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Mon Jul 27, 2015, 06:13 PM

Verbal Marathon

“Words are flowing out
Like endless rain
Into a paper cup….”
-- John Lennon


When I was a youngster, due to a variety of reasons -- all connected to being poor -- I was not able to speak clearly. Hence, for many years, I preferred not to talk. I liked reading and writing far more. My best friend and I would spend hours, either at his family’s pond, or mine, without hardly a word being spoken.

I was successful in the ring. And the sport of boxing led to my becoming friends, as a young teenager, with Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. (He, too, had suffered from a speech impediment as a child; we both had experienced being made fun of as children, which resulted in both of our love of fighting.) At the time, Rubin was incarcerated, having been sentenced to “triple life” for a vicious crime. I had learned enough about his case to believe he was innocent, and to reach out to him, well before it became fashionable in the mid-1970s.

As a teen, I was mighty impressed with Rubin’s uncanny ability to cuss. Looking back years later, I noticed that before this -- while he was a prize fighter -- Rubin delighted in having become an eloquent speaker. It didn’t fit the image the media had created for this destructive fighting machine. Yet, outside the ring, Carter was very capable of discussing philosophy, astronomy, and a number of topics that he had become self-educated in.

But, of course, the New Jersey prison system was a terrible environment, and Rubin was angry at his circumstances. And he began to swear like, well, an angry black inmate in a New Jersey prison (which is not to suggest that the non-black inmate population didn’t curse). Now, by the mid-70s, a segment of the population -- mainly white, wealthy liberals -- had come to respect black inmates/ former inmates who cussed and snarled a lot. Men like Eldridge Cleaver and George Jackson were also good writers, of course, but even swore and snarled in their most popular writings. (By no coincidence, similar characteristics created more support among angry, younger Indian men, than the more peaceful Elders, among the wealthy liberals.)

When Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan took up Carter’s cause, a lot of other people would join. This, of course, included the media. “Are you an angry black trouble-maker,” one television reporter asked Rubin? “Yes, I’m an angry black trouble-maker,” he replied. Lines like this made Rubin a popular vehicle.

One can attribute a number of motivations to those who suddenly began supporting Rubin’s fight for a re-trial. Many were definitely sincere individuals, seeking justice. Others may have been motivated by what was known as “white guilt” -- the Civil Rights movement of the 1`950s and ‘60s had made progress in some areas, but racism still poisoned American culture, and there were people, believing they had failed in their efforts, who were waiting for the next messiah.

While Rubin had already become a highly respected individual among the country’s non-white inmate population, his case had held little appeal before 1973 for the black middle- and upper economic classes. The only person of stature that had supported him before Ali and Dylan was Coretta Scott King. Rubin told me that many of the other Civil Rights leaders had believed he was a “crazy n____r,” guilty of a heinous crime.

Ali was, at this time, at his peak as a spokesperson for justice, widely respected by most Americans (and all of the world). While the song “The Hurricane” -- which Bob Dylan did not write -- was powerful and popular, I can say for absolute certainty that The Champ’s assistance, which took many forms, was the essential element.

Soon a group of celebrities created a committee to support Carter. Within literally a couple of months, it was fractured into several groups, with the most tension being between black and white members. Both of these groups made detailed plans to have Rubin run for Congresss, overlooking the fact that he was still incarcerated in New Jersey. And that the NJ political machine -- now having elevated a number of those involved in Carter’s prosecution to high positions -- wasn’t about to let him go.

One of the “lost chapters” from this era involved both the black and white supporters enjoying spending Ali’s money -- intended to benefit Carter’s legal defense -- with lavish parties. At one such party, held the night before Dylan’s Madison Square Garden benefit concert, ended up with John Conyers verbally attacking Carter’s white supporters, and having a mixed drink tossed into his face. (In my opinion, Conyers’ concerns did have merit: Dylan, for example, made big bucks off of Rubin’s case. His support was important, but came at a price. A lot of people were looking to capitalize on Rubin.)

The “they” in this case -- the NJ machine -- would find it amazingly easy to fracture Carter’s support team during the ‘74-76 period that he was much in the news. They pit a Nation of Islam female versus a white, Wall Street executive. And on and on. Those higher up than NJ, etc, were concerned that off-shoots from the defense committee, especially college students, might attempt to “resolve” Rubin’s case by illegal, perhaps violent means. (I could tell some stories!)

Fast-forward to the late 1970s: Rubin is still in prison. His support committee has disbanded. Muhammad Ali and Ms. King are still involved in the case. But people like Dylan have dropped Rubin completely. This would be the period when, if one is familiar with the movie “The Hurricane,” that Rubin underwent his transformation. The very few of us who remained in contact with Rube refer to this as his Buddha phase.

As his state of mind changed, so did his word choices in both speech and writing. No longer did he rely upon that wide range of curse words and other language that tended to catch people’s attention. For when his being transformed, his communication skills were, well, elevated.

I think about these things, when I read the DU wars about certain words, or about the often simmering conflicts between those who tend to view humanity in black and white terms. And that, of course, includes -- but is not exclusive to -- things like “race,“ which exists only in people’s minds, and male vs. female, which exists as one of the Natural World’s most powerful realities.

Black Lives Matter. We need to embrace that, no matter what color our skin is. If some of us struggle with that, and ask, “Do not ALL lives matter?” ….well, take the time necessary to study the history of the Civil Rights movement …..especially in the north, where two of the foundation stones were police brutality, and inferior educational opportunities. Black Lives Matter. That was a huge part of the program -- though expressed with different words in 1965 than in 2015.

Certainly, people other than black young men are targeted for extreme violence by a large segment of police in this country. Yet, it is important to recognize the importance of Black Lives Matter. For there is near zero chance of our protecting the rights and safety of all, until we focus on the most vulnerable. Tactically, it can provide benefits that diffused focus cannot. Does that make sense?

Rubin’s case was extremely difficult to “win.” While he was far from the only wrongly-convicted inmate in the US prison system -- black, brown, red, yellow, or white -- his case presented some unique qualities. Indeed, Rubin was a unique man. Yet, by focusing on his case, those of us who understood it as something “bigger” than that unique man’s torture, were then able to move forward once he won his freedom. We have been able to free many, many other wrongly convicted human beings.

When I used to call Rubin about a case in the US (often in the northeast), he never asked what color their skin was. Or their religion, ethnicity, or sexual identity. Nor did he question their diction. His only question was: did I believe the person was innocent? He respected my insight in terms of recognizing injustice.

Writing things like this always leaves me wondering if I’ve communicated my point, or points? I’ll sum up with this: the struggle for social justice is a long and constant process. We do better when we recognize our common ground, and invest our energies there. Consider the potential benefits of people on DU:GD working towards common goals -- Higher Ground -- rather than emphasizing divisions, and seeking to win debaters’ points. Just a suggestion.

Peace,
H2O Man

6 replies, 937 views

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Arrow 6 replies Author Time Post
Reply Verbal Marathon (Original post)
H2O Man Jul 2015 OP
tblue37 Jul 2015 #1
H2O Man Jul 2015 #2
panader0 Jul 2015 #3
H2O Man Jul 2015 #4
annabanana Jul 2015 #5
H2O Man Jul 2015 #6

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Jul 27, 2015, 06:57 PM

1. K&R for visibility. nt

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Response to tblue37 (Reply #1)

Mon Jul 27, 2015, 07:00 PM

2. Thank you.

As sometimes happens, when I attempt to communicate something I believe important, I end up wondering if I expressed myself properly. "No one I think is in my tree ...."-- John

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Jul 27, 2015, 09:45 PM

3. I believe you could be in your Buddha phase too

A very interesting read. I once wrote an essay about language. I compared language as a human construct, a net that
is thrown into the ocean of experience. When the net is retrieved, there is nothing in it, but the net is wet.
Language is incapable of capturing what you experience.
Many, if not most, people think with words, talking to themselves inside their head. Therefore, it pays to have
a good vocabulary, and writing skills. Such as yourself.
Recommended.
ETA: I learned quite a bit about Rubin Carter tonight, and Bob Dylan too.

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Response to panader0 (Reply #3)

Mon Jul 27, 2015, 10:36 PM

4. That is so nice.

Thank you! It truly means a lot to me.

I'm pretty excited: in recent days, I've stepped up work in preparing the team that I'll be operating with, on my "come back" to grass roots social-political activity. Even in terms of the people that I've met with today, I have to say that I feel very confident. It is, as I was hoping to express in the OP, part of an on-going process. An evolution.

For what ever reason, a solid group of old and new friends and associates are dedicated to backing me in the things that we are planning. And while my/our efforts are "small stuff" -- and perhaps not that significant in and of themselves -- I believe that they are part of the bigger whole .....and in that sense, important.

A friend who just left my house (his daughter and my youngest are close friends, and hang out together all the time) is a doctor/ university professor. In the past three evenings, we've focused a lot of attention on communications ....how to present topics in a friendly manner, that most everyone can understand and process ....and identify what role they can play in improving the local community - state - nation.

I'm ready! I feel, in a strange way, like I used to feel, long, long ago, as I was in the final couple weeks of training camp, before a big boxing match. Ha! Heck of a thing for an old man to say, eh?

Again, I always appreciate your contributions on this forum.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Jul 27, 2015, 10:46 PM

5. Another kick

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Response to annabanana (Reply #5)

Mon Jul 27, 2015, 10:49 PM

6. Thank you!

How are you these days, my Good Friend?

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