham titled “Fear and Hatred Grip Birmingham. In a tone Morgan would echo three years later, Salisbury wrote of the city: “Every channel of communication, every medium of mutual interest, every reasoned approach, every inch of middle ground has been fragmented by the emotional dynamite of racism, enforced by the whip, the razor, the gun, the bomb, the torch, the club, the knife, the mob, the police and many branches of the state’s apparatus.” Furious, Alabama officials quickly sued the Times for libel.
Birmingham is the only city in America where the police chief and the sheriff in the school crisis had to call our local ministers together to tell them to do their duty. The ministers of Birmingham who have done so little for Christianity call for prayer at high noon in a city of lawlessness, and in the same breath, speak of our city’s “image.” Did those ministers visit the families of the Negroes in their hour of travail? Did many of them go to the homes of their brothers and express their regrets in person or pray with the crying relatives? Do they admit Negroes into their ranks at the church?
The libel lawsuit (remember, this was before the Supreme Court issued New York Times v. Sullivan, a decision that broadened first amendment protections for journalists) immediately impacted Morgan. He was asked to represent the Rev. Robert L. Hughes, a white Methodist minister who was a director of the Alabama Council on Human Relations, a group designed to act as a liaison between the white and black communities in Birmingham. Hughes had been served a subpoena to produce the records of all those who supported the council. And he had decided to fight the request.
Who is guilty? A moderate mayor elected to change things in Birmingham and who moves so slowly and looks elsewhere for leadership? A business community which shrugs its shoulders and looks to the police or perhaps somewhere else for leadership? A newspaper which has tried so hard of late, yet finds it necessary to lecture Negroes every time a Negro home is bombed? A governor who offers a reward but mentions not his own failure to preserve either segregation or law and order? And what of those lawyers and politicians who counsel people as to what the law is not, when they know full well what the law is?
Representing Rev. Hughes immediately made Morgan the target of the Klan. Its members accosted him in a courthouse at a hearing. There were anonymous nighttime phone calls. “How come you’d represent that nigger-lover Hughes?” he would be asked. “You better watch out, tough guy. Some night we’ll get you alone.” The experience made Morgan realize that he and Hughes, that all moderates seeking to foster equal rights in the South at that time, were “in the same boat.” Whether he had wanted to or not, he had chosen a side.
Those four little Negro girls were human beings. They had lived their fourteen years in a leaderless city: a city where no one accepts responsibility, where everybody wants to blame somebody else. A city with a reward fund which grew like Topsy as a sort of sacrificial offering, a balm for the conscience of the “good people,” whose ready answer is for those “right wing extremists” to shut up. People who absolve themselves of guilt. The liberal lawyer who told me this morning, “Me? I’m not guilty!” he then proceeding to discuss the guilt of the other lawyers, the one who told the people that the Supreme Court did not properly interpret the law. And that’s the way it is with the Southern liberals. They condemn those with whom they disagree for speaking while they sit in fearful silence.
He became radicalized—but only to a point and always within the structure of the law. He represented a black murder defendant named Boaz Sanders, a case that further opened his eyes to the state’s unequal justice under law. Then he sued the University of Alabama, his beloved alma mater, after it refused to admit two black men around the same time it was stalling the admission of Hood and Malone. These were formal acts of subversion against a culture he could neither abide nor quit. It was tough love. It was the tiny ripple of hope that Robert Kennedy, years later, would talk about in South Africa.
Birmingham is a city in which the major industry, operated from Pittsburgh, never tried to solve the problem. It is a city where four little Negro girls can be born into a second-class school system, live a segregated life, ghettoed into their own little neighborhoods, restricted to Negro churches, destined to ride in Negro ambulances, to Negro wards of hospitals or to a Negro cemetery. Local papers, on their front and editorial pages, call for order and then exclude their names from obituary columns.
The Alabama of the early 1960s was the Alabama of George Wallace and the Freedom Riders. It was the Alabama of Vivian Malone and James Hood and Eugene “Bull” Connor. It was the Alabama from which came many blacks and whites who believed in integration and in civil rights and who participated in the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. And then, just 18 days later, it was the Alabama that detonated a bomb inside a church on a Sunday. “My God,” a woman on the scene screamed, “you’re not even safe in a church.”
And who is really guilty? Each of us. Each citizen who has not consciously attempted to bring about peaceful compliance with the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, every citizen who has ever said “they ought to kill that nigger,” every citizen who votes for the candidate with the bloody flag, every citizen and every school board member and schoolteacher and principal and businessman and judge and lawyer who has corrupted the minds of our youth; every person in this community who has in any way contributed during the past several years to the popularity of hatred, is at least as guilty, or more so, than the demented fool who threw that bomb.
What’s it like living in Birmingham? No one ever really has known and no one will until this city becomes part of the United States. Birmingham is not a dying city; it is dead.
And with those words—”It is dead”—Morgan sat down. In his powerful book, “A Time to Speak,” from which the speech has been transcribed, Morgan wrote: “There was applause, and then one member rose. He suggested that we admit a Negro into the club. There was silence. The motion died. Soon the Young Men’s Business Club of Birmingham, Alabama, adjourned its meeting of September 16, 1963. It was one o’clock. Downstairs, the troopers still laughed and talked, and blocks away the carillon again played ‘Dixie.’”
Following the speech, the threats began almost immediately. The very next morning, at 5 a.m., Morgan received a call. “Is the mortician there yet?” a voice asked. “I don’t know any morticians,” Morgan responded. “Well, you will,” the voice answered, “when the bodies are all over your front yard.” Later, Morgan recounted, a client of his drove an hour to tell him to flee Birmingham. “They’ll shoot you down like a dog,” the client told Morgan. Little wonder that Morgan quickly closed down his law practice and moved himself and his family to safety.
“Chuck told me that he received a stream of threats both by telephone and letter for weeks after his speech,” recalls Steve Suitts, the renowned author, scholar, and civil libertarian who was one of Morgan’s longtime friends. “Once we discussed the anonymous threats that Alabama-born Justice Hugo Black received from white Southerners after the Brown decision, and a note I had found in Black’s papers saying ‘Nigger-lovers don’t live long in Alabama.’ Chuck smiled and said he got the very same language in a note after his speech in 1963.
“But, the threats that worried Chuck the most were those made against his wife, Camille, and his little boy, Charles,” Suitts told me this week via email. “He once told me that he had received a note that he did not share with Camille or anyone else. It listed all the places that Camille and Charles had been on a recent Saturday and said something like, ‘Wife and kid of a troublemaker ain’t always getting home. Next time?’ That one worried him the most, because it meant someone had actually followed his family all day.”
What did he do when he left Alabama? A great deal. He led an extraordinarily vital life on behalf of the poor and the dispossessed and the accused. Here’s how the Times, in its 2009 obituary of him, described the impact of Morgan’s work upon the lay of the law:
Among his many cases as a civil rights lawyer, Mr. Morgan sued to desegregate his alma mater, the University of Alabama; forced a new election in Greene County, Ala., that led to the election of six black candidates for local offices in 1969; and successfully challenged racially segregated juries and prisons. After the civil rights movement began to subside, Mr. Morgan, as a leader of the American Civil Liberties Union, fought three celebrated court cases involving protests against the Vietnam War.
He represented Muhammad Ali in his successful court fight to avoid being drafted. He represented the civil rights activist Julian Bond in the early stages of an ultimately successful lawsuit after Mr. Bond had been denied a seat in the Georgia legislature because of his antiwar views. And he defended an officer when he was court-martialed for refusing to help instruct Green Berets headed for Vietnam.
But it is Suitts, who in many ways carries on the tradition of the Southern moderate, who deserves the last word as we approach the golden anniversary of this remarkable act of personal courage. Of Morgan, Suitts told me:
In many ways, Chuck took one of the key points in Dr. King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” written five months earlier, and extended it into the horrendous facts of the bombing. (Dr. King wrote: “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice… who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait.”)
Chuck’s speech carried this theme one step further by suggesting the white moderate was responsible for the worst of “disorder” as well as gross injustice … by asking” Who is guilty?” of the bombing of innocent little girls and answering “Each of us!” – not the Klan, not the extremist whites but every white person in Birmingham…
There is no monument or commemoration of Chuck’s “Time to Speak” in Birmingham. Last time I was in the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum, I did not see any reference to Chuck’s speech. Birmingham’s Young Men’s Business Club still remembers Chuck’s speech occasionally, but it is not remembered all that often there or elsewhere in Birmingham.
There is probably more than one reason for this fact. The bombing – not Chuck’s speech – was the event that rocked Birmingham and the nation. It is also very hard for anyone today, in Birmingham and elsewhere, to genuinely understand how often and how many good white people kept silent in the face of rank injustice and racial violence in the South during the era of Jim Crow.
In fact, in one of the last conversation Chuck and I had, we laughed about how difficult it is nowadays to find a Southern white family that does not claim having done at least one heroic act on their part to end racial injustice during the civil rights movement.
Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic, 60 Minutes‘ first-ever legal analyst, and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. He is also chief analyst for CBS Radio News and has won a Murrow Award as one of the nation’s leading legal journalists
I hate to say what I was when all that hell was going on in Birmingham. It was some time afterward that I started waking up. Now, when I am in Birmingham, I always go to the soul food restaurant across 4th Avenue North from the 16th Street Baptist Church. I hang out looking for black men who like to play chess. They used to play in a store front chess club each evening, a few doors down from the soul food restaurant. I was there every afternoon, mostly watching, but playing some and getting clobbered nearly always. They played “touch rules” – tournament rules. If you touched a chess piece, you had to move it. No picking a piece up and changing your mind and moving another piece. They welcomed me into their midst. I was the only white man there. Kittycorner across 4th Ave. is the edge of the Civil Rights Park, in which are large iron statutes depicting what Birmingham police and their German Shepard police dogs and their billy sticks and their water cannons did to black people peacefully demonstrating for the same rights white people had, back when I was still asleep, and worse. Those blacks, and whites like Charles Morgan, were the REAL PEOPLE. Most of the whites, including me, were MUTANTS.
That's what this website is about, also goodmorningkeywest.com and goodmorningbirmingham.com. If you can't get a publisher to take on your wacky musing, you do it yourself.