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Obama speech, ISIS, Lynching

Confederate and ISIS flags

A few days ago ISIS burned Muadh al Kasasbeeh, a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, to death. They doused him with an accelerant set him on fire, videotaped the proceedings and posted the spectacle on the net.

A few days later at the National Prayer Breakfast President Obama gave a thoughtful and nuanced speech in which he referred to the burning. The President said:

“So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities – the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?
“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ…. So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.”

His remarks upset some of the conservative blogosphere–NYT,  and from Google:

To put this ISIS and American barbarism in some context, below are extracts from two blogs. I end the post with a few links to help us with a history, which many of us would rather have gone down the memory hole.

From ChaunceydeVega at We Are Respectable Negroes

Yes, ISIS Burned a Man Alive: White Americans Did the Same Thing to Black People by the Thousands

ISIS’s burning alive of Muadh al Kasasbeh has been denounced as an act of savagery, barbarism, and wanton cruelty–one from the “dark ages” and not of the modern world.

American Exceptionalism blinds those who share its gaze to uncomfortable facts and truths about their own country.

For almost a century, the United States practiced a unique cultural ritual that was as least as gruesome as the “medieval” punishments meted out by ISIS against its foes.

What is now known as “spectacular lynching” involved the ceremonial torture, murder–and yes, burning alive–of black Americans by whites. Like ISIS’s use of digital media to circulate images of the torturous death of Muadh al Kasasbeh by fire, the spectacular lynchings of the black body were shared via postcards and other media.

In fact, the burned to death images of the black body were one of the most popular types of mass culture in 19th and 20th century America…..

And from Bill Moyers:

The Fiery Cage and the Lynching Tree, Brutality’s Never Far Away

February 5, 2015

…..

After listening to one newscast after another rightly condemn the barbaric killing of that Jordanian air force pilot at the bloody hands of ISIS, I couldn’t sleep. My mind kept roaming the past trying to retrieve a vaguely remembered photograph that I had seen long ago in the archives of a college library in Texas.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: Large crowd looking at the burned body of Jesse Washington, 18 year-old African-American, lynched in Waco, Texas, May 15, 1916. (Library of Congress)

CLICK TO ENLARGE: Large crowd looking at the burned body of Jesse Washington, 18 year-old African-American, lynched in Waco, Texas, May 15, 1916. (Library of Congress)

Suddenly, around two in the morning, the image materialized in my head. I made my way down the hall to my computer and typed in: “Waco, Texas. Lynching.”

Sure enough, there it was: the charred corpse of a young black man, tied to a blistered tree in the heart of the Texas Bible Belt. Next to the burned body, young white men can be seen smiling and grinning, seemingly jubilant at their front-row seats in a carnival of death. One of them sent a picture postcard home: “This is the barbeque we had last night. My picture is to the left with a cross over it. Your son, Joe.”

The victim’s name was Jesse Washington. The year was 1916. America would soon go to war in Europe “to make the world safe for democracy.” My father was twelve, my mother eight. I was born 18 years later, at a time, I would come to learn, when local white folks still talked about Washington’s execution as if it were only yesterday. This was not medieval Europe. Not the Inquisition. Not a heretic burned at the stake by some ecclesiastical authority in the Old World. This was Texas, and the white people in that photograph were farmers, laborers, shopkeepers, some of them respectable congregants from local churches in and around the growing town of Waco.

Here is the photograph. Take a good look at Jesse Washington’s stiffened body tied to the tree. He had been sentenced to death for the murder of a white woman. …. The grand jury took just four minutes to return a guilty verdict, but there was no appeal, no review, no prison time. Instead, a courtroom mob dragged him outside, pinned him to the ground, and cut off his testicles. A bonfire was quickly built and lit. For two hours, Jesse Washington — alive — was raised and lowered over the flames. Again and again and again. City officials and police stood by, approvingly. According to some estimates, the crowd grew to as many as 15,000. There were taunts, cheers and laughter. Reporters described hearing “shouts of delight.”

When the flames died away, Washington’s body was torn apart and the pieces were sold as souvenirs. The party was over.

….

Jesse Washington was just one black man to die horribly at the hands of white death squads. Between 1882 and 1968 — 1968! — there were 4,743 recorded lynchings in the US. About a quarter of them were white people, many of whom had been killed for sympathizing with black folks. My father, who was born in 1904 near Paris, Texas, kept in a drawer that newspaper photograph from back when he was a boy of thousands of people gathered as if at a picnic to feast on the torture and hanging of a black man in the center of town. On a journey tracing our roots many years later, my father choked and grew silent as we stood near the spot where it had happened.

Yes, it was hard to get back to sleep the night we heard the news of the Jordanian pilot’s horrendous end. ISIS be damned! I thought. But with the next breath I could only think that our own barbarians did not have to wait at any gate. They were insiders. Home grown. Godly. Our neighbors, friends, and kin. People like us.

To end with my own comments:

The USGovt does not incinerate men singly. We use bombs, drones, napalm and white phosphorous to incinerate men, women and children by the tens of thousands.

A Few links to American Southern Justice:

Wikipedia: Lynching in the US
Carnival of Death: Lynching in America

The 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed  as an act of white supremacist terrorism — four little girls died.

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