The great thing about blogging is that it becomes what the blogger wants it to become. The political ranting and division that dominates so many can make us think that’s all there is. Until you come across something like this.
Edgar Ray Killen has been found guilty of manslaughter for the killings of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney. Many Mississippians, many southerners, many Americans are relieved that justice was finally done. So what now? There was considerable argument that the Killen trial was a show trial, that after 41 years it was senseless to go through this against an 80-year-old man in failing health. Others argued it was a show trial because it was a symbol of a changed Mississippi. It was neither. It was a murder trial, one that should have been held long, long ago. But the failure of the State of Mississippi to do the right thing does not in any way lessen the guilt of Edgar Ray Killen. He has lived to be an old man, to enjoy the company of his family and friends, because he was never tried for denying those very things to the three men he helped kill. There should be no sympathy for him. So now what? In a narrow, local sense, the killings were done by a group. Some of those are still alive. It should now be their turn. Where evidence can be found, any one implicated should be investigated and tried. There are more never-investigated, never-prosecuted crimes dating from the civil rights era. Where those can still be investigated, they should be. If this isn’t done, then indeed the Killen trial will have been just a show trial, Mississippi trotting out it’s legal system to show the nation and the world how much we want to say we’ve changed.
It’s perhaps not a coincidence that while this trial was beginning, the Senate was voting to apologize for never enacting anti-lynching legislation. 85 Senators co-sponsored the resolution making the apology. Mississippi’s two senators, Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, refused to join. Cochran, who had earlier in his career co-sponsored similar resolutions apologizing for treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and of Native Americans for the way they were treated, said he felt he could not apologize “for something I did not do.” Are we left, then, to assume he had some direct involvement in the internment of Japanese-Americans, or the breaking of treaties with Native Americans? I’ve mentioned before how much of a disappointment Thad Cochran has become to me. This, however, is shocking. And Trent Lott, who had told Ed Gordon of NPR, “
While I was writing the previous entry, the news came:
It’s been a long time coming, but Mississippi can hold her head a little higher today.
The Edgar Ray Killen trial jury is now in it’s second day of deliberations. I think I expected a longer time spent introducing evidence and building the case. I know I didn’t expect hearing that the jury, at the end of the first day of deliberations, after only two hoursa of deliberating, would tell the judge they were deadlocked 6-6. I expected a conviction. I think most Mississippians have long assumed that Edgar Ray Killen was guilty of, at the least, significant involvement in the deaths of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney. 41 years ago today, those three young men were brutally murdered by a group of criminals. Mississippi tried for many years to ignore that. Now, many believe that too much time has passed, that you shouldn’t dig it back up. I wonder, however, if it had been three young white Mississippi girls killed by a mob on that day, would those same people be so willing to let the past slide. We in the South, who seem to so desparately cling to our “heritage”, don’t seem to be so interested in the parts of our history that don’t involve plantations, Southern Belles, and the peculiar sense of “honor” that allowed wealthy southern men to spend their time being honorable while slaves created and maintained their wealth. But that’s beside the point here, I’ve engaged in that other Southern habit of rambling. The one thing, as I said, that I didn’t expect was another hung jury. So far, the national reaction to this trial has been mostly positive. But last night, as I listened to the news of the deadlocked jury, I had a sense of foreboding, of the image of Mississippi crashing back four decades as the nation says “see, we knew nothing had changed”.
A couple of pictures from my yard today…
The front annual bed, with marigolds, gladiolus, dahlias, blue salvia, begonias, zinnias, and behind it the not-quite-finished deck and swing/arbor.
Magilla Perilla, a type of coleus, with pink Wave petunias and Terracotta Million Bells (Calibrachoa).