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. Whitley Whiterton

    I'm sorry I'm white. Please forgive me.

    May 16, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • AntiPalinAlaskan

      No one is asking people to be sorry for "being white".

      It's not as if white people had no alternative but to treat people of color the way we've treated them.

      The point is just to admit that there was NEVER any justification for Jim Crow.

      Why do you find the idea that everybody is equal to be so threatening?

      May 17, 2011 at 5:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Heavyarms

      Gimme back meh MONAY!!!!

      May 17, 2011 at 6:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Mikette

      No need to be sorry... just be the best person you can be and make your judgments according to a persons character not their hue. All races have undesirables amongst them but all races contain beautiful people as well. Peace be unto you.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Martin C.

      Empty apologies. Crocodile tears.

      If you had meant to make light of the hard work of the Freedom Rides, then you succeeded with your sarcasm.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
    • espero

      I think not.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |

      Good example of the consciousness level of why these things happened in the 1st place.

      May 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      I have four children and I read this out loud to the family at the dinner table. It is an ugly part of US History, but important for them to understand how we got to where we are today. Thank you Mr. Zwerg... you are part of history whether you want to be or not, but be proud of your soul!

      May 17, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. John

    Just watched the show and it was tremendously moving and informative. It is hard to comprehend the depth of ignorance and amorality that leads people to harbor such hatred and commit such violence based on ethnicity. The Alabama and Miss Governors, and even Robert Kennedy, were shameful. The sad part is that much of the deep south has changed very little.

    May 16, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Inspired

    What an amazing story about an amazing man. I admire all of those who faught this fight. Thanks for this one CNN.

    May 17, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  4. spenO

    Thanks Mr. James for the courage and believe. You contributed just as others that sacrifices their life for me and my children to enjoy this day. THANK YOU !!!!!

    May 17, 2011 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mike L

    The way he describes being treated by his family and his resulting depression and everything else that comes from it just makes me think about how lgbt teens feel when the people they love and need the most (their parents/family) disown them after coming out of the closet. These people did a great service to advance desegregation in the south, it's really inspiring to read their stories, and getting more people interested in our country's past and how we've gotten here (even with all the work that still needs to be done).

    May 17, 2011 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
    • KarenKT

      Progress is hard, but it's progress, nonetheless.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
  6. espero

    Just watched the show myself, and, more than anything, I was embarrassed. Some of us simply cannot grasp the concept of equality. How can women, gays, native Americans, blacks, the handicapped, Latins, Asians, etc, possibly considered 'equal'? Equality isn't a racial issue, it's a personal issue. If you somehow can't or won't practice the exercise of equality for everyone, you don't belong here – simple as that.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:35 am | Report abuse |
    • LibsRliars

      How about the equality of how liberals treat conservatives.........the real racism NOW in America thanks to the new KKK leader against fox news and tea party tax protesters Obama Liar N Chief aka Divider Polarizer N Chief......Union protests in Wis 9 million in damage, threats of violence.........harrassment......a conservative Tea Party Protest ZERO Damage ZERO harrassment..Zero threats......Gabby Giffords? Shot by a liberal because she was conservative Dem............Liberalism is the new racists.............Obama their Messiah..........receive the koolaid and your 666 loyalty tattoo

      May 17, 2011 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
    • espero

      LibsRliars: Yeah, sure – anything you say. Hey, I believe you. No problem. Thanks for your, uh.....thoughts?

      May 17, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Free Forex Trading Systems

      This actually answered my drawback, thanks!

      October 26, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MrMailman


    May 17, 2011 at 3:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. AJ

    James should never have to pay for anything at any restaurant, like the other exceptional heroes in America today.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. Breed11

    Oh my god, there has been a story about this everyday for the last month or so. I'm tired, I get it, I did history in school. Why CNN, why? At least give us some time to digest instead of just forcing this down our throats every single day. I used to find the Civil Rights sacred, now I'm just bored of it.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |

      When people get tired of hearing about civil rights, and stop listening there won't be any civil rights left. Of course there are some people who would rather be told what they should say, think, read,feel, or believe. We can't change our long and sometimes not so gracious past, but to choose not to learn from our mistakes only dooms us to repeat them. Strength of character is built upon overcoming the mistakes we make.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  10. leeintulsa

    I saw the show last night, too. Hard to believe it could happen – like when kunta kinte got sold on Roots. And it directly lead to getting rid of whites only signs.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
  11. Tracy

    Mr. Zwerg: I watched the program last night and I couldn't help but cry. You ARE a hero. I wish everyone could be as brave as you and your fellow Freedom Riders. God bless you, Sir. Peace and love for you always.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |

    It's a real shame that it takes photos like these to shake people awake from their coma. Perhaps some will take a good look around while they are consious. What we should be doing is making note of the courage with which this man and others like him STOOD BY THEIR CONVICTIONS! So that we might possibly copy the brotherhood they stood for, and pave the way for future generations to benefit from the unity that we start today.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  13. VA_Jill

    The young priest who taught my confirmation class was a Freedom Rider. He was always one of my heroes. He did not suffer the aftereffects that Mr. Zwerg did, but it did make an impression on him and a difference in him. Unfortunately there are still plenty of people out there who have the same mindset as the people who beat Mr. Zwerg.

    May 17, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mugabi

    many people have claimed not have seen jesus before,but to me that is another living jesus on planet earth.

    May 17, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ted409

    WELL my parents are from arkansas and they arent prejudiced neither am i . they moved to arizona ive went to schol with many races of people and many friends that arent white and have known them from the time i first started school. theres only 2 kinds of people good and bad. people have a choice of what they are and want to be.

    May 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
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