Eureka, California, U.S.A.
May 08
Born 1944 in Alligator, Mississippi. Son of a Southern Baptist preacher. Eight books, last two with Knopf. Novelist, poet, painter, mathematician. No humorous self-deprecating comments because if you knew me you could supply them yourself.


Hontonoshijin's Links

JANUARY 14, 2011 1:52PM

Murderers among Us

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For quite some time now I've been telling the story of how I could no longer stand to live in Missississippi after the assassination of JFK, horrified by walking the campus of the Southern Baptist (and therefore supposedly Christian) college I attended, and hearing the shouts of laughter and approval from all the would-be Baptist preachers.

That's true enough, but the whole truth is darker.  Imagine discovering that your father was a mass murderer on the order of Gacy.  That's how I was beginning to feel.  I had grown up an innocent lover of my home state, patriotic, proud, eager to bring honor to Mississippi.

I had been increasingly forced to face the facts:  These people were killers.  Byron de la Beckwith shot Medgar Evers dead in 1963, and bragged about it, and everybody knew he was guilty, but a governor shook his hand, and it was thirty years before he was convicted.  Lawrence Rainey murdered Luther Jackson, and was one of the murderers of the Philadelphia four.  He never went to jail, and was in fact the sheriff of his county.  These bare sketches, factual as they are, cannot communicate the horror of discovering what was going on.

I was a teen-ager when I began to be  aware of the killers, and I was terrified.  It was like looking directly into the face of Satan.  This was pure lying malevolent evil.  These people were degenerate, and proud of it.

I was frightened, deeply frightened.  Not on a personal basis.  I'm not afraid personally of any of these bastards.  So they can sneak up behind me and kill me.  So?  I'm going to die anyway.  Any damned fool can kill.  It takes real power to help someone live, or to refuse to foster madness or murder or cruelty.

 No.  I was terrified because I was looking into the face of a blank wickedness I could not comprehend, that my "Christian" upbringing did nothing to prepare me for.  These people were members of my own species.  That was the guilt that horrified me.

And what was the general language of the tribe like at the time?  Exactly like it is now.  Vicious, demeaning, threatening, lying, cowardly, stupid, angry.  I will no longer tolerate such language and I make no apologies.  Howl all you want to about "fairness."  It's a spurious fairness that you propose, in which all the damage happens to other people.  If you spout this vicious nonsense, you are brewing the environment that encourages the hideous side of the human species to come out.  You are providing cover for murderers and assassins.  I do not accept you and I do not forgive you.  You.  Are.  WRONG.

I urge anyone who cares to read the facts about the many lynchings and murders and tortures of blacks.  I urge you to read RFK Junior's recent piece about the despicable rhetoric and antics of Dallasites and many others in the South in the days before JFK was murdered.

But if you care, you probably already have read such things.  The creatures who need to read them will not.

I disagree strongly with the way the The Authority graphic novels glorify killing (supposedly in a good cause), but I feel the way Apollo does in one of the stories in Jenny Sparks:  "Sometimes you almost wish there WAS a hell."  I would not want anyone to suffer eternal torment, but it seems unfair that such bestial and criminal beings could be allowed to live normal lives, could be allowed to walk among us as free men.

And for those who would maintain that the fact that people like me don't "believe in" hell is the CAUSE of the problem, I will point out that de la Beckwith and Rainey would have described themselves as Christians.  Most of the murderers went to church, thought of themselves as good soldiers in the Christian army.  Get it straight:  Christ's teachings were about behavior, not appearances.  They are about what you do, not the image you cultivate.  They are about how you treat your fellow humans.  Killing is NOT Christian.  Venom and lies and incitement are NOT Christian.  It's that simple.  If you say it isn't, you lie.

By their fruits shall ye know them.

And if you say there is no connection between the recent murders of Tiller and the six in Tucson and the permissiveness that allows someone like Huckabee, who called, on national television, for the assassination of Julian Assange, to be considered a genuine Christian and a respectable candidate for president, you lie.

Perhaps you lie because you have been persuaded by liars, but you lie.  You aren't talking to a clueless idiot who wants to believe the impossible.  I was there.  I saw the evil.  I looked into its face.  I remember how it operates.  I remember in detail.  It scarred me for life.

And I wasn't even black.

I feel the same chill now that I felt then.  I look into the faces of  the sputterers and the expostulators, and I see the same smirk that Jared Loughner shows in his booking photo, that self-righteous self-congratulary madness that actually thinks nothing is wrong if it is done on behalf of the "right" group, the one you're a member of.

The people who celebrated Kennedy's death on that supposedly "Christian" campus didn't pull the trigger themselves.  Oh no.  I'm very clear on that fact.

But they were happy about the murder.  Yes, there were then, as there are now, a few apologists saying that we should all mourn his death even if we didn't agree with him.  But I saw the faces of the people.

Every one of them should have been locked away for life.

Go on proclaiming your foul ideas, go on twisting rhetoric to pretend your innocence.  The fact is, we can see you for what you are.  You can maybe "get away with it," in the sense that you will never be brought to justice, but the fact is you are either scum or the stuff that grows on scum, and you aren't fooling anybody.

 You're either killers, or encouraging killers.  And I see you.

And if I am wrong, and there is a Judgment Day, I will accuse you before the face of God.  You.  Killers.



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I could hear the voice of Atticus Finch as I read this. Powerful. Spellbinding.
As Kurt Vonnegut put it, "So it goes." To which I'll add my own weary "amen."