Terrorism — context

A friend followed a link from the first footnote of my previous post, in connection to Paul Robeson’s ill-fated meeting with President Truman.  My friend was sickened, though unsurprised, after reading about the horrifying incident that led to the meeting.  I hadn’t read about the July 25, 1946 murder of four black sharecroppers in Georgia (two of them women, one seven months pregnant), a cold-blooded lynching that Robeson discussed with Truman.  I clicked the link (this one) and … fucking hell.  Literally.

It is our practice here, in the land of the free and the home of brave, to keep things simple.  Because we are exceptional.  No nation has ever been as exceptional as we are.  Simply: good vs. evil, with us or against us, freedom vs. tyranny, democracy vs. totalitarianism, Blue vs. Grey, Red vs. Blue, Freedom on the March, Manifest Destiny, Remember the Alamo [1], the War on Drugs, the War on Terror.   

The War on Terror (we are long past critiquing the idiocy of this term)  is specifically a war on practitioners of terrorism like the ones who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.   Suicidal fanatics, most of them Saudis, killed thousands of us on that terrible day.  The mass murderers were members of a radical Sunni Islamic group following in the ideological footsteps of violent religious fundamentalist Sayyidd Qutb (Koo-tube) [2], the intellectual father of this kind of unthinkable savagery.

Terrorist, in the U.S., is a synonym for radical Islamic militant.  Let us keep things simple, as we do here, because nuance will only make everything much more complicated.  Terrorism is radical Islamic killers, evil fucks like the militant Sunni outfit Al-Qaeda (the 9/11 attackers) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham Islamic State (ISIS) or by it’s Arabic acronym Daesh, or any of the other brutal radical Islamic terrorist organizations out there. 

The strategy they employ is terrorism — inciting terror by dramatic and horrific acts of violence which are then broadcast all over the world as gruesome advertisements for what will happen to any sacrilegious people, or states, who interfere with their version of pure Islam.  Islamic scholars could probably tell you how many ways these true believers are violating the Koran, but that is another conversation.

In America the term “terrorist” is pretty much limited to talking about violent, fanatical Islamist killers.   There are other kinds of terrorists here in America, always have been.  We, in fact, have long grown our own here and I’d put ours up against the worst of theirs.  Motivated by violent hatred, when they are not lying dormant, waiting, they kill children and torture women and men.  They use violence to intimidate.   They blow up places of worship whenever they can, just like ISIS does.   They subject their victims to brutal, terrifying deaths, just like other extreme terrorists do.    But we don’t usually talk about these white American motherfuckers the same way as we talk about regular terrorists, especially in the “Post 9/11 world” of Dick Cheney and company, but they are made of the same evil shit.

Let us take a little trip down memory lane, or the memory hole (we tend not to recall this kind of ugly American shit), to a late Spring day in 1946, to Walton County, Georgia.  On that day, in a car, was a white man, driving, one J. Loy Harris, and four of his employees; a black man, his seven month’s pregnant wife and another couple, two other black sharecroppers.  Harris, had bailed his worker out of jail not long before.  One of the black men had been locked up for allegedly stabbing a white man.   

They drove a remote country road and then stopped at the  bridge between Walton and Oconee counties where they were met by an armed mob of 15 to 20 white men, according to Loy Harris.  Let’s let the only witness to the events, Loy Harris, the employer of all four of his black, sharecropper passengers, pick up the story:

A big man who was dressed mighty proud in a double-breasted brown suit was giving the orders. He pointed to Roger Malcom and said, “We want that nigger.” Then he pointed to George Dorsey, my nigger, and said, “We want you, too, Charlie.” I said, “His name ain’t Charlie, he’s George.” Someone said “Keep your damned big mouth shut. This ain’t your party.”[3]

Loy Harris watched as the four blacks were dragged down a dirt trail.  He said he didn’t see them tied to a big oak tree but he probably heard the shots, three volleys of bullets from the small mob.   As if all that wasn’t sickening enough, I read this next part and wanted to shoot somebody myself:

After Mae Murray Dorsey was shot, her fetus was cut from her body with a knife.

This detail is too fucked up to believe.  It’s hard to picture the depth of depraved hatred that could reduce a human to doing that.  The most sadistic Nazi death camp guard had nothing on these boys.  Say what you want about this crowd of murderers (none of whom were ever identified or indicted, by the way), it’s instantly clear they were of the same ilk as the blood-thirstiest radical Islamist.  “Her fetus was cut from her body with a knife.”   ISIS would be hard-pressed think up a more revolting atrocity for their youtube channel.

This is simply the way it was in many parts of this exceptional country, for a century after the Civil War ended.   As far as white people were concerned, blacks still had almost no rights a white man was bound to respect, as Justice Taney wrote before the Civil War.  You see, our great democracy was unable to prevent these kinds of things because, well, because of the right of the individual states to decide how to handle potential criminal cases.   Criminal law is the exclusive domain of the states, in all but a few exceptional cases.  There was nothing that exceptional about an armed gang of  local white men willing to drag blacks out of a car and kill them, particularly in Georgia, which led the country in lynching many years in a row.  It was complicated, you see, the law, the Dixiecrats, states’ rights, the overbearing federal government, unreasonable, demanding blacks, outsider agitators, trouble makers, liberal elites, complicated, complicated.

It was not until a team of smart, determined Lawyers Guild attorneys went down to federal court in the south, in 1965, to invoke a federal statute that had been unenforced for almost a hundred years, that any white terrorist who killed a black person for the purpose of intimidating other people could be prosecuted.   They brought the federal suit after the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers, Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, two white, one black, near Meriden, Mississippi.    (PBS history of the case here)

Since that landmark federal case in 1965, section 1983 of this federal statute, which was created to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment, the post-war correction to our constitution designed to protect all citizens from oppression, has been used literally tens of thousands of times in federal courts all over the country.  

A quick google search gives us this:  The Civil Rights Act of 1871 is a federal statute, numbered 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that allows people to sue the government for civil rights violations. It applies when someone acting “under color of” state-level or local law has deprived a person of rights created by the U.S. Constitution or federal statutes.

But until 1965, at the earliest, well,  the criminal case had to stay in the local Georgia court and, shoot, in a local Georgia court people tend to stick together, everyone has known each other forever, couldn’t find nobody to finger any of those people who allegedly shot those four negroes to death and supposedly cut the fetus from the body of one of the dead women.   No reason to disbelieve an honest man like Loy Harris, gentle ladies and fine men of the jury.   And Loy testified that he didn’t see anything and didn’t know any of the men who did it, had never seen any of them.  

But, of course, the case never even got into court, the Federal government had given up the power to hear the case almost a century earlier. So Loy never had to testify under oath or be cross-examined about what he’d seen.   Georgians in his tight-knit area probably figured Loy had already suffered enough with the loss of the four negroes and being treated so shabbily himself by that armed mob.

This is why Paul Robeson got so angry when Truman tried to explain why it was politically impossible to get a goddamned federal anti-lynching law passed in 1946.  Right before Truman had Robeson thrown out of his office.  Truman had thrown a shit fit of his own and sent the FBI down there with a big reward for information leading to indictments and convictions, but nothing.  It turns out all they had to do was enforce an anti-Klan law that had been on the books since the 1870s.

When we speak of terrorism, you should consider how White Supremacists have long operated here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.   Terror and violence was used to maintain order during slavery, whites were the minority on plantations, terror and violence was used to protect the status quo in the days of Jim Crow, intimidate anyone who refused to obey.  The main strategy these White Supremacists used was terrorism — inciting terror by dramatic and horrific acts of violence,  advertisements for what would happen to anybody who dared to say they were equal to a White Christian.  Christian scholars could probably tell you how many ways these assholes were violating the teachings of Jesus, but that is another conversation.

We currently have a man in the White House who sees nothing wrong with fine, law-abiding White Supremacists marching by torchlight with swastikas and Confederate flags and politely chanting things about groups they hate.  Freedom of expression here in the most exceptional land God has ever shed His grace upon, and I can dig that.   I love free expression and practice it every day myself.  But still.

Nothing to see here.  Stay numb, y’all, and don’t forget: a lot of good deals coming up on Presidents’ Day.


[1]  To take one example, an alternate explanation to the heroic history book version of “Remember the Alamo!” that does not limit it to an epic battle between American freedom vs. Mexican tyranny.   We become smug now about information, because any detail about anything is almost instantly attainable through our phones.   We can get as much info as we seek, in any form we like, in this age of instant access to information and opinion.  Some of the information is actually accurate. 

“Remember the Alamo!” was a cry raised by Americans with land grants in the Mexican territory that was soon to become Texas, once America took it in war.   These Americans owned huge tracts of Mexican land they’d gotten cheaply from the government of Mexico.  Some of these heroic men were slaveholders who had violated their agreement with Mexico not to bring slaves into Mexican territory.   Of course, being industrious Americans keeping an eye on the bottom line, the owners who could afford it brought their slaves, in violation of Mexican law.  Mexico had outlawed slavery.   Not all of the Americans who owned land in Mexican territory were rich slave holders.  Some of them were.  There were tensions.   Texans to this day are sensitive about this origin story:  

(Here is a contemporary Texas historian on the subject:    

Recently I heard a caller on a radio talk show state matter-of-factly that Sam Houston stole Texas from Mexico, and a recent book on the Alamo characterized the men who died there (and by extension virtually everyone who took part in the Texas Revolution) as greedy, land-grabbing slaveholders — and those without slaves as yearning to own them.   source

Then he went on to explain why each charge was unfair to the founding fathers of Texas.  In 1835, when these events took place there were only an estimated two to three thousand black slaves in the territory, according to the author.   It was true that by 1860 there would be, regrettably, more than 180,000 slaves in Texas, but that alone proves nothing about Texans wanting slaves.   He also stressed that a ruthless  military dictator had seized control of Mexico and deprived everyone of their legal rights, an intolerable tyranny that Americans were morally justified in declaring war on.  


The freedom loving American emigrants had other grievances against Mexico and were not going to take shit from a fucking Mexican dictator.  They took up arms to resist Mexican interference in their affairs, and, after months of armed struggle, made their ill-fated stand in the Alamo Mission (you can get a postcard of the Alama at the Alamo, 300 Alamo Plaza, San Antonio, TX 78205).  The Mexican president/dictator had  warned U.S. president/populist psychopath Andrew Jackson that captured American combatants would be treated as pirates and dealt with accordingly.  When the last few of the vastly outnumbered survivors of the Alamo surrendered, they were executed as pirates, as the Mexican dictator had promised.  This massacre of American patriots was an outrage against lovers of freedom.  “Remember the Alamo!” became the battle cry, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Every war needs a good battle cry, say goodbye to Texas, Mexico.


[2]    Qutb is identified by his google blurb thusly: an Egyptian author, educator, Islamic theorist, poet, and the leading member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 1960s.   

Qutb was tortured in an Egyptian prison (like fellow Muslim Brotherhood member Ayman al-Zawahiri would be years later), and, when not being tortured, and before being executed by the Nasser regime in 1966, wrote several influential books indicting the decadence of Western Culture, its antipathy to Islamic values and making his righteous case for Islamic fundamentalism. 

Qutb’s strategy for returning Muslims to a pure state of Islam involved killing as many people as needed to be killed, including other Muslims, to achieve the desired state of religious purity.   A vile, disgusting asshole in my book, but my book is only my opinion, one more opinion in a vast sea of assholes.  I suspect I’m pretty safe calling fucking Sayyid Qutb an asshole.

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