American Terrorism, Again

Last week, President Obama created quite a stir in some communities when he said that ISIS is not the only religious group which has done horrible and brutal things in the name of religion. He mentioned the Crusades and the Inquisition and…Jim Crow, here in the United States. He said that America ought not get on its high horse, given the history of violence meted out against black people, much of it justified by religious beliefs.

I listened to the complaints leveled against the president, and was bothered by the fact that much of white America does not and will not “own” this country’s horrible record, its terrorism, which went on for far too long. Some criticized the president for going so far back in history to mention the Crusades …but the violence that came from white supremacy was not – and is not – all that long ago. While everyone is celebrating the movie “Selma,” it is important to note that in Dallas County, Alabama, the county in which Selma sits, there were 19 recorded lynchings between 1892 and 1913. So many African-Americans, still alive and talking, recall stories of having been terrorized by white people, with crosses being burned on their front lawns, their windows blown out in the middle of the night, and worse. And yes, much of this violence was done in the name of Jesus, in the name of Christianity.

I thought about that as the sister of the young Muslim man shot to death this week by an angry white man who professed to be an atheist, did an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN. In a soft and trembling voice, the young woman spoke of her brother and the two young women now gone. “If it had been reversed,” she said, “if it had been a person of Arab descent who had shot three white people, it would have been called terrorism. I haven’t heard that term used,” she said, “but it was terrorism, and you ought to name it for what it is.”

Craig Hicks, 46, shot the three students, Deah Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha, 19, on Tuesday at the Finely Forest condominiums in Chapel Hill. His attorney is saying it was not a hate crime …but it looks like one …and it smells like one, so much so that the FBI is launching an investigation into the murders to determine if they were in fact, hate crimes.

Advocates for Hicks say that the murders happened because of a dispute over a parking space. Mohammad Abu-Salha, the father of the slain sisters, told reporters that the three students had run-ins with Hicks in the past, and the sister of the Deah Barakat said that the parking space in question had been deemed by apartment management to be free and open to anyone who wanted to use it. This was, the grieving father said, a hate crime.

The families of the slain students, and Muslim groups, not only here but all over the world are resolute as well in their belief that the crime was one of hate. They believe it was an act of hatred, part of the overall spirit of dislike for Muslims that is spreading all over the world like blue-black ink.

America is so hesitant to admit that it has a problem with terrorizing people who are not white and Protestant, and has always had that problem. America will not admit that too many of her citizens live in hatred and that our own government has been complicit in these acts of terror, with “law enforcement” sometimes …too many times …being right in the mix instead of trying to protect those being targeted because of their race, color, religion, sexual orientation or even, in the past, because of their being infected with the HIV/AIDS virus.

President Obama has weighed in on the murders of the three students, and Arabs from all over the world are demanding an investigation.  Will those investigating have the chutzpah and morality to admit that it was, in fact, an act of terror based on hatred of Muslims?

It’s not a guarantee. America has a track record of supporting or at least ignoring, acts of domestic terrorism.

America’s white supremacy, and the tendency, or worse, need, of so many to make another group, religious, racial or otherwise, the “bad guy” is going to come back to haunt her. Truth, crushed to the ground, will rise, and the truth is that domestic terrorism has been a problem in this country for a long, long time.

When the terror has been levied against black or gay or poor people in this country, nobody has wanted to hear, and people have in fact rejected even the suggestion that what was done was terrorism. Now, though, the act of terror has been committed against three young people who have support – strong support – from all over the world. America is on the hot seat.

Terrorism is terrorism. What was done to those three students was barbaric, just as what has been done to black people and Jewish people and any number of other people in this nation has been barbaric as well. America really cannot point a finger at what is being done by ISIS, horrible as it is, or we should not, because we as a nation have never owned our own terror tactics. Our cry of outrage appears to be hypocritical.

Terrorism is terrorism.

A candid observation…

 

Lynching as a Biblical Practice

Sometimes, things hit like a ton of bricks.

I have been reading about lynching in these United States. I just finished a magnificent book, Devil in the Grove, by Gilbert King and am currently reading Fire in a Canebrake: The Last Mass Lynching in America by Laura Wexler. The fact that such brutal murders occurred, with the consent, basically, of the government, is at once troubling and insulting. The government which was created to protect the rights of the people turns out to have been disingenuous in its founding creeds; this government only wanted to protect the rights of some of the people, and in fact either contributed, turned a blind eye or both, to the plight of those who were not white, male landowners. In the case of lynching, those most affected by the crime and ignored by the government were black people.

By the way, the definition of lynching is: to  kill someone, especially by hanging, for an alleged offense with or without a legal trial.

Lynching was a form of domestic terrorism. After what can only be called “mock trials,”  black people were lynched and often left hanging for a while (if they were hung; not all lynching involves being hung) to let other people see what happened to those who “got out of their lanes,” so to speak. Black people were supposed to know their place and if they crossed a line – which was forever changing, it seems – they could get legally killed and those who killed them could and would walk free.

George Zimmerman walked free. Michael Dunn was not convicted of lynching Jordan Davis …

Well, imagine how it hit me when, as I am reading Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism I recognized what can only be said to be lynching. Crucifixion …was lynching. Jesus the Christ …was lynched. He was perhaps the most famous person ever lynched…and he was lynched by political and religious institutions which felt threatened by his presence and his work.

Lynching – modern-day or the lynching that took place in Jesus’ time – is a tool of control used by governments and organizations to maintain control. According to Allan Boesak and Curtiss Paul DeYoung, ancient lynching – which for purposes of this essay includes  crucifixion –  was used by the Roman Empire to “enforce and maintain domination of subject peoples. In the everyday working of an empire, the effort to maintain control was done by economic oppression, military might and ideological belief systems. DeYoung and Boesak say that “crucifixion was used to terrorize subject peoples; it was a “constant symbol of Roman rule, as thousands of Judeans were executed on crosses.” (loc. 275 of 3581, Kindle edition).

They were not only crucified but according to Biblical scholar Richard Horsley: “Many of the victims were never buried  but simply left on the crosses as carrion for wild beasts and beasts of prey. As with other forms of terrorism, crucifixions were displayed in prominent places for their ‘demonstration effect’ on the rest of the population…Seeing their relatives, friends and other fellow villagers suffering such agonizing death would presumably intimidate the surviving populace into acquiescence in the re-established Roman imperial order.” (loc. 288 of 3581, Kindle edition)

Jesus was not part of the “in crowd.” In fact, he was raised by a single mother. He was a Jew, and he, as a Jew, was treated much like blacks and browns are treated in the United States, and if what I have read is true, how Palestinians are treated in Israel. Colonized people back then were treated as second-class citizens, as, clearly, blacks have been treated in the United States. Jesus had no intrinsic value to the Empire; he, as a colonized Jew had no standing, but his message was threatening to the Roman power base, as threatening as it was to the religious power base. Thus, church and state banded together and crucified him. Lynched him. And they all got away with it.

As I am reading the accounts of lynching in our American history, I am seeing the same tendency to use these legal murders as a “warning” to black people (and anyone who would help them) to stay in line. Often, lynched bodies would be left hanging as people came by and cut off appendages and genitals, and the bones of lynched people would line the banks of rivers where their bodies had lain after being murdered – to leave a message to anyone in the vicinity.  In Fire in a Canebrake, the author describes the lynching of four black people in an attack which was fully sanctioned by the local government. They were killed at Moore’s Ford Bridge in Georgia, and one of the four people killed had stabbed a white man. He lived, but to stab a white man was an attack against the white supremacist system. The stabber had to be taught a lesson; the people with him happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and had to be sacrificed as well. The state participated in and often initiated lynching; the church often ignored and supported lynching. As in Jesus’ time, church and state united for the common goal: to protect the empire.

What is painfully clear is that the lynching model was described and carried out in the Bible – hence, my calling lynching a Biblical practice. While I have not heard anyone say that, the parallels are clear. I don’t guess anyone would dare say out loud that Jesus was lynched, or dare justify lynching because it was done in the Bible, but I would bet someone HAS said it.

Jesus, our beloved savior, was a colonized Jew, raised by a single mother, was a convicted felon who was arrested on trumped up charges and was sentenced to death via crucifixion. He was lynched.

Oh, my goodness.

That IS a candid observation…