The Hero in the Picture

James Zwerg was a Freedom Rider who went to Montgomery, Alabama in 1961. As soon as he stepped off the bus, a mob grabbed him and beat him to a pulp. A photograph taken of Zwerg in the hospital was published nationwide and around the world, bringing awareness of what was happening in the American South. But although he became a hero in the Civil Rights movement, his parents never forgave him for his activism.
His parents' rejection erased the closeness Zwerg once felt with them. "I had a lot of anger toward them," he says. "How can they treat me this way? This was the most meaningful period of my life. How could they not understand that?"

Zwerg took out his anger on himself and on others. After the beating, he returned to college but had trouble being close to anyone. "The two people I loved the most hurt me, so, by God, I wasn't going to love anybody," Zwerg says. "I might meet a girl who I felt was special. One minute, I'd tell her that I loved her, and the next, I told her I didn't want to see her again."

Zwerg began to drink heavily during his senior year, and at one time he contemplated suicide. Depressed, he put on his jacket and walked to a pier near campus.

He still doesn't remember what happened next. "I remember going out to the pier, but I do not remember coming back," he says. "I awoke the next day in my room, and when I put on my jacket, a straight-edge razor was in a pocket. I didn't remember putting it there."

Six months of therapy helped, but Zwerg has spent the fifty years since then coming to grips with his experience, his family's rejection, and the spiritual letdown he experienced after his time with the Freedom Riders. Link -via Fark

(Image credit: WGBH)

See also: the documentary Freedom Riders from PBS. Link

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I have Lila by Pirsig and I thought it was a great story. I should read his other; Motorcycle Maintenance and the Art of Zen

My library:
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I saw the documentary last night. It was quite moving. The freedom riders have my deepest respect and admiration.

Ryan: Good luck on the quest. As a former seeker, I would recommend reading Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila by Robert Pirsig. (If you haven't read them already.)
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About 6 or more years ago something within me changed. I became less interested in girls, games and cars and became obsessively interested in "Why?" the question in a philosophical/spiritual pursuit. I've been searching high and low for the answers and one of the first places I went was my parents and siblings. But my parents and siblings were much too into girls, games and cars (etc..) and found my pursuit annoying, to say the least. It bothered me because I thought my aims were righteous, noble and by far superior to their idle occupations. Nevertheless, I couldn't convince them to see the import in what I had learned, was learning and could teach them. Nor did they have much to offer and due to forseeable consequences communications with many of them have been severed. There is some solace in the fact that virtually all genuine spiritual/truth-seekers face this cold reality. I wouldn't have it any other way, the search implicates me at its core and demands that I can go at it alone.
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They never came out and explcitily stated as such but I'm positive my parents would have been supportive of any decision I had made, whether it went against what they believed or not. I can't imagine what it would do to someone to not have that kind of support, especially for something like this.
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