She spent years researching his family. She wrote and published a book examining the tragic story of his great-uncle. She arranged for him to meet a descendant of the woman who brought enormous grief upon his family.
But she had never met him in person…until this week.
Tessa Bishop Hoggard is on a mission. She recently traveled from her current home in Texas to her hometown of Paris, Ky., to round up support for her latest project: erecting a historical marker near the Paris courthouse where two Black men were lynched, in 1866 and 1901. The proposed marker will also honor a third man who was lynched nearby in 1889.
Tessa’s purpose is clear: She wants to ensure that the citizens of her hometown—the old and the young—have the opportunity to confront the truths of its past. She is certain that only through acknowledging our dark history can we heal as a community and as a nation.
So far her trip has been a success. After sending numerous emails and letters to local citizens and officials over the last year, she is finding that a brief face-to-face encounter seems to seal the deal.
“I came prepared to recite the history of each of the three lynchings, to introduce these officials to the specific story of each individual,” Tessa told me. “But that hasn’t been necessary. As soon as they learn what I am proposing, they are offering support. I am truly flabbergasted. And elated.”
One of those victims of mob violence was Jim Bannister’s great-uncle, George Carter, who was hung on the iron gate in front of the courthouse in 1901. Carter was the older brother of Jim’s grandmother Katie—the woman who raised him. Two photos of Carter’s body hanging from the noose still exist and are reprinted in Tessa’s superb book In the Courthouse’s Shadow: The Lynching of George Carter in Paris, Kentucky. Those photos, and the newspaper description of the original incident that eventually led to mob violence, raise suspicions about whether Carter was even involved in the alleged “assault” of a local banker’s wife, Mary Lake Barnes Board, my great-grandmother. Initial reporting described the incident as an attack by “a negro man, who attempted to grab her pocket-book.” [The Kentuckian-Citizen, Paris, Ky., December 5, 1900]
Many of you already know the story of how Tessa arranged from afar for me to have a public conversation with Jim Bannister in 2020. That conversation offered him an opportunity to express his grief and his frustration at not being able to uncover the truth of his great-uncle’s story, as well as his relief that it was finally being aired in public. It offered me a chance to publicly voice my regret for the horror his family endured and my apology for the role my family played in what took place.
This week Tessa, Jim, and I gathered together for the first time. Emotions ran high. We took turns expressing how profoundly grateful we are for all that has transpired in the last two years. We hugged. I shed a few tears. Jim and I talk fairly often (we have to dissect Kentucky basketball on a regular basis), and I have seen him a handful of times, despite the challenges of the pandemic. But he and Tessa were in the same room for the first time. It was breathtaking to witness.
In early 2023, Tessa will submit her application to the Historical Marker Program of the Kentucky Historical Society. It appears her trip this week has accomplished her goals: she has met with local officials, she has solicited letters of support, and she has revisited the scene of these tragic extrajudicial hangings.
She also met George Carter’s great-nephew for the first time.
Sallie Showalter, the great-granddaughter of the woman allegedly assaulted by George Carter, with his great-nephew, Jim Bannister. Jim is holding his school photo from 1947-48, which Tessa found in her late mother’s belongings. Tessa’s interest in George Carter’s story was ignited when her mother shared a newspaper clipping she had kept from 1978 retelling the story of the hanging.
Joe Ford, of Louisville, Ky., offers some suggestions for the upcoming election. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
If you live in Kentucky, it’s time for our second spring—time to let your lawn sprout political signs!
If you’re unsure about what varieties to cultivate, here are a couple of ideas:
Charles Booker is a native Kentucky species, supportive of diversity and other species in our yards, well-adapted to our growing zone, enhancing the soil to support healthy growth of all plants, and displaying something of interest in all seasons.
Rand Paul is an invasive species destructive to our lawns and crowding out our wide variety of native plants, which have little natural resistance to his bullying tactics that spread out-of-control suckers all over the property, threatening indigenous vegetation.
Choice: Charles Booker.
Yes is a noxious and poisonous cultivar, aggressive and mean. It is a variety bred by dogmatic politicians (mostly male) in Frankfort and Washington whose goal is to dominate smaller, weaker plants and weed out any that don’t reproduce exactly as they think they should.
No recognizes the place each plant has in a diverse environment and its need for support and care during all seasons. With the help of a concerned gardener, each plant will thrive in its own space, in its own time.
Those are the two hot topics around here. Perhaps you have an opinion on your local plantings.
But seriously, put some signs out. Especially for those living out in the state, a sign or two may allow others to think, “Gee, someone else supports the positions I do. I am not awash in a sea of hopelessness and small thinking.”
Bob Cox, of Frankfort, Ky., offers some insights into the joys of retirement. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
Today I painted a puffin. I could not have done that last year. On a Monday morning a year ago I would have been jumping on a loan production call sweating that my boss would not be pleased with my meager efforts to grow the corporation.
But now I am free. Every day offers a brand new adventure.
I recently arrived at one of life’s great milestones. I had looked forward to the day with great anticipation. I set up a countdown calendar on my phone. I organized all of the important details I could imagine. I even planned a special toast with my wife at The Champagnery in Louisville. When December 31st arrived and it was official, I finally retired after working for 40 years.
Now, I am several months into my newfound retirement. Newfound is an accurate description as this period in life has become a journey of discovery. I fully expected the jubilation that accompanies closing out one’s career. But I was unprepared and pleasantly surprised by the exuberance I now feel from the total freedom to decide what each day will hold. I am often asked, “Are you enjoying retirement?” That’s like asking a child if they are happy on Christmas Day. What is there not to like?
My childhood friend and fellow retiree Sallie Showalter shared with me a perspective that a friend of hers had expressed: Our lives can be divided into thirds. The first third is preoccupied with childhood and education. The middle third is typically devoted to family and career. Retirement comprises our final one third. This was a remarkable revelation and an inspiring point of view for me. If we truly have another 1/3 of our years ahead, then retirement is not just the end of a career, it is the beginning of another significant portion of our lives!
I find myself quite stimulated and eager to open this new chapter. It begs the question, “What can I accomplish now?” And perhaps, “Is the best yet to come?” I love that possibility.
Retirement for me was always on the horizon, but it seemed a mysterious and honestly frightening concept. Several questions loomed. Would I be able to afford it? What would be the optimum time to leave my job? And what would I DO in retirement?
The money question, while paramount, was not a complicated riddle to me. My career was in banking so understanding the numbers was part of my DNA. I could fill the blog with advice, but the abridged version is to consult a good financial planner. It is a magical skill to match the resources to meet the needs. I found my advisor and together we navigated the sea of forecasting models to determine how the money could be there for that rainy day. This part of my puzzle fit into place.
The appropriate time to leave a meaningful career also requires some thought. But most likely the hole we leave behind is not as large as we imagine it to be. I was becoming a dinosaur as the banking world changed dramatically. Online access is replacing brick and mortar locations, as well as any need for face-to-face transactions. When was the last time you walked into a bank? Therefore, leaving my profession was not difficult. It took less than 5 minutes to box the potted plant and the family pictures, steal my last handful of ballpoint pens, and turn off the light.
Then the remaining question—What to do with my time?—was ready to be attacked with enthusiasm. I first jumped into a couple of projects that I wanted to tackle for my family.
My wife, Pam, is still employed and has supported my retirement decision completely. To assuage her resentment at my staying at home each day, I volunteered to take over the cooking duties. Because I had practically no experience, I enrolled with a meal-kit provider. The kit arrives with the ingredients and complete instructions. Using this service expedited the learning process. I must admit to making many a greasy mess, a smoke-filled house, and a couple of over-spiced, undercooked results. But with practice I joined the ranks of those who can dice, mince, chop, and drizzle their way around the kitchen. I am now ready to fly solo without the meal kit. Armed with new skills, I have an interest that should be useful for my remaining years. More importantly, I am contributing to the household, which earns brownie points with my wife.
The other project was a graduation gift of sorts. My last-to-leave-the-house son was wrapping up his final semester in college and purchased an adorable Labradoodle puppy. He obviously had no clue as to the enormous responsibility of owning and training a dog. Not to mention, he was totally unprepared to care for a breed that quickly grew into a 50-pound small pony galloping around his apartment. With the aid of an online obedience program, I committed to an hour per day, four days a week for three months. I am pleased to say that Leo, still a bounding bundle of curls on legs, now responds to some basic commands. The online instruction was quite challenging, but in the end rewarding. I now have a talent I am anxious to use on a new dog of my own (which my wife says will only happen in my next life).
Squeezed into the free time that I now enjoy are endless soccer games and cross country meets starring my grandchildren. At their young age it’s more like watching a swarm of bees, but far less worrisome. And I was recently elevated to first off the bench to pinch hit at babysitting the one-year-old. After a 25-year hiatus, I can still change a diaper, shoot a tiny spoon of applesauce into the clown’s mouth, and read Dr. Seuss like Morgan Freeman. I have learned, however, that my endurance is not the same as it once was and any dose of time with the grands is a wonderful recipe for a great night’s sleep. Regardless, I proudly wear my title of Poppy Cox with honor.
A totally unplanned adventure began purely by chance. A former classmate saw a Facebook picture of me hiking with my family last summer. My friend is quite an avid hiking enthusiast and invited me to join him and a small group for a winter hike to Red River Gorge. The group included several other high school acquaintances I had not seen since graduation. This nature-loving assortment all have retirement in common and therefore the freedom to pick the best weather day to head to the woods. The hiking excursion was an awe-inspiring time spent reminiscing about the days gone by and where the last 40 years have taken us. This unofficial trekkers club has made over a dozen more hikes together and we keep tabs on each other via group texts. This is the retirement gift that keeps on giving.
Hiking in the red river gorge
Pam travels regularly for her work. With my available time, I finally had the opportunity to join her for a business trip to New Mexico. While she attended a conference, I ventured out into the countryside near Santa Fe. I took a horseback trail ride at Ghost Ranch, the former home of artist Georgia O’Keefe. The scenery gave me a glimpse of some of the red hills and colorful cliffs used as reference material for her gorgeous paintings. The pastel layers that cut through the mountains were indescribable. I gained a whole new appreciation for her keen eye and ability to portray that beauty on canvas. I was struck by the contrast between the lush foliage and meandering streams of Red River Gorge and the lonesome cedar trees scattered among the endless desert-brown tones of the southwestern landscape. This was a solitary and peaceful adventure and fuel for my right-brained, creative side.
The tale of my trip is a convenient segue to a use of time that really feeds my soul. We converted into an art studio the empty bedroom previously occupied by the now college-graduate dog owner. It is my plan to see if any real expertise can be excavated from repeated experiments with oil paints. If enjoyment is the gauge, I am already wildly successful. This is a contagious outlet that intrigues me and the most gratifying thing I have accomplished.
My generation will appreciate the reference: Simon & Garfunkel were on to something.
I’ve got no deeds to do, no promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you, all is groovy
(From “The 59th Street Bridge Song.” Lyrics by Paul Simon.)
I must say that these first months of retirement have been overwhelming and joyous. I am truly relishing this time. The days are refreshingly original, frequently full, often exhausting and at the same time enriching. Reacquainting with old friends has been deeply meaningful in ways that I did not foresee. The reality of it all is still new and the structure is still forming. I don’t have any long-term predictions, but with a third of my life still ahead, perhaps the best IS still yet to come?
Tomorrow, I think I will paint a highland cow. Or I may not. It’s totally up to me.
My father was a professor. My sister was a professor. My cousins were professors.
So when J. D. Vance—possibly the most hated “man of letters” in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and Ohio’s current Republican nominee for U.S. Senate—dusted off the old Nixon trope “The professors are the enemy,” I was pert near required to take offense.
Not that that was the most offensive thing that Vance has spewed during his gold star campaign of shame. That prize has to go to his declaration that women should stay in violent marriages for the sake of their children, comments he made in front of a California high school audience last year.
But back to the diatribe against professors, who, I’ll just add, might also be women trying to survive abusive marriages. Vance, as most of you know, benefited from the instruction of professors at two of our nation’s most esteemed institutes of higher learning: Yale College of Law and The Ohio State University. His adopting Nixon’s old cry is disingenuous at best, dangerous and targeted at worst. Like so many of the most vocal haters and bigots on the populist right—Ted Cruz, Ron DeSantis, Josh Hawley, Donald Trump—Vance has an Ivy League pedigree. I hope his caustic comments about the teachers he studied under will prevent those who agree with him from taking up valuable space in our post-secondary classrooms.
All of this pernicious rhetoric is part of a much more dastardly Republican plan to destroy public education and make empty-headed voters more susceptible to their lies and propaganda. And it’s working. Teachers are leaving their chosen profession in droves and fewer and fewer students are stepping up to fill the pipeline. States are drafting military veterans and current college students to stand in front of classrooms full of impressionable youngsters. State legislators are siphoning money away from public schools to fund charter schools that aren’t beholden to state education policies. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school vouchers in Maine can be used to offset tuition for religious schools. What public school teachers can say in the classroom is being prescribed by state legislators and angry school board members. Books are being banned, library shelves emptied.
Our democracy is under attack. Our schools are under siege. Our nation is breaking apart.
And, still, J. D. Vance, in an effort to garner votes from Ohio’s electorate, stands on stage and excoriates the very teachers who gave him the confidence to pull himself up by his own bootstraps and escape the suffocating desperation of his family.
Does he not realize that Ohio, with 195 degree-granting postsecondary institutions, may well have one of the highest professors per capita among U. S. states? And that all of those professors have extended family who vote?
Perhaps he sought political advice from Kentucky’s one-term governor Matt Bevin, who antagonized teachers across the commonwealth with his persistent attacks on their integrity. Bevin attended Washington and Lee University, where he became fluent in Japanese and majored in East Asian Studies, solid preparation for leading a state where Toyota and its Japanese satellite companies changed the state’s economic trajectory. Like Vance, he clearly benefited from his professors’ tutelage.
Vance may well win this election, although I’ll put my money on Democrat and current U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan. Maybe if Vance had paid more attention to his professors, he could run on facts rather than be enslaved to his party’s propaganda and lies.
Cathy Eads, of Atlanta, affirms her faith at a common gathering spot. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
In the midst of the chaos, I pause to celebrate the wonder of the local farmer’s market.
Most communities have one. I am fortunate to have a handful to choose from. Two set up shop less than three miles from my house weekly—one on Sunday mornings and one on Wednesday evenings—so I am quite blessed in this department.
When I need a dose of hope for humanity, the farmer’s market always serves it up bountifully.
Here my neighbors and I can meet the people who plant the seeds, till the soil, pull the weeds, and harvest the produce they pack up each week to haul to the market where we share small talk and smiles as I make my selections. Nature shows off her miraculous skill of generating prolific amounts of food from tiny seeds in the rainbow array of kale, carrots, sweet potatoes, okra, eggplant, lettuces, beets, cucumbers, green beans, melons, tomatoes, peaches, and more filling the market tables.
I stop in front of the fresh flower vendor’s booth as my eyes roam the bouquets in awe and I silently praise Mother Nature for providing this kaleidoscope of arrangements I can choose from to take home and call my own. Of course, the vendor uses her talents to pull together the perfect combination of colorful blooms to complement one another, but the good green Earth provided her the palette to begin with.
Other farmers may offer freshly laid eggs from the feathery hens they feed, house, and tend on their farms, or meat from the livestock they sustain. Still others put out honey, jams, or products made from the raw ingredients their farms provide. Some even cook up freshly made foods we can enjoy gobbling up on the spot.
The world just seems righter when I can buy my food directly from the people who facilitated the growth and harvest of it. I can transact business with no one in the middle—just my dollars going straight to the good people that did the work to get it to my hands.
Now, I could be biased because I grew up on a farm and, often, we had a garden full of tomatoes, sweet corn, sometimes watermelons, potatoes, green beans, or carrots. I remember gardening as a chore that brought me no pleasure whatsoever. But boy did I love consuming the deliciousness from my own back yard. Nothing matches sinking my teeth into the shiny plump kernels on an ear of steaming sweet corn, slathered in butter, on a hot July evening, or a juicy mouthful of perfectly ripened tomato still warm from the summer heat, sliced generously, and sprinkled with salt and pepper.
Moving to the suburbs of Atlanta as an adult, I tried to recapture a bit of that delight by planting strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries in my back yard. I had to rig up some netting so the incredibly entitled birds would not consume *all* the berries before I got to them, but it was worth the hassle. I experienced a unique type of joy when picking berries off the bushes around my home and popping their sun-warmed succulence directly in my mouth.
There is much trouble around us, and yet so much goodness, too. A trip to the farmer’s market reminds me of that. I can chat face-to-face with my local food producers. I’m supporting the local economy and a well-balanced diet. And I’m also boosting my faith that various members of the human race can coexist in peace and harmony, with respectful give and take, just as the farmers do with their land and livestock, and as we all do in the microcosm of the market. At this moment in time, I need as many reminders of that possibility as I can find.
It’s our nation’s Independence Day, and yet, like many, I feel no desire to celebrate.
After the week that was, I’m not sure I recognize our country. Rights and protections we thought were secure, if precedent held, have been obliterated. Pregnant women and medical staff in some states worry they may be prosecuted. Gun safety laws in place for 100 years vanished overnight. The clear line separating church and state evaporated.
And the EPA no longer has the authority to regulate businesses that willfully pollute our air and water for profit.
This same week we learned that the President of the United States belligerently demanded to be taken to the Capitol during a violent assault on our nation’s governing body so he could confront his mortal enemy, his hand-picked Vice President.
What country is this? It’s not one I want to celebrate.
Two friends commented recently that they see hope in our youngest adults. Perhaps I need to find some Gen Z friends. I realized this weekend that I have no confidence that the direction this country is headed can be altered in my lifetime. The shift away from democracy toward one-party minority rule seems inexorable.
I’ve never wanted to live a particularly long life. I don’t want to be the last of my friends and family left on this earth. But it may take the years required for me to reach 100 before this country can heal. Assuming there is still a planet able to support us.
If you were looking here today for a sunny holiday post, I apologize. This weekend I spent time outdoors actively searching for a brighter outlook. On Sunday I found a beautiful Kentucky summer day—moderate temperatures, mild humidity, a bright blue sky, and a fresh breeze—but I did not find hope.
I’m not thinking about young girls who will grow up without the protections of Roe. I’m not thinking about the students or the young married women who have lost the choices they had yesterday about their futures and their families.
I’m thinking about my mother.
My mother, who entered college in 1939 without the assurances I had in 1977. My mother, who so desperately wanted children that she took prescribed poison to protect her pregnancies. My mother, who made sure I understood the choices women had before legal abortion.
I can see the two of us sitting in our den in the lower level of our Lawrenceburg home, dim sunlight coming through the dirty glass of the sliding doors that opened to the broad yard. I was sitting on the stone hearth of the fireplace. She was across from me on the sofa. She told me what frantic women had done before. She was matter-of-fact. I was horrified. Incensed.
And here we are again, fifty years later. I wonder how my mother would react to today’s news. Would she be as irate as I am about the cruelty of this decision? Would she be more sanguine, having seen more of life, and politics, than I have? Or would she simply be numb?
Losing this one “right” may seem small potatoes compared to the looming threat of losing our democracy. How many women and families are really affected? In recent years, fewer than a million women in the U.S. made that choice—fewer than the number of Americans who have died of Covid. And we’ve mostly brushed aside that trauma. I suppose we’ll forget about this, too, in a few short weeks as we make the most of the waning days of summer.
But I urge you to be vigilant as the tectonic plates shift ominously beneath us. Exercise the rights you still have. Send a clear message to our self-serving elected representatives. We are the majority. We gave them their power. That is what we can take away.
When my mother died in 1991, I looked around and realized how tiny my “family” had become. My father had died in 1967. I had no grandparents. I was married, and I had one older sister, who soon would move hundreds of miles away.
I didn’t like what I saw. So, as I was putting death certificates in envelopes to send to government and insurance and financial agencies, I made a decision.
I had a bunch of smart, funny, fascinating cousins. Only a few had I spent much time with; they were all older than I was, some nearly 18 years older. They had grown up at a different time and had different experiences. But I decided right then that I wanted to find a way to pull them in closer.
So little by little I reached out to them. As the youngest, it felt a little awkward sending entreaties to my revered, accomplished relatives, but I tried to suppress my insecurity. I asked them to meet me for a meal in Lexington. I invited them to watch polo at the Horse Park. I made a trip out west to see my cousin in Seattle. I spent time in Indianapolis where two of my cousins were caring for their mother, whom I adored. I traveled to North Carolina and Florida to hang out with the more elusive ones, took car trips to Atlanta with the gung-ho ones. I went biking with one cousin, visited the art studio of another, hiked with a few, exchanged political emails with several.
When Rick and I moved to “Camp Showalter” here on the lake, I tried to organize occasional family gatherings so we wouldn’t see each other only at funerals. For a while, I even got better at sending Christmas cards.
When my friend David Hoefer urged me to compile my father’s early writings in The Last Resort, I had new and more urgent reasons to contact my cousins, especially the older ones. They knew my dad. They had stories. They had spent time with him on Salt River. I always enjoyed our conversations and their company.
Then I started this blog. My initial audience was essentially relatives and a few friends. As book projects came and went and the focus of the blog shifted, my connection with my cousins deepened.
Anyone who knows me now knows that when I talk about my “family,” I mean my cousins. Which is why the following passage in a recent New Yorker magazine article struck a chord with me.
The author, Peter Hessler, is describing his Chinese students at Sichuan University, where he was teaching in 2019.
“Among all my students that fall, nearly ninety per cent were only children. I learned that when asking [about their families] I had to clarify what I meant by the word “sibling,” because otherwise students might include cousins in their responses. As families shrank, the term broadened—for many young people, a cousin was a kind of substitute brother or sister.”
I couldn’t have said it any better. So to all of you cousins—first, second, third, or fourth—thanks for letting me latch on to you and your families. You have enriched my life in immeasurable ways. I look forward to more gatherings by the lake, more chance meetups on a whim, more walks along the trails.
Hail, hail, brothers and sisters!
I must have been 10 or 11 years old, the same age as many of the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting. I remember being herded with my classmates into the combination gymnasium/cafeteria at Saffell Street Elementary in Small Town, Ky. Metal folding chairs were set up in long rows in front of the elevated stage. There might have been some jostling or some goofing around, but students were largely respectful and well-mannered in that era. We took our seats and waited to see what was next.
A man appeared on the stage and walked us through a presentation about safely handling guns. I had never held a gun or seen anyone else handle a gun. Nonetheless, I remember paying careful attention, because I evidently knew there would be a test at the end. And I always wanted to do well on every test.
I learned the importance of keeping all guns and ammunition locked away when not in use. I learned how to carry a gun safely if I were ever hunting with others. What I remember most, perhaps because it concocted an image of traipsing across fields and farmland and crawling over obstacles—something I loved to do—were the detailed instructions on the importance of unloading a gun before climbing over a fence, handing the empty gun to someone on the other side (or, I suppose, shoving it under the fence), and then climbing over the fence unencumbered before retrieving the gun and reloading it, if necessary.
The presenter represented the NRA. He was there to ensure that children living in a rural area where there were certainly many guns available knew about basic gun safety. His job was to keep us safe, to preserve our lives.
This was the role of the NRA in 1970.
Heather Cox Richardson, in her Letters from an American post on May 26, 2022, reminded me of that. She wrote, “By the 1980s, the National Rifle Association had abandoned its traditional stance promoting gun safety and was defending ‘gun rights.’”
Today, the NRA opened its annual convention in Houston, despite the recent slaughter in Uvalde, Texas, five hours due west. The organization has a very different purpose and different goals than it did 50 years ago. Its lobbying efforts have clearly led to the proliferation of guns in American society, where there are more guns than people. Their efforts have also convinced legislators to refuse to back even the most moderate, and widely supported, gun legislation.
This week, after the senseless murders at Robb Elementary, Republican office holders have proposed arming teachers and eliminating doors in school buildings rather than raising the age for lawful purchase of a military-style weapon or expanding background checks. Because of the work of the modern NRA, more children will die in mass shootings.
As I’ve watched the transformation of the NRA over recent decades, I have frequently recalled the hour or so I spent as a youngster learning about guns. I have to smile at my earnest interest in a lesson that now makes me cringe. Contrasting that innocent hour to the hour of terror endured by the few surviving 10-year-olds in that Robb Elementary classroom spotlights where the NRA has taken this country.
I suppose I did OK on the test. I imagine we all were rewarded with the same wallet-size card indicating we had successfully completed a course on gun safety. I was immensely proud of that card and kept it in my billfold for many years. I probably still have it somewhere.
I’ve still never held a gun in my hands. I never intend to. I hope I never need to. (As I type that, I am reminded of numerous Ukrainians who have reported they shared my aversion to guns before they felt compelled to learn how to use one.) And the NRA better know that my abhorrence of weapons of mass killing will propel me to the polls every time I have the opportunity to vote against an NRA-endorsed candidate. We cannot let them get away with killing our babies.
I’ve resisted writing about the mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., all week. I seriously doubted that you wanted to hear me rail again about white people slaughtering innocent Black people. But then President Biden reminded us all that “Silence is complicity…. This is work that requires all of us—presidents and politicians, commentators, citizens. None of us can stay on the sidelines.”
Well, I’m a citizen. And there are a few people who read what I write. I imagine you all agree with me on this truly black and white issue, or you wouldn’t keep reading. So as much as I wanted to leave this one alone and try to go on with my life, knocking off chores on my long to-do list, I finally had to stop and say something, however banal and however repetitive.
First it was Rev. Al Sharpton’s words on “Deadline: White House” with Nicolle Wallace. He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “We can’t stand around while we’re being livestream lynched.” (Those last two words are a direct quote.) The “we” in his emphatic statement I assume to be African Americans. His dragging the term “lynched” out of our nation’s dusty history and into the 21st century with the modifier “livestream” sent a chill up my spine.
That, of course, is exactly what the shooter did. White Americans may be too busy right now going to graduations and attending children’s soccer games and planning sunny vacations to pack a picnic basket and sit on a hillside for hours anticipating a live lynching, as many of our forebears did. But those in our midst so inclined certainly could muster a few seconds to watch a murderous rampage inside a neighborhood grocery store that took the lives of 10 innocents, including an 86-year-old, who was clearly a threat to that white 18-year-old’s opportunities in the good ol’ U.S.A.
Then I reread Eugene Robinson’s column from the Washington Post, which started:
“Do not dare look away from the bloody horror that left 10 dead in Buffalo. Do not dare write off the shooter as somehow uniquely ‘troubled.’ Those Black victims were murdered by white supremacy, which grows today in fertile soil nourished not just by fringe-dwelling racists but by politicians and other opportunists who call themselves mainstream.”
Over the last seven years, many have looked the other way as those embracing white supremacy have been emboldened by powerful voices and by the sometimes covert, sometimes overt, complicity of an entire political party drunk on the promise of power. There are no boundaries. There is no shame. The only human life of value is that of the unborn. And as soon as that infant has hurled its first cry, it can be sacrificed at the altar of mammon if doing so would garner one more vote, one more donation, one more sound bite, one more ego-burnishing story to tell the guys down at the local watering hole.
The Buffalo Massacre. As I typed those words, I thought of the glorious bison who roamed huge swaths of our nation before being slaughtered indiscriminately, largely by the greedy White Man. I couldn’t help but acknowledge the parallels. I have to think that most modern Americans regret that bloodshed. Will we ever muster the fortitude to end the senseless slaughter of our fellow Americans? Or will we look away, despite Eugene Robinson’s entreaty, and allow a tiny minority to continue a reign of terror across this great land?