“Freedom To” is Center Story

It was Erich Fromm, a noted psychologist, who first brought to the world’s attention that there are two types of freedom. The first one is “freedom from,” the act of escaping. And the other is “freedom to,” the act of gaining freedom to achieve something better. Anyone who has run away from home and found himself asking the question “What now?” will understand the difference.

We couldn’t help but think about Fromm’s two freedoms while visiting the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. It was just days after Barack Obama had been elected president, and the experience was surreal. Here we were, face to face with the reality of man’s inhumanity to man. Outside the Freedom Center, our country was celebrating the election of its first African-American president.

Completing our tour, which was nothing short of a spiritual experience, the thought struck us that the Freedom Center is telling only half the story. In Dr. Fromm’s words, it is telling the “freedom from” story, but not the “freedom to” story. What a great opportunity, we thought, to add another dimension to the center’s mission. Why not make it the home of both freedoms, accommodating a place for African-American achievement?

The Freedom Center is as fine a museum in both content and architecture as there is in the country. It is a great asset. Yet think what it would mean to every African-American if it were a center of accomplishments, not only in historical exhibits but current events.

Without question, slavery is one of America’s darkest hours. Yet the story of the Freedom Trail is the story of the American Dream. The most exciting story in our history is not what our ancestors did to gain their freedom, but what they have done with it since.

Circuit Bending

Do you have an old electronic toy that seems destined for Goodwill? Don’t give it away just yet. Circuit-bending, or short-circuiting electronic devices so they make interesting sounds, is a cult music-making trend that started right here in Cincinnati.

With nominal technical know-how, you can transform a toy into a psychedelic instrument within a couple of hours. Oakley resident Reed Ghazala, credited for inventing circuit-bending in the ’60s, showed us how:

1. Find a sound-producing, battery-powered toy. These can be found at most thrift stores. In this example, Ghazala is using Texas Instruments’ Speak & Read. (For safety reasons, do not attempt to circuit-bend something plugged into the wall.)

2. Open up this toy and expose its circuit board. Insert batteries.

3. While the toy is making a sound, use a piece of wire to arbitrarily connect various points of the circuit to each other.

4. If the connection makes an interesting change in sound, solder the wire in place. Then solder a switch in the middle of the wire so the new sound can be turned on and off as desired.

5. Mount the switch on the outside of the instrument so it can be used after the toy is reassembled.

Elizabeth Lasky

A Mystery Set By Our Reality

Jon Talton, a Cincinnati Enquirer business editor and columnist from 1993 to 1996, who now lives in Seattle, is known for writing mysteries set in Arizona. For his latest book, Talton turns to Cincinnati, a place he obviously remembers well.

The Pain Nurse (Poisoned Pen Press, $24.95), available in April, resonates with Talton’s experiences here, as well as his life-changing, life-threatening encounter with a spinal cord tumor. Some snippets from the novel reflect his knowledge of the Queen City:

“It was a nice polite Midwestern city on the surface. Anybody who paid attention knew better. Neighborhood was identity, and some of the neighborhoods were lethal.”

“Growing up on the west side, he (Mueller) had played football for Elder, and had never been farther than Chicago. In other words, he had the résumé of nearly everyone who rose to command in the Cincinnati Police Department. It was one more reason Will (Borders) would never move ahead. He was Scots-Irish Protestant in a German Catholic town.”

“Interstate 75 was the Sauerkraut Curtain: to the west lay Price Hill and, beyond, the neat homes to which the German families had moved in the 1930s and 1940s as they grew more prosperous.”

The main setting is Cincinnati Memorial Hospital. The pain nurse of the title, Cheryl Beth Wilson, and former homicide detective Will Borders — recovering from the removal of that tumor — team up to tackle a serial killer dubbed the Cincinnati Slasher. Like the Cincinnati Strangler case of the 1960s, someone has already been caught, tried and executed for those crimes. But just as some believed Posteal Laskey wasn’t guilty of all of the Strangler’s killings, Borders suspects the real Cincinnati Slasher is still at large and at work once more.

Readers who’ve enjoyed the Cincinnati-based mysteries of Jonathan Valin, Jim DeBrosse and Albert Pyle should welcome Talton’s maiden Cincinnati effort.

Bob Hahn

Progress Blown Away

The story of Mallory vs. Driehaus — about an appointment to the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority board — has been played up as a clash between two of Greater Cincinnati’s most politically powerful families.

Strong currents run through this, such as lingering resentment among West Side Cincinnatians about the clustering of Section 8 housing and tenants in their neighborhoods.

What we cannot get over, however, is how this dispute sparked Cincinnati City Council to pass an emergency ordinance awarding itself approval power over appointments made by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. “to any boards or commissions independent of the administrative or executive operations of the City of Cincinnati.” And City Solicitor John Curp says he needed to find out if council has legal authority to do this.

For decades, this city has tried to find the best recipe for effective governance, balancing the powers of the mayor, city council and the city manager. The current council has been better than predecessors that meddled too much with the administration.

That progress was blown away by this power play. Note that Jeff Berding and John Cranley (before he decided to resign his seat on council) introduced the ordinance, joined in support by Chris Bortz, Leslie Ghiz, Chris Monzel and Roxanne Qualls.

They may have good arguments, but something so fundamental isn’t rushed through as an emergency. Is this one appointment worth undermining a city manager who, by most accounts, has met or exceeded even his critic’s expectations? More disturbing is the idea that the city’s chief legal counsel has to research whether council has a legal right to do what it did. To the council members behind this: Next time, do your homework before you shake up — or shake down — City Hall.

The Editors

Township Patrols and the Law

Speaking of knowing and following the law, consider this:

“Do you mean to tell me Hamilton County has been illegally providing patrols to the townships forever? If that’s the case, good gosh. There’s an awful lot of people who need to do an awful lot of explaining.”

That was Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune’s quoted response to a legal opinion issued by county Prosecutor Joe Deters and Assistant Prosecutor Robert Johnstone Jr. They concluded that the county has no legal obligation to provide free sheriff’s patrols to townships. They can form their own police departments or pay the county for sheriff’s patrols, the county attorneys say.

Whether Hamilton County should put all of its 12 townships on a fee-for-service basis (no money means no deputies) is a debate worth having.

After decades of providing some deputy patrols at no charge, the county finally checks its legal obligations because it’s in a budget crisis. Makes one wonder what other common practices in our local governments don’t have a legal leg to stand on.