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Lynch Law Lives On Stage And In Troy Davis Execution

When  you visit Atlanta, ask about the death of Troy Davis, an execution by  lethal injection as miles of people across land and sea kept a vigil until it  came to pass at 11:08 p.m. last Wednesday evening.

Nice  to know law and order—or do I mean lynch law and  order?—prevails in the  stubborn deep South, whatever the world thinks.  Davis was put to death despite  a slew of supporters, including  dignitaries and law enforcement experts, who  found shades of reasonable  doubt in his murder case.

In  a stroke of amazing timing and relevance, Georgia’s capital city is the setting  of a tragical musical, Parade,  based on a true story of a 1915 lynching.  I just saw the brilliant  production on opening night at Ford’s Theatre on 10th Street here in Washington—the very  spot where Abraham Lincoln was shot at close  range, by someone he never  saw coming in the dark. A vengeful son of the South,  an actor, played a  Shakespearean scene for all he was worth—MacBeth, Lincoln’s favorite.

On  that tragic April night, Lincoln was heartily enjoying a comedy. Similarly, all  seems bright at first in this Ford’s Theatre play. Parade’s exuberant  ensemble  charms with spring songs, costumes, and revelry as the curtain  opens on  Atlanta’s celebration of “Confederate Memorial Day” in April  1913.  But the holiday itself reveals the defiance of Atlanta’s white  society, keeping  the anti-Yankee candles burning.

The  theatre director, Paul R. Tetreault, expertly captures the  tableau of a wounded  world that tells itself, over and over, that it  was never vanquished, despite  the festering sore of the Recent  Unpleasantness.

An  old guard culture, hostile to outsiders, was the downfall for a  Jewish New  Yorker in his early 30s, Leo Frank, who made a good living  as a factory superintendent.  He was accused and arrested of a gruesome  child murder. Playwright Alfred Uhry,  author of Driving Miss Daisy, wrote  the book for the Broadway play,  launched onstage in 1998. Uhry has  family ties to the story, in true Southern  storytelling style. There  are no secrets down there, except the ones they  choose to tell years  later.

Parade is no picnic as it wends its way through the Southern   justice system on a murder case that became a national cause, like the  Davis  case. Frank was found guilty of fatally strangling a girl worker  in his pencil  factory. When he was sentenced to hang, there was an  outcry from quarters who  felt a virulent strain of anti-Yankee  anti-Semitism played a part in the  verdict.

The  governor of Georgia a century ago, John Slaton, went against the  will of  Atlanta’s townspeople. His character, portrayed by Stephen F.  Schmidt, exhibits  courage and pathos, clear about the consequences of  bucking the establishment. Governor  Slaton reviews the conflicting  evidence in Frank’s case and grants him  clemency: life imprisonment  instead of death by the state’s hand. That is  precisely what Georgia  state officials refused to do for Troy Davis.

Lead  actor Euan Morton telegraphs Frank’s desperate plight with  impressive  restraint. Jenny Fellner, the actress who plays his wife  Lucille, sparkles  onstage with her singing voice and her journey to  loving her husband, locked up  and alone, more than she ever did.

Relentlessly,  the end closes in. A well-connected mob of white men  break into the jail where  Frank is held, to take him for a long night  ride. It was a well-planned thing.  In the show as in life, the hooded  men string Frank up—as he prays in Hebrew—and hang him, with picture  postcards to show for it all. Very nice.

So  if you get to Marietta, ask them about the tree where Frank was  hanged. Yes,  Georgia has lots of colorful local history, and the fun  part is trying to see  where the past ends and the present begins. Both  the Davis and Frank  convictions were reviewed by the U.S. Supreme  Court, which denied relief or  mercy in both cases. Oliver Wendell  Holmes, the famous justice, scolded Georgia  for what he called a form  of “lynch law” in Frank’s trial. But he was  a damn Yankee in the  minority.

Tetreault  and others chose this timely tale to inaugurate The Lincoln Legacy Project,  an initiative to spark a national dialogue on overcoming violence based on hate  or bigotry. Parade’s history  lesson could not be more sobering. Early in  the 20th century,  lynchings of black men were at an all-time high in the  Southern states  (including Maryland.)  This was a spur to the founding of  the National  Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.  Ari  Roth of Theater J, a partner in co-producing the play, notes Frank met  the  same fate as so many black men at the hands of mobs. Parade, Roth  said,  is a “galvanizing reminder of what can go wrong in our country  when hate  speech and raging angers aren’t tempered and set to rest.”

Amen.  And let the conversation begin.

By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, September 26, 2011

September 27, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Human Rights, Justice, Politics, Racism, Right Wing, States | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Does Bigot Pat Buchanan Still Wield Influence?

For a number of years, Patrick J. Buchanan was considered “The Man” in the conservative movement; he took a back seat to no one. He ran for the GOP’s presidential nomination and attracted a large following; he hosted and appeared on several cable news shows, including being one of the original co-hosts of CNN’s “Crossfire”; his books have been bestsellers; and, perhaps most famously of all, Buchanan’s “Culture War Speech” at the 1992 Republican Party convention both enthralled his followers and chilled a good part of the rest of the nation.

In a recent column about the events in Norway, after a perfunctory condemnation of the bombing and murder spree unleashed by Anders Behring Breivik, Buchanan was classic Buchanan suggesting that, “Breivik may be right.”

Over the years, as Jamison Foser recently pointed out at Media Matters for America, Buchanan has expressed an, “almost unbelievable dislike of Nelson Mandela and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.”; took up the cause of John Demjanuk, who was”convicted earlier this year of complicity in the murder of tens of thousands of Jews while serving at a Nazi death camp”; defended the white supremacists beliefs of Nixon’s Supreme Court nominee, Harold Carswell; and,”praised Klansman David Duke for his staunch opposition to ‘discrimination against white folks.'”

In a June column posted at CNSNews.com, titled “Say Goodbye to Los Angeles”, Buchanan commented on the June soccer match at Pasadena’s storied Rose Bowl that saw the Mexican team beat the U.S. He wrote that fans rooting for Mexico should consider returning there and they should”let someone take his place who wants to become an American.”

Buchanan pointed out that “By 2050, according to Census figures, thanks to illegals crossing over and legalized mass immigration, the number of Hispanics in the U.S.A. will rise from today’s 50 million to 135 million.” Never one to miss an opportunity to be excessively dramatic/hyperbolic, Buchanan concluded: “Say goodbye to Los Angeles. Say goodbye to California.”

When Pat Buchanan spoke, many may have turned their heads, but his core audience, anti-immigrant, white nationalists perked up and listened, and later echoed his remarks.

Despite the reams of “culture war” commentary, including anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-gay rage, for some inexplicable reason, the Washington Beltway crowd has always considered him”a good old boy.”

“A cutting edge figure among a significant sector of extreme paleoconservatives”

“Although Buchanan doesn’t have the influence he did in the 1990s when he commanded a following inside the Republican Party, he remains an influential, even cutting edge figure among a significant sector of extreme paleoconservatives,” Leonard Zeskind, president of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights told me in a telephone interview.

“His ideas may not be adopted outright, but they find their way into the mouths of others, that do have a following,” Zeskind, author of the invaluable Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, added. “Think of him as a cutting edge figure, with a following on television news and an influence on others who have larger followings,” said Zeskind.

Buchanan Hearts Breivik

Buchanan’s column about Breivik may in part be an attempt to grasp renewed relevance. The piece, “A fire bell in the night for Norway,”which was posted at WorldNetDaily, maintained that Breivik is an, ” evil … though deluded man of some intelligence, who in his 1,500-page manifesto reveals a knowledge reveals a knowledge of the history, culture and politics of Europe.” Breivik, perhaps unknown to Buchanan, also revealed an ability to purloin a chunk of the manifesto from other published sources and claim them as his own.

“He admits to his ‘atrocious’ but ‘necessary’ crimes, done, he says, to bring attention to his ideas and advance his cause: a Crusader’s war between the real Europe and the ‘cultural Marxists’ and Muslims they invited in to alter the ethnic character and swamp the culture of the Old Continent,” Buchanan maintained.

Now that the “atrocious” deed has been done, Buchanan is, as many other conservatives have been doing, attempting to disassociate Breivik from the conservative movement in the United States and Europe: “His writings are now being mined for references to U.S. conservative critics of multiculturalism and open borders. Purpose: Demonize the American right, just as the berserker’s attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson was used to smear Sarah Palin and Timothy McVeigh’s Oklahoma City bombing was used to savage Rush Limbaugh and conservative critics of Big Government.”

But, Buchanan wrote, the left will not get away with “guilt by association,” a methodology Buchanan charged, “has been used by the left since it sought to tie the assassination of JFK by a Marxist from the Fair Play for Cuba Committee to the political conservatism of the city of Dallas.”

While Buchanan admitted that there are, “violent actors or neo-Nazis on the European right who bear watching,” he declared that “native-born and homegrown terrorism is not the macro-threat to the continent.”

According to Buchanan,”Europe’s left will encounter difficulty in equating criticism of multiculturalism with neo-Nazism. For Angela Merkel of Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy of France and David Cameron of Britain have all declared multiculturalism a failure. From votes in Switzerland to polls across the continent, Europeans want an end to the wearing of burqas and the building of prayer towers in mosques.”

Buchanan concluded by pointing out that “Breivik may be right,” in asserting that “a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries,” is coming down the pike.

Buchananism “will live long after [he] has departed this mortal coil’.

“Buchanan’s brand of Christian nationalist xenophobia has been picked up by others, guaranteeing it will live on long after Buchanan has departed this mortal coil,” Rob Boston, Senior Policy Analyst at Americans United, told me in an email. “That’s his true legacy. … The trail he blazed is now well traveled by Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Dinesh D’Souza and a host of others.”

Boston noted that: “The Breivik shooting is a textbook example of what’s wrong with today’s cultural warriors of the far right. An angry and hate-filled man killed more than 70 people — many of them young — in cold blood. Yet so many on the right seem unable to condemn this without adding a ‘but.’ That we have come to this pass — and that so few public commentators have the guts to stand up and call the right out for the cranks that they are — is a telling indicator of the great moral confusion these so-called guardians of public virtue have spawned.”

Leonard Zeskind pointed out that while Buchanan is not the Buchanan of the past, he still has a following: “Even if he does not have three million votes behind him, he still has [many] people who listen to [him] everyday. At the same time, he has been eclipsed by the Tea Partiers, who embody, in part, his constituency of yesteryear.

The Tea Partiers are the Buchananites of the past, moving into the future.”

By: Bill Berkowitz, Talk To Action, AlterNet, August 5, 2011

August 8, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Conservatives, GOP, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Immigrants, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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