On August 28th, 1955, a black teenager Emmitt Till was brutally beaten then shot dead in Money, a small Mississippi town by white racists. His crime? Flirting with a white woman, according to the wife of one of the killers. He was from Chicago visiting relatives, fated to go home in a coffin.
An open casket, insisted his mother. So America, even the world, could see what had been done to this poor Negro lad. A grieving mother's act of courage and defiance of her racist country. The woman, claiming young Till had said inappropriate things to her, later said in an interview, fifty years after the event, that the key part of her testimony was not true. Emmitt Till had not flirted with her.
Her husband and half-brother forced two black men to assist their crime. The jury found them all not guilty of murder. But such was the bad publicity from Emmitt Till's open casket, his unrecognisable face pulped, that even their fellow rednecks shunned the Bryants and they both died bankrupt or broke, though not for a moment remorseful.
Blacks today blame the centuries of racism and terrible suffering for their high percentage of fatherless children. Everyone can see this, but still doesn't excuse the prevailing ghetto black culture of guns, gangs, drugs and, inevitably, prison or an early grave.
Modern-day American black males just have to make a greater effort to break this awful depraved social cycle they're caught up in and to hell with the reasons. The roof's leaking everywhere and has to be fixed.
Southern rednecks are not unlike the Taliban and ISIS. But they could be anyone, from the Nazis to Mao's crazies, General Franco's murderous henchmen, Stalin's secret police psychopaths, the enforcers of any African, Middle Eastern, South American, Asian dictator and, in centuries past, genocidal European rulers.
My wife read out from the book Guns, Germs & Steel, several passages about the Maori invasion of Chatham Islands. These warrior invaders went over in two British ships and proceeded to slaughter, eat and enslave every single island inhabitant. As one of the leaders said, "This was according to the custom of our time." Yep. Exterminating an entire tribe. And it was the custom of a warrior culture.
The invaders did some horrible things. Cannibalism was a Maori custom and so was making your enemy suffer, even when the Moriori had done nothing to be classified as enemy. They were forbidden to speak their dialect. Those not killed were taken as slaves.
I think that's enough of the familiar lamentations of the conquered. This could be a mirror, a perfect-pitch echo, of the grievances Maori tribes have put up against the invading British.
If a Taranaki Maori tribe can suppress the language of those they conquered then grievance about their language taken from them falls a little short.
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Your columnist only points this out to say the high moral ground can be a precarious perch. Of course there are crimes against humanity. Just history's context to be taken into account. If a Taranaki Maori tribe can suppress the language of those they conquered then grievance about their language taken from them falls a little short.
If you are a part-Moriori, the injustices that took place at Parihaka pa in Taranaki do not stand alone as an isolated wrong-doing by European settlers. Both acts were wrong and we should be aware of this.
My Maori and Scottish ancestors inherited their enemy tribes and clans. European nations inherited each other as enemies, without need of a current reason. They were duly murderous, implacable, tribal thinkers acting in accordance their customs.
My father told us stories of his time as a World War II prisoner of the Germans served in a camp in Austria. His one experience of the Gestapo was at a mess line and the prisoners were surprised to see Gestapo officers taking due places in a queue for food. Negative image shaken if not shattered.
The camp itself was a humane regime, though not for Russian prisoners. For historic reasons the Russians were singled out for punishment on the flimsiest grounds. When the Russian armies of St Petersburg chased the Germans back to their country, they raped every female from age 5 to 80.
Disgusting, we know. But so was besieging a city for 900 days; over 600,000 Russians lost their lives; they suffered mass starvation and some resorted to cannibalism. My Maori ancestors could have demonstrated this supposedly ultimate act of inhumanity to be a joyous act. Everything but everything is relative.