Friday, January 20, 2012

Situation Normal...

So, Tuesday before last, I drove past the electronic clock on my way to work, which I see just before I drive past the lake. It said it was 32 degrees out. The lake was wet in the middle and frozen all around the edges, with ducks huddling on the ice to avoid a soaking in what must have been brutally cold water.

The next day the same clock said it was 15 degrees. The ice around the pond was totally gone, and the ducks were floating happily. 'Kay...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Apple Roller Award -- Our Next Honoree

The Apple Roller Award could not be more fitting in THIS case. The image above is a portrait of Madge Oberholtzer, the woman who brought down the Ku Klux Klan in the USA. Her sacrifice was quite similar to that of our previous Apple Roller honoree, Mohamed Bouazizi; she couldn't tolerate the way she was being treated, and in mid-April 1925 took steps to kill herself. Rather unexpectedly, she took the KKK down with her. Within a couple of years of her horrible death, Klan membership in the US had dropped from millions to a few paltry thousands. We have Madge to thank. This is a very serious, very heartfelt thank-you. Many Americans today are unaware of how close were were in that dim, dead year to having a Klansman in the Oval Office.

This is a really dreadful story. A prominent KKK booster and networker in Madge's home state of Indiana, D.C. Stephenson, became infatuated with her, pursued her for a short time and eventually lured her over to his place on some pretext. She turned up at her parents' home several days later, battered, bruised and vomiting uncontrollably. She was covered with bite marks, from the top of her head down past her ankles -- even her tongue had teethmarks on it. She had been kidnapped and repeatedly raped by this man who claimed to love her so much, assisted by a couple of his Klan buddies. To get away from her captors Madge decided to kill herself, and took a corrosive poison, bichloride of mercury. Unable to decide what to do with her, he and his accomplices just dropped her off at home, where she died after nearly a month of agony. The extended death throes gave her the chance to dictate and sign a dying declaration, explaining exactly what happened and allowing the authorities to prosecute Stephenson for the many crimes he committed against Madge, including murder. Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of the Realm of Indiana and the greatest recruiter the Klan had ever seen, went down in flames. BUT MADGE'S GOLDEN APPLE ROLLED EVEN FARTHER THAN THAT. Stephenson decided to bring down everyone he associated with -- more than a few prominent names in politics, business and what have you all across the Midwest. Every one of them was a Klansman or had Klan backing.

(Contrary to what you may have seen in the movie version of this grim story, Cross Of Fire starring Mel Harris as Madge and John Heard as Stephenson, Madge did not die of the poison she took. The autopsy showed that she had almost totally recovered from the effects of the tablets. She was killed by an abcessed lung caused by an especially deep, infected bite wound in her left breast.)

If you click on the title of this blog entry, it will take you to Madge's dying declaration.

Now here's an odd little coincidence: I knew a library book had come in for me through MelCat, but I order several at a time and did not know which title I was going to pick up. As I was driving over to the library this morning, I suddenly remembered that I needed to give Madge the Apple Roller Award today, having forgotten to do so from my work terminal last night. I walked to the circulation desk and the librarian handed me a copy of Grand Dragon: D.C. Stephenson And The Ku Klux Klan In Indiana, by William Lutholtz.

Reporting a rape is one of the toughest things any woman has to face, even today, and it was even harder to do in 1925. It's disgusting, it's humiliating, it's terrifying -- and she was reporting a rape committed by one of the most powerful men in the Midwest. BUT SHE DID IT ANYWAY.

Every American owes her a debt of gratitude.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Apple Roller Award For The New Millennium!

Yes, it's already the first anniversary of the dreadful death of Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian handcart merchant whose public suicide to protest harassment by local officials set off the revolution and overturning of the government in Tunisia, and from there THE ENTIRE EPIC SWEEP OF THE ARAB SPRING.

There is no step in life scarier than suicide, and I can think of a LOT of easier ways to do it. But you have to admit, it really makes a statement. And this time THE WHOLE WORLD HEARD IT. I'm sorry it had to come to this for him and his family, but he did and incredible job of dropping a match into what was obviously -- in retrospect -- an open powder keg.

I picture him looking down from wherever self-immolators go when they die, and saying the Arabic equivalent of "Wow, did I do all that?"

Millions of people will remember this forever.

I am creating the Apple Roller Award to honor an ordinary guy who decided he couldn't take it any more, and in protesting it took down one brutal, repressive government after another. The beauty 0f it is that we have no way of knowing where it will all end up. This could just be the beginning.

Color me impressed.