No need for a federal anti-lynching law…

Let us leave aside the irony of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, literally “taking a knee” on the neck of a handcuffed man, aping the posture taken by NFL players to protest that very practice —  deadly police violence against unarmed citizens.   Leave aside, also, the grotesque irony of the arrested cop being named Chauvin [1].    Leave aside the alarming fact that a federal anti-lynching law came to the floor of the Senate during a raging public debate over lynching, under the color of law, days after this alarming lynching under color of law, and was not passed.

Leave aside the fact that, almost one hundred years after the resurgent Ku Klux Klan reached its official peak membership at 2.4 million, and lynching of black “troublemakers” continued for decades afterwards unchecked by authorities, there is still no federal anti-lynching statute.   No wait, that last bit is what I want to write about.

FDR couldn’t sign the anti-lynching legislation that came to his desk eighty years ago.  Had to put it in a desk drawer, exercise the old pocket veto.   It would have enraged the Dixiecrats, those devout southern racists of FDR’s own party whose votes he needed for New Deal Legislation.   He simply couldn’t sign a law that would give the federal government the right to prosecute racists who lynched people in the former Confederacy.  His wife, Eleanor, was furious that her husband would not show the courage to sign the bill into law.

Lynching itself, the practice of hauling a black person out of his or her home, or vehicle or out of a jail cell, and making a spectacle of torturing and killing him/her, has gone largely out of practice, thankfully.   Oddly, the numbers of lynchings in the twentieth century roughly match the annual killings, by police, of unarmed black citizens, the former victims of most lynchings in this country, in recent years.

Is it fair to call the slow suffocation death of a handcuffed man pleading for his life a lynching?   I think so.    Is the answer “you’re lying when you say you can’t breathe because if you really couldn’t breathe you couldn’t fucking say you can’t breathe” an unmistakable sign of depraved indifference, a complete renunciation of a human’s absolute human right not to be choked to death by a police officer?   Again, the answer would seem to be yes.

Yet the call for a federal law to make such lynching a crime, a federal crime, prosecutable by federal authorities in every state (in the manner of Nixon’s Controlled Substance Act of 1970, the legal cornerstone of our current regime of Prohibition) was opposed as recently as the other day by lovers of liberty, like Kentucky’s Rand Paul.   You see, there are narrow grounds to oppose, on general principle, a law that is theoretically good but could be used to prosecute non-killers who had only the best of intentions when they selected a victim based purely on hatred of another group.

An asshole with a podium can always make an argument, it would appear.   There is always a narrowly focused, carping criticism to be made that invalidates the whole.    Just because you oppose a federal anti-lynching law doesn’t mean you support the right of a racist in Georgia, say, (a state with no hate crime laws) to act as he sees fit towards his social inferiors, without fear of some federal storm troopers swooping in to decide which liberties he may have, even if he hasn’t even caused the death of anybody.   Liberty, after all, means freedom and freedom is good.  Ask Rand Paul.  Here is the man in his own words.

[1]  from Wikipedia

Chauvinism is a form of extreme patriotism and nationalism and a belief in national superiority and glory. It can also be defined as “an irrational belief in the superiority or dominance of one’s own group or people”.[1] Moreover, the chauvinist’s own people are seen as unique and special while the rest of the people are considered weak or inferior.[1]

According to legend, French soldier Nicolas Chauvin was badly wounded in the Napoleonic Wars. He received a pension for his injuries but it was not enough to live on. After Napoleon abdicated, Chauvin was a fanatical Bonapartist despite the unpopularity of this view in Bourbon Restoration France. His single-minded blind devotion to his cause, despite neglect by his faction and harassment by its enemies, started the use of the term.[2]

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