Riding for Freedom


I have had the honor and the privilege to know two Freedom Riders. One was killed  for Freedom Riding and had been a friend of mine.

Irwin Wadler was my childhood and my young adult dentist. He loved brutally murdered Andy Goodman as I did. So Irwin took up the mantle. He did so willingly after Andy was butchered.

Here is about Irwin’s efforts. In WWll, he fought the Nazis. He came back after the war and started his dental practice. He had blacks on Saturdays only. Then he had an integrated practice because he thought it was discrimination against the blacks to only have them on Saturdays only.

Most of the blacks were poor — just like today in the USA. They’d pay him for his dental service with an apple pie or a fully roasted chicken — something like those items.

Well, the Jews like Irwin had an affinity for the blacks since, after all, they were knocked down in Germany.

So Irwin Freedom Rode in August, probably the hottest month in the SE South in the USA.

His Jewish temple people loaded his station wagon to the max to bring goods to poor colored people in the South, and his family and mine watched him leave to go south while worrying that he could get killed like Andy. His car would scrape the chassis going over the curb to the road.  It was so heavy with the goods. He went anyway after giving his dental practice over to another dentist for August.

I don’t know whether the following information is 100% accurate or not. I got it from my parents, Irwin Wadler and Ben Chaney, young brother of a murdered Freedom Rider. I would guess that it is pretty reliable information.

There is plenty more to do to help the underprivileged people in the USA regardless of their skin color. I like doing it. It pleases me.

Another case in point concerns human rights activists and their kin. Not everyone involved in these sorts of efforts have an easy time. Some even wind up in deeply tragic circumstances.

In relation, I had, as a young teen, the duty of trying to help Ben Chaney begin to get over his titanic rage at his brother having been killed while Freedom Riding. With my having known Andy Goodman, I found it very distressing to hear the “official” account in tandem with a publicly withheld version about the way in which Andy and his companions, including Ben’s brother, had expired. Even the subsequent investigation involved a purposefully falsified account.

For example, the parents of Andy Goodman, NOT the FBI, had put up the $10,000 to find information leading to the arrests in the case. (There’s nothing like greed for money to get a confederate to “squeal.”) Into the bargain, they gave that sum to the FBI to post as originating solely from the FBI in that the FBI director wanted it that way. (How magnanimous he must have appeared to many following the murder investigation!)

All considered, here’s the suppressed account: A sheriff and his redneck companions had pulled Michael Schwerner, Andy Goodman and James Chaney off the road with a police car so that the latter would comply due to the incident, initially, appearing like a legitimate matter of law. Then the official and his cronies tied the threesome to trees and offered Michael the chance to “redeem himself” by aiding them in bludgeoning and kicking James (the Black) until he breathed his last breath.

When he declined, they kicked and beat Michael until he died. Then they made the same offer to Andy, who also refused which, subsequently, resulted in his being, likewise, tortured to death just prior to the same outcome occurring to James. Afterward, their broken and bloodied remains were mixed with concrete and used to build a dam for a local farmer.

The summer after this incident, my father paid to have Ben, the younger brother of James, fly up from the South to spend a few months with my family in NY. The reason was that Ben’s mother, whose husband had died quite some time before, had been having a lot of difficulty with him and she needed time alone to get her affairs right after the death of James, and to deal with all of the related circumstances.

After he arrived to my family, I was charged with teaching Ben about social justice, pacifism, the history of passive resistance, restorative justice and other matters that my family thought could help him to heal and feel empowered rather than embittered… Well, it didn’t work in the short term as Ben, in his fury, almost made my family bankrupt due to certain actions that he carried out.

However, he, after jail time years later and a period of working for Black Power initiatives, ultimately became a minister in adulthood. Furthermore, James, Andy and Michael did manage to add force to a movement that eventually, in some ways, was effective to create a more just American society.

Although they didn’t, single handedly, destroy Jim Crow and other segregationist laws, they provided impetus for others to fight all the harder for change rather than have their deaths serve to promote cowardice to act and fear. So, despite that we still have a very long way to go in terms of bigotry and other social ills, actions such as theirs and even deeply heinous deaths can force transformations in crucial ways.

On Memorial Day, I memorialized the people who tried to help the world. I also remembered people who got harmed in wars. How tragic and sad to shoot bombs and machine guns at people as a job!

One person known to me started a veterans home/shelter and sufferers from PTSD. He tried to shoot down a helicopter going to  a Worcester, MA hospital roof. He was in a fugue state, apparently.

I know of two others. One was a fifth grade teacher in Grafton, MA. He heard a loud sound and ordered children under their desks — another case of PTSD.

A third case involved a Marine with PDSD who raped his own 10 year old daughter in the rear and he then jumped through a second story window when he realized about what he did. He got in his car then and rammed it into a tree trying to kill himself.

I was in the first anti war march for the Vietnam War put together by Scarsdale, NYFriends Meeting  and FOR. All of my male friends at the time were Conscientious Objectors doing alternative service or in hiding. So I was excited to have a taxi driver, who had been in the Vietnam War. I invited him into my home to use a bathroom, to get food, have tea. He had a wife and a one year old daughter.

While he ate and drank, he told me all about his experience being drafted in the war and told me the reasons for the war in his opinion.  … His information was elucidating and important to me. It was also terrible.

Sally Dugman writes from MA,USA.



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