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THE KU KLUX KLAN IN INDIANA

March 30, 2015

THE KU KLUX KLAN IN INDIANA

I happen to know something about the historical grounds for bigotry in Indiana that few know about, and my exposure to such knowledge was accidental. I did not know that the first law firm I associated with after law school and passing the bar in the 1950s contained an 83-year old judge (as we called him out of respect for his age and experience even though he had never been elected or appointed to a judgeship) who had been general counsel for the Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s, that the then Republican governor had been his law partner prior to election as governor, that the Ku Klux Klan was said to have “ruled” the Republican Party in Indiana during the 1920s, and that the national headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan was located not in some southern city, as one would expect, but rather in the northern city of Indianapolis in central Indiana, and that the Klan of that day had many well known and influential members among its number, including the governor.

 

More than once I confronted the “judge” in his office and asked how he could possibly represent such a bigoted and violent group as the Ku Klux Klan as its general counsel and he always had his standard reply ready: That the Klan was O.K. and that it was just a few hotheads in the group that gave the order a bad name. When I said there were more than a “few hotheads” in the group and that their conduct was criminal and inexcusable and lawless, he did not agree, again reciting that the group’s motives were good but were given bad press because of the actions of the few hotheads. I left the firm after a year or so and associated with another Republican lawyer nearer my own age who shared my views on the Ku Klux Klan, i.e., that they were lawless, bigoted and homicidal. I also accepted a position with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office as Deputy Prosecutor at the time and proceeded to fashion a career free of the shadow of those who were formerly involved in representing such a nefarious group. I consider such representation to be much like agreeing to represent the Gestapo in my day and age (and I don’t want to hear that the Gestapo was O.K., that it was just a few bad apples who made the rest of the group look bad)! HELLO! THE GROUP IS ALL BAD! HIT THE COUCH, SHED YOUR DENIAL AND FACE FACTS!

 

So what does the foregoing recitation have to do with the bigoted bill ostensibly protecting the “religious liberty” of a designated class signed by the governor of Indiana into law last week that takes us back to the cave? This. I can’t help but wonder if there are not some remnants of the old Klan rule in Indiana involved in influencing children and grandchildren who sat at the knee of then Klan members who are now sitting in the Hoosier legislature and who perchance heard such stories as the old “judge” unsuccessfully tried to peddle to me about misunderstanding the motives of the Ku Klux Klan. Could it be that such members, seizing on the pleasant sounding phrase of “religious liberty,” have taken the opportunity afforded by their legislative positions to impose their values on fellow citizens who may not share their views (either real or pretended) but without sheets, horses and hoods that their forebears employed in their midnight rides to lynch and intimidate minorities? Does this bizarre and bigoted piece of legislative tripe suggest such a possibility?

 

I don’t and can’t know, of course, but there must be some explanation for this bizarre and medieval excursion into removal of democratic rights thousands of us have fought and died for. Whatever the source and however the psyches of the legislators who voted for this junk legislation may have been formed, the result must be repealed. It is altogether fitting that concerned citizens are in the streets in protest of such a gross violation of their rights, and it would also be fitting if the big corporations in Indiana who put the Republican governor and supermajority in place in the legislature would go to the state house and tell the people they financed and elected to repeal this magnet for lawsuits and protests post haste.

 

Eli Lilly, a giant medicine maker, is headquartered in Indianapolis, and supported the current Republican regime. The company’s PR group, sensing a PR disaster (which it is), has now come out and said their products should not be boycotted because they are against the legislation the governor signed. That is not good enough. You can’t help people get into positions of power, go on TV and say you don’t agree with what they did, and expect to be forgiven by the buying and outraged public. Such a corporate public mea culpa doesn’t get it.

 

I think Eli Lilly and other Indiana corporations who gave the current Republican state administration and legislature big campaign contributions and other support to get them into office have a responsibility to go to the state house and tell those they sponsored to repeal this legislation and be quick about it. Otherwise, I favor a boycott of Eli Lilly’s products, beginning with their big money-maker, Cialis, a boycott to be in effect immediately and until they and their fellow corporate sponsors successfully see that this piece of legislative junk is repealed. While they are not primarily responsible for this bigoted piece of tripe, they materially aided and abetted its coming into being and should be just as responsible in seeing that it has a short history with a trip to the state house to see the recipients of their largesse.

 

So these big corporations don’t have the clout to get the job done, you say? Think again. They had the clout to get corporate taxes reduced to unconscionably low levels and a medieval and grossly misnamed “right to work” piece of tripe passed, and they have the clout to get this misnamed “religious liberty” act repealed. Let’s insist that they either do their duty or (for a change) face big and lasting consequences in the marketplace. They, after all, have competitors and we have the purse.   GERALD   E

 

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