Overheard at CNN.com: An American hero
Freedom Rider James Zwerg was attacked by an Alabama mob in 1961.
May 16th, 2011
06:12 PM ET

Overheard at CNN.com: An American hero

Comment of the Day:

"Forget the sports figures, the movie stars, the politicians, all the marquee names - THIS is a hero. This man put his life, his family bonds - his entire soul - on the line for those who were deemed less worthy than himself. Mr. Zwerg, the simple words 'thank you' are not enough."– ingyandbert

Shocking photo created a hero, but not to his family

Freedom Rider James Zwerg was savagely beaten when he stepped off the bus first at an Alabama bus station in 1961. The photo of his battered face became an unforgettable image of the civil rights movement. Honored by others for his bravery, he remained emotionally wounded by his parents' rejection of him.

CNN.com readers sent messages of admiration and appreciation for his and other Freedom Riders' courage.

themikey said, "To Mr. Zwerg and the Freedom Riders: Thank you for this powerful story of strength, courage, love, and sacrifice! You shine like a beacon of light across a marked landscape. I feel your life leaving footprints across my heart and soul."

DrBGood said, "Goose bumps." Ladylou7 said, "Not a dry eye in the house. God bless him for his courage and faith."

Enoughnolie said, "Wow-what a story! This man is a walking testimony of people fighting for what is right even when the majority thinks it is wrong. He should be given a Presidential and/or national award!" JohnSharp said, "I just love stories of real heroes: Not some goofball playing a boy's game as an adult but men and women who through great sacrifice do what is morally right. To Mr. Zwerg, I just want to say 'Thank You.' You make me proud to be an American."

NothappywCNN said, "Now THIS is a well written story: finally, something worth reading. Good job, John Blake."

NothappywCNN added: "I think this is the first article on soundoff that has almost 100 percent of the readers (trolls included) agreeing."

mv74mvp said, "Talk about a wake-up call. As an African American I really hope our youth one day appreciate what sacrifices this man and countless others made for everyone. Like any good piece of writing this makes me seriously question, 'What have I done to make the world a better place?' "

PapaMaster told how his life was affected by the Freedom Riders. "My father (who was white) was a Greyhound bus driver in the south during this period. He hated the Freedom Riders because he believed that they were responsible for the violence, which he feared. Years later, after Greyhound began hiring African-Americans as drivers, Dad got to know several of them and his attitude changed. He learned to judge people on their character. Before he died, he understood the importance of what the Freedom Riders did. I salute these brave people because they helped my father and me see eye to eye."

IMF chief due in court on sexual assault charges

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been charged with sexually assaulting a hotel maid in New York City. After the alleged assault, he left the hotel and was arrested on a Paris-bound airplane awaiting takeoff.

CNN.com readers were split over whether they believed the man or the maid. Some thought the story questionable. JustTruth1 said "Not the actions of what anybody would expect from the head of the International Monetary Fund. Sounds like a complete set up when you look at the time line and the facts."

Farangthai said, "Right, a 62-year-old French presidential candidate running after a maid in New York, just before an election campaign he is supposed to win; sounds strange indeed. No, these people don't go after maids; they do not need to." Jalexander2 said, "I look forward to the investigation shedding more light on what happened. I am skeptical of the allegations. Was this a political hit by Sarkozy or others fearful of Strauss-Kahn as a possible contestor for the French presidency?"

vienrose said, "I'm usually the first angry woman on the bandwagon shouting for justice on stories like this, but something about this story stinks. You have to wonder if this guy was set up by some very intelligent people. If he's guilty, may the rutting boar go to the big house for a long, long time."

Others thought the story was plausible and were delighted that Strauss-Kahn’s status did not stop the wheels of U.S. justice from turning.

laddergoat said, "Apparently, raping the economies of developing countries ain't enough for the IMF." Guest said, "From a first-class seat on Air France and a $3,000 a night room in Manhattan to the city jail–justice is once again served!" JamesBonBon said, "The most powerful man in the world against the anonymous maid. Well done to NYPD for not letting him get away."

As to whether someone like Strauss-Kahn would "go after a maid," BRUGGE had this perspective. "These slimers go after undocumented hotel workers all over the world because they know they won't talk."

Farangthai remarked, "You're really strange in the US: you say nobody is guilty until proven guilty, but you jump into conclusions without knowing anything, based on your personal experience, your prejudices, whatever. And if sex is involved, all bets are off; it gets even weirder: Strange indeed for us Europeans."

OUCH! My cat keeps biting

Many cat owners wonder why their usually loving kitty will sometimes bite the hand that cuddles. Certified dog trainer Kristen Collins says that repetitive stroking can be unpleasant for a cat, like static electricity shock. She suggests looking for early warning signs of kitty displeasure.

Many CNN.com readers agreed with JoyScaping, who said, “This is the dumbest article. Why is someone who knows nothing about cats consulting a dog trainer to explain cat behavior?"

Then readers suggested cures of their own. Guest said, "Try interacting with cats in a friendly, playful way. When they bite, stick their own paw/foot/tail in their own mouth. They will soon get the idea that biting hurts and stop doing it. Cats are not stupid. I have trained about 30 cats with this method."

Techsupp0rt said, "Making the high-pitched 'mew!' hurt kitten sound will usually make an adult cat stop biting just long enough to look confused." standingwave said, "When I get a new cat and want to make sure it doesn't get into the habit of biting I wait till it takes a nip, then I make a loud 'OOOWWWW' sound. It freaks the cat out, and it never bites again." bwmurphy4486 said, "My cat does not bite me. She did when she was a kitten, but I would "hiss" at her like a mother cat and sometimes "bat" or "cuff" her with a curved palm."

MontyStegall said, "Put your hand over its face to stop it from biting you. Then lightly bite it on the paw or ear so it will know biting hurts. The puppy I had never bit me again after that." But thebig9, who formerly worked in a veterinary office, said, “You do realize that this is a story about cats? I can promise you that biting a cat’s ear after it bites you is an awesome way to end up with some very nice facial scarring."

And to Istrt, who said, "Grab them from the back of their necks (like mama cats do) and tell them off. Works wonders. Telling from personal experience." notation said, “It's also physically harmful for a cat. You can cause nerve damage by grabbing the back of a cat's neck if you aren't careful."

soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Jazzzzzzzz

    This man, was more man... more human... God fearing.. more loving than all those racist not only on that day but through out history and along side the beautiful Martin Luther King, Malcom X and countless others whos' names and faces we'll never see. that moment when the crowed was beating him and he described Jesus stepping to his side to comfort him was a moment I had expired in my own life... and is why at that very moment reading it , the tears started. I remember the 70's I am 46 now and remember the atmosphere in school , the malls... everywhere. our world will never be perfect until our Father comes back to claim us. Until then try to love one anther.

    May 16, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • KarenKT

      I too cried when I read this. And the struggle with his parents struck me deeply. Maybe because I had my own struggles with my parents over the race of my friends... but maybe more because I thought about myself as a parent, and how we have promised to raise our 2 boys to be very open minded and aware to injustice everywhere. My oldest is just about to turn 7, and I cried knowing that, when older, if he decided to do what Mr. Zwerg did, his dad and I would tearfully bless him before he walked into the fire. We know that if he felt that strongly to risk his life for a cause, we would stand behind him.
      Probably you're going to say, "Your son is 7. How can you know you would allow this when he's 27? Still I think I would. To us it would be a sign of successful parenting if our child felt such conviction to act against injustice in the world.

      May 16, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |

    Now this man is much more of a hero than those bozoes who go half way around the world to kill people for the sake of the right-wing thugs in Washington. Especially those goons who killed this supposed bin Laden when they could have just as easily have brought him back alive to stand trial.

    May 16, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzzz

      100 % AGREED, although I can not say I could have been one of the juror, hypothetically speaking if it were civil trial. Don't want to get involved "the dead burying the dead"

      May 16, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mmmmm

    They don't make REAL MEN like him anymore...you guys out there take notes...Mr Zwerg thank you. You wore the face of Christ crucified with love and patience and true humility. MLK saw that and that is why he recommended seminary. You experinces what the apostles rejoiced about when beaten by adversaries for proclaiming Christ. You proclaimed Christ! Thank you!

    May 16, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mmmmm

    Leah Pine John Blake...Kudos!

    May 16, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Big "E"

    What is wrong with you people? One called Malcom X beautiful and used him as an example against racism,when he himself was a major racist! Read a book! And another called our American troups,our heros that have offered up their lives so that morons like these are free to write garbage on blog sites without persecution, "thugs"! I wish all you simple minded left wing liberal progressives would go spend one year in China,Iran or N.Korea and try to exorcise the freedoms you have here in this wonderful Democracy/Republic! Then demand those governments be tolerant.Good Luck.

    May 16, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • KarenKT

      Maybe it's YOU who needs to read a book. Malcolm X's book. The ending... his turning point... his epiphany about how all people truly are equal...seeing the error of his ways..... Have you had that epiphany yet?

      May 16, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • AL

      Simply because someone expresses an opinion contrary to yours does not make them a liberal. Often people question our Democracy because we love our Democracy and do not wish our freedoms compromised by those in power that have lost the true meaning of Democracy. Our Great country faces a greater threat from within than from foreign powers. Thank God we elected Obama at the time that we did or our freedoms could further be compromised by those that seek absolute unquestionable power.

      May 16, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • espero

      Some of us "simple minded left wing liberal progressives" believe in equality in the most literal sense, and are willing as Americans to assure that everyone is afforded equality – whatever the cost, Some of us have no idea what 'equality' means. If you want to discriminate against anyone, for any reason, you're not welcome here. Epithets, racial or otherwise, are for losers and the fearful.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzzz

      Thanks Karen and yes Big "E" , Malcom X did review his own racist's views. I read his book long ago and HIGHLY recommend it to EVERYONE. Wonderful ARKING story. Pls read , gotta go kitties 🙂

      May 17, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. American Soldier

    Here's a real hero here instead of those filthy creeps in the C.I.A. who operate those ungodly drones over in both Pakistan and Afghanistan slaughtering people like cattle and getting highly paid at the same time!!! What a difference!!!

    May 16, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lyndsie Graham

      Thank you American soldier for your imput here. Nothing could be closer to the truth. Those creeps who operate those drones need tp be prosecuted and how!!! As for Freedom Rider James Zwerg,he is an authentic hero.

      May 16, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joey


    May 16, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cali love

    Thank you for your sacrifice, it was not in vein, although sometimes you look around and probably shake your head at the world today. You are a hero and more, more of these stories should be told; all of the great people of all background that fought for civil rights, who lost family and friends and their lives. More Gahndi, more careing humans. I hope that my generation (African-Americans and others who you have sacrificed your happiness for) will honor you and all those who suffered to help others. Thank you Sir.

    May 16, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Crucian

    This is one of the most touching stories that I have ever read. It shows a side of humanity we rarely see anymore and tells the whole story, the one that many of us never get to see when the cameras are gone. Mr. Zwerg we owe you and the Freedom Riders a debt that can not be repaid. Kudos to the writer and editors for telling this story.

    May 16, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. zoundsman

    Mr. Zwerg is the type of man that destroys any belief that any one race is better than another.
    I wish every immigrant reads this story, and realize that ideals are not for romantics, but opened the door for every
    law abiding American who walks the streets, builds families and communities. Mr. Zwerg, no doubt, they'll be others like you, and you helped create them. Thank you for your courage to do what was right.

    May 16, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mary

    Mr. Zwerg, thank you for your dedication and efforts. Thank you for the courage to take a stand, on behalf of your fellow human beings. Immigrants who come to this country demanding their rights don't have a clue as to what civil rights really are. People who were born here have borne the struggle for freedom and equality, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Zwerg and other freedom riders. Thank you for having the courage to do what you did. You make this American proud.

    May 16, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. A Beneficiary Of Your Sacrifice

    Thank you for walking in the example of Christ Jesus. Many people are indebted to your courage and at the time unpopular choice to do what is right!. May our generation and those to come never forget the shoulders of those we stand upon.

    May 16, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. secretasianfever76

    To do what this man and many like him had done back then, I could not have imagine what was going through their minds and what hell and horror they've seen, felt and still keep on fighting for. Thanks for believing in freedom for everyone and for "starting something and finishing it."

    May 16, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. pointless1

    CNN – Thanks again for proving your journalism is what you make it. Selective at best.. 🙁

    May 16, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mannington Phil

    The Freedom Riders were attacked, of course, by the State and City Officials. They might not have swung the bats, but their opinions were publicly announced and their police stood by watching the attackers give physical expression to their fear and hatred. Since this was being witnessed by members of the outside press, and federal repres, they felt obliged to finally break up the attacks. Unwitnessed attacks, of course, led to quite a few deaths. Reminds me of events in the Mideast today.
    Mannington Phil

    May 16, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • AL

      And the Republicans desperately want State's Rights to usurp the federal government once again. Those that do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.

      May 16, 2011 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
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