One paragraph for each
Your task is to select one piece of literature from the reading list that you’d like to investigate further. In your email (one paragraph), you must indicate what particularly interests you about the piece. You may need to read ahead to find the piece that’s right for you. Your choice should meet the following criteria:
· You can summarize the topic for others fairly easily.
· You can identify its main argument and purpose.
· It’s intricate or detailed enough that different readers may have different perspectives.
· It’s a choice you enjoyed reading.
The Train from Hate (1994)
John Hope Franklin
My pilgrimage from racial apprehension—read just plain confusion—to racial tolerance was early and brief. I was 7 years old, and we lived in the all-black town of Rentiesville, Oklahoma. My father had moved to Tulsa where he hoped to have a law practice that would make it possible for him to support his family. Meanwhile, my mother, sister, and I would occasionally make the journey to Checotah, six miles away, to shop for supplies.
One day, we went down, as usual, by railroad. My mother flagged the train and we boarded. It so happened that when the train stopped, the only place we could enter was the coach reserved for white people. We did not take notice of this, and as the train picked up speed, the conductor entered and told us that we would have to move to the “colored” coach. My mother explained that we were not responsible for where the coach stopped and we had no other alternative to climbing aboard and finding seats as soon as possible. She told him that she could not risk the possible injury of her and her children by going to the “colored” coach while the train was moving. The conductor seemed to agree and said that he would signal to the engineer to stop the train. When the train came to a halt, the conductor did not guide us to the coach for African Americans. Instead, he commanded us to leave the train. We had no alternative to stepping off the train into the woods and beginning the trek back to Rentiesville.
As we trudged along, I began to cry. Taking notice of my sadness, my mother sought to comfort me by saying that it was not all that far to Rentiesville. I assured her that I did not mind the walk, but that man, the conductor, was so mean. Why would he not permit us to ride the train to Checotah?
My mother then gave me my first lesson in race relations. She told me that the laws required racial separation, but that they did not, could not, make us inferior in any way. She assured me that the conductor was not superior because he was white, and I was not inferior because I was black. I must always remember that simple fact, she said. Then she made a statement that is as vivid and clear to me today as the day she uttered it. Under no circumstances, she said, should I be upset or distressed because someone sought to demean me. It took too much energy to hate or even to fight intolerance with one’s emotions. She smiled and added that in going home we did not have far to walk.
5 It would be too much to claim that my mother’s calm talk removed a burden from my shoulders. But it is not too much to say that her observations provided a sound basis for my attitudes and conduct from that day to this. At that early age, I had made an important journey. In the future, I remembered that I should not waste my time or energy lamenting the inability of some members of society to take me as I was. Instead, I would use my energies to make me a better person and to distance myself from the perpetrators and purveyors of hate and misunderstanding. I shall always be happy that my mother taught me that the journey to understanding and tolerance was more important than the journey to Checotah.
Critical Thinking Questions
What assumptions underlie the thinking of those who put the mother and son off that train?
If a stranger batters your door down with an axe, threatens your family and yourself with deadly weapons, and proceeds to loot your home of whatever he wants, he is committing what is universally recognized—by law and in common morality—as a crime. In such a situation the householder has both the right and the obligation to defend himself, his family, and his property by whatever means are necessary. This right and this obligation is universally recognized, justified, and praised by all civilized human communities. Self-defense against attack is one of the basic laws not only of human society but of life itself, not only of human life but of all life.
The American wilderness, what little remains, is now undergoing exactly such an assault. With bulldozer, earth mover, chainsaw, and dynamite the international timber, mining, and beef industries are invading our public lands—property of all Americans—bashing their way into our forests, mountains, and rangelands and looting them for everything they can get away with. This for the sake of short-term profits in the corporate sector and multimillion-dollar annual salaries for the three-piece-suited gangsters (MBA—Harvard, Yale, University of Tokyo, et alia) who control and manage these bandit enterprises. Cheered on, naturally, by Time, Newsweek, and The Wall Street Journal, actively encouraged, inevitably, by those jellyfish government agencies that are supposed to protect the public lands, and as always aided and abetted in every way possible by the compliant politicians of our Western states, such as Babbitt, DeConcini, Goldwater, McCain, Hatch, Garn, Simms, Hansen, Andrus, Wallop, Domenici and Co. Inc.—who would sell the graves of their mothers if there’s a quick buck in the deal, over or under the table, what do they care.
Representative government in the United States has broken down. Our legislators do not represent the public, the voters, or even those who voted for them but rather the commercial industrial interests that finance their political campaigns and control the organs of communication—the TV, the newspapers, the billboards, the radio. Politics is a game for the rich only. Representative government in the USA represents money, not people, and therefore has forfeited our allegiance and moral support. We owe it nothing but the taxation it extorts from us under threats of seizure of property, imprisonment, or in some cases already, when resisted, a violent death by gunfire.
Such is the nature and structure of the industrial megamachine (in Lewis Mumford’s term) which is now attacking the American wilderness. That wilderness is our ancestral home, the primordial homeland of all living creatures including the human, and the present final dwelling place of such noble beings as the grizzly bear, the mountain lion, the eagle and the condor, the moose and the elk and the pronghorn antelope, the redwood tree, the yellow pine, the bristlecone pine, and yes, why not say it?—the streams, waterfalls, rivers, the very bedrock itself of our hills, canyons, deserts, mountains. For many of us, perhaps for most of us, the wilderness is more our home than the little stucco boxes, wallboard apartments, plywood trailer-houses, and cinderblock condominiums in which the majority are now confined by the poverty of an overcrowded industrial culture.
5 And if the wilderness is our true home, and if it is threatened with invasion, pillage, and destruction—as it certainly is—then we have the right to defend that home, as we would our private quarters, by whatever means are necessary. (An Englishman’s home is his castle; the American’s home is his favorite forest, river, fishing stream, her favorite mountain or desert canyon, his favorite swamp or woods or lake.) We have the right to resist and we have the obligation; not to defend that which we love would be dishonorable. The majority of the American people have demonstrated on every possible occasion that they support the ideal of wilderness preservation; even our politicians are forced by popular opinion to pretend to support the idea; as they have learned, a vote against wilderness is a vote against their own reelection. We are justified then in defending our homes—our private home and our public home—not only by common law and common morality but also by common belief. We are the majority; they—the powerful—are in the minority.
How best defend our homes? Well, that is a matter of the strategy, tactics, and technique which eco-defense is all about.
What is eco-defense? Eco-defense means fighting back. Eco-defense means sabotage. Eco-defense is risky but sporting; unauthorized but fun; illegal but ethically imperative. Next time you enter a public forest scheduled for chainsaw massacre by some timber corporation and its flunkies in the US Forest Service, carry a hammer and a few pounds of 60-penny nails in your creel, saddlebag, game bag, backpack, or picnic basket. Spike those trees; you won’t hurt them; they’ll be grateful for the protection; and you may save the forest. Loggers hate nails. My Aunt Emma back in West Virginia has been enjoying this pleasant exercise for years. She swears by it. It’s good for the trees, it’s good for the woods, and it’s good for the human soul. Spread the word.
Critical Thinking Questions
Abbey closes his essay with the example of “My Aunt Emma.” What do you think is his purpose in closing with this personal example, and how does it affect your overall viewpoint on Abbey’s argument?
Hard Rock Returns to Prison (1986)
from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane
Hard Rock was “known not to take no shit From nobody,” and he had the scars to prove it: Split purple lips, lumped ears, welts above His yellow eyes, and one long scar that cut 5 Across his temple and plowed through a thick Canopy of kinky hair.
The WORD was that Hard Rock wasn’t a mean nigger Anymore, that the doctors had bored a hole in his head, Cut out part of his brain, and shot electricity 10 Through the rest. When they brought Hard Rock back, Handcuffed and chained, he was turned loose, Like a freshly gelded stallion, to try his new status. And we all waited and watched, like indians at a corral, To see if the WORD was true.
15 As we waited we wrapped ourselves in the cloak Of his exploits: “Man, the last time, it took eight Screws to put him in the Hole.” “Yeah, remember when he Smacked the captain with his dinner tray?” “He set The record for time in the Hole—67 straight days!” 20 “Ol Hard Rock! man, that’s one crazy nigger.” And then the jewel of a myth that Hard Rock had once bit A screw on the thumb and poisoned him with syphilitic spit.
The testing came, to see if Hard Rock was really tame. A hillbilly called him a black son of a bitch 25 And didn’t lose his teeth, a screw who knew Hard Rock From before shook him down and barked in his face. And Hard Rock did nothing. Just grinned and looked silly,
His eyes empty like knot holes in a fence. And even after we discovered that it took Hard Rock 30 Exactly 3 minutes to tell you his first name, We told ourselves that he had just wised up, Was being cool; but we could not fool ourselves for long,
And we turned away, our eyes on the ground. Crushed. He had been our Destroyer, the doer of things 35 We dreamed of doing but could not bring ourselves to do, The fears of years, like a biting whip, Had cut grooves too deeply across our backs.
Critical Thinking Questions
Describe the speaker and assess his ethos .
How does this poem affect your attitude toward or feelings about prisoners?