Yesterday, as Trump was ranting about “shithole countries,” I was in a county courthouse in Georgia looking at a death certificate for a black man who died in 1930. I watched the courthouse employees’ faces closely as they read the cause of death “Unlawful act.” Their confused looks confirmed what I suspected; they had never seen such a vague description listed as a cause of death. They clearly did not know about the incident that occurred there 88 years before, even though it had been the focus of national news for weeks back in 1930.
“It was a lynching” I explained, pointing to the word scribbled in parenthesis on the document. I had them pull another death certificate; this one for a white 16 year-old girl who had died one day prior to the man. Her cause of death was listed as “Murder.”
The man was accused of raping & murdering the girl the day before. He had fled into the woods after locals spotted him on the road not far away from her body. The sheriff arrived quickly & immediately called for assistance from neighbouring law enforcement agencies. They began tracking him as soon as dogs arrived; first, along a creek through the woods, then across fields & through more woods. It continued for eighteen hours, with more & more men joining in from other counties, until the track ended at a cabin nearly 20 miles away. The posse, which had grown to nearly one thousand by that time, quickly surrounded the house. The owner told the sheriff that the suspect was not there. However, when the sheriff & two deputies searched it, they discovered him hiding in the kitchen. The posse waited restlessly outside as the sheriff questioned the suspect. The restlessness quickly transformed the men from a posse into a mob. They rushed into the cabin & grabbed the owner, intending to “teach him a lesson” for sheltering the suspect.
Fortunately the sheriff was able to calm them down. Unfortunately, their focus turned to the suspect. The heavily armed mob told the sheriff that he could maintain custody of the suspect, but instead of the county jail, they would be taking him to where the girl’s body was found. He was ordered to follow a truck loaded with 15 armed men. Another 75 to 100 cars & trucks followed closely behind the sheriff.
When the caravan reached the city limits, the sheriff – knowing that the mob likely intended to lynch his suspect – attempted to get away when the lead truck made a turn. Dozens of shots were fired, disabling the sheriff's car.
The sheriff, deputies & suspect were forced into another vehicle & transported to mob’s intended destination. Upon arrival, the suspect was chained to a tree. A crowd of more than a thousand, including women & children, watched as his fingers and toes were removed, “joint by joint.” A pole was jabbed into his mouth when he began to scream. It was removed only long enough to pull his teeth with pliers. More torture, to gruesome to describe, took place. In total, it lasted for more than an hour. He was still alive when the mob piled sticks & logs under him, poured gas on & ignited the fire. Several men fired their weapons at point blank range. The body was left there for the day.
Thousands of people “rode out to see the spectacle.” Twelve hours later, at sunset, the sheriff & deputies removed & buried the body. Details of the lynching were published in America’s newspapers from coast to coast. Despite an investigation, which included convening a grand jury, no one was ever charged.
The reason I decided to tweet about this is because of what happened next… not back in 1930, but YESTERDAY, both in that Georgia courthouse and in the White House. After I concluded providing them with the details, one employee nodded approvingly,
“They knew how to handle things back then.”
“Good for them,” said another.
The 1st began to expound on their opinion; "You know, it's about damn time we stopped being afraid to-" when a black women walked into the office. The employee cheerfully greeted the lady with familiarity;
"Hey, Betty." I watched as they exchanged pleasantries.
The employees' tones & demeanour had completely changed. It was both astonishing & disturbing. It was as if I was watching a performance, done for an audience of one; Betty. I had the urge to shout,
"Don't believe it Betty! It's just an act! RUN!"
But of course I just stood there, for just long enough to not seem rude. Having concluded my business, I thanked them & left. I started the car & by habit, turned on the radio just in time to hear about Trump’s “shithole” remarks. I cringed. There was no doubt in my mind where the “It’s about damn time we stopped being afraid to-” remark was headed had the black lady not walked in at that time.
I had heard that tone & seen that sneer too many times before. Like when I was 9 years-old, & a neighbour jubilantly exclaimed "Somebody finally killed that nigger!" The 'somebody' he was referring to turned out to be James Earl Ray & the 'nigger' was Martin Luther King Jr. That was the day, the exact minute, when I realized how truly evil racism was. Yes, I had seen news stories showing protesters being knocked down with fire hoses, attacked by dogs & beat with clubs, but that was on TV, somewhere else far away. Seeing Farmer Jekyll transform into the demented Farmer Hyde right in front of me was traumatic. It scared the hell out of me & I never forgot it. I never respected him again.
I saw & heard that same deep hatred in that courthouse yesterday and I felt that same sickness gnawing at my soul as it did on that terrible day in 1968. Listening to the news about Trump on the way home, I recalled other racist things he has said & done. I also remembered how, during Obama's presidency, Republicans had made absurd & baseless claims that Obama was not only not a Christian; he was a Muslim & a racist, intent on destroying America by dividing us. And look at those same Republicans today; practically worshiping a pathetic excuse for a man who is doing exactly what they falsely accused Obama of doing.
People like those I saw yesterday, who make up Trump’s base, key off of every hateful ignorant word Trump spits out, whether it’s through his foul mouth or by applying his pudgy little fingers to a keypad. And all it would take to send them into an uncontrollable rage is for Donald Trump to say something just as their inner hatred hits the boiling point. Donald Trump personifies everything that is WRONG with America today. He is greedy. He is a misogynist. Donald Trump is a bigot. He is a hypocrite, both religiously & patriotically. He is hateful. Donald Trump is a racist. Donald Trump is un-American. Donald Trump has not only broken his oath & trampled on our Constitution, he has pillaged & profiteered like a pirate, all under the protection of the GOP. Donald Trump has removed the name of Lincoln from the Republican Party & replaced it with his own. Donald Trump is that mob from 1930. Donald Trump will NEVER be my president. I am #TheResistance
Image is by @MarianKamensky1