Eye-Opening Perspectives for Heroic Hearts

Eye-Opening Perspectives for Heroic Hearts

Monday, August 18, 2014

by Peter J. Pezonus for CPW News Service

From William H. Carr’s 2014 book One Nation Under Oz:  Paying Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain.....
    When in 1959 we moved from Florida to Missouri it was to another rural town with a history of lynching.  On January 20, 1942 a black oil mill worker named Cleo Wright had brutally attacked a white woman and left her for dead.  Stopped on the road by a police officer, Cleo stabbed him, too.  Cleo Wright was held in the local jail. I had known very well two Presbyterians who had tried to intervene during the lynching.  Paul Bumbarger was a reporter for the local newspaper, the Daily Sikeston Standard owned by the Blanton family.  David Blanton was a prominent local attorney and he had stood on the jail house steps trying to quell the mob’s anger while afterwards  Wright was pulled from the jail and set on fire then dragged through the town to the black neighborhood called Sunset.   Blanton and Bumbarger rode together there to do whatever they could. That was just after the Pearl Harbor attack when Americans’ nerves were frayed and fears of a fifth column within the U.S. Borders had the dominant race xenophobic, or so the stretched reasoning goes.
      When the book The Lynching of Cleo Wright was published in 1998 by the University of Kentucky Press (Dominic J. Capeci, The Lynching of Cleo Wright. Louisville: University of Kentucky Press, 1998),  Amazon.com would produce three reviews two of which were anonymous.  The first found 12 of 13 readers liking it.  It ended with “May we continue to learn from our mistakes”.   The second said that it was a “Must read for those who thought that these things only happen in the South,” and received a 1 of 1 approval rating.  The last was written by W.M. Arbaugh on November 21, 2007 who said:
    “This book is written like an academic thesis, however, it does not include the most significant information that would have made it worthwhile-the names of the individuals who were responsible for the lynching.  One has to wonder what the motivation of the author really was.  It seems only to meet the basic standards of “publish or perish”.  It is too important a topic to be used as a college term paper.”
   The Cleo Wright killing and its proximity to the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri  following what appears to have been a shoplifting incident in a local convenient store is significant.  The evolution of the apparent execution in broad daylight of Michael Brown by Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson when combined with the history of the KKK in St. Louis  goes well beyond a local police story.   When Ferguson exploded with protest and looting the Ferguson police which had 53 policemen, three of which were black, justified the killing of the teen with six shots, with one a back to front kill shot that was difficult to adequately explain in a world of tazers and pepper spray.  As a father who had lost a son in a murder that was investigated by a medical examiners office that was under suspicion of corruption and mismanagement, I empathized with the family of Michael Brown.
    More importantly, as I watched the Missouri incident unfold, realizing that the history of the area mitigated against a shared governance model of police administration, the entry of the Missouri State Troopers and then the Missouri National Guard and suddenly my thoughts went to my high school classmate, Adjutant General King Sidwell.     King was no longer head of the Missouri National Guard, but in January 2014, the Columbia Daily Tribune’s Rudi Keller wrote “Tarnished Reputations: A National Guard Officer in Columbia Alleges Retaliation, Discrimination Part of Guard Culture,” (Rudi Keller, “TarnishedReputations: A National Guard Officer in Columbia Alleges Retaliation,Discrimination Part of Guard Culture,,” Columbia Daily Tribune, January 15, 2014, retrieved on 8/18/14).  Keller reported:
     “ JEFFERSON CITY — The Department of Defense and the Army’s Office of the Inspector General are investigating charges that top commanders of the Missouri National Guard engaged in a campaign of “reprisal, retaliation, intimidation and harassment” against an officer who objected to unfair treatment of women, blacks and homosexuals in the service.”
….and then the connection with my classmate that would have surely been informed by the same cultural history that had influenced my own trek through this American Ozlandia....Lt. Col. Michael Fayette had brought charges against the Missouri  National Guard in a whistle blower law suit that was only tangential to concerns about Sidwell who was being replaced by Adjutant General Danner.   Sidwell was replaced by Adj. Gen. Steve Danner about whom Keller said of Fayette who was on Danner’s new mission team into Sidwell’s Guard ….
“Danner, Fayette recalled in an interview, wanted him to come to Missouri and help him restore the reputation of the Guard.   Danner was replacing King Sidwell, whose tenure had been marked by allegations of discrimination against women and minorities and budgetary irregularities. Danner was uncertain how bad things were, he said. He told me, ‘I’m just afraid if I don’t bring in my own team, I won’t get answers,’ Fayette said.”
   Michael Fayette is white, not black and he had a 32 year National Guard career of significant note  and was being retaliated against for doing what General Danner had asked him to do….restore trust.   The smoking gun barrel of the Ferguson police officer, Wilson, while in no way insignificant, when seen as a larger smoke signal within Fayette’s overarching complaint of longstanding institutionalized injustice is even more troublesome (see Rudi Keller, “Meet The Whistle Blower: Before Injuries, Combat Veteran Lt. Col. Fayette Served In Variety of Positions Over 32-Year Military Career,”, Columbian Daily Tribune, January  15, 2014, retrieved from http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/local/before-injuries-combat-veteran-lt-col-fayette-served-in-variety/article_5979c7ba-7e0b-11e3-a608-10604b9f6eda.html).
   What had turned the Missouri National Guard against Fayette?  His sense of justice and fair play…..Fayette was being discriminated against for pointing out that the Missouri National Guard engaged in a campaign of “reprisal, retaliation, intimidation and harassment” against an officer who objected to unfair treatment of women, blacks and homosexuals in the service.”   Fayette was being punished for doing what he was charged to do….help clean up the problems of reprisal, retaliation, intimidation and harassment!  Let me say that again.  The Guard identified that it had a problem, brought in a team to fix it and then punished an outspoken team member for attempting to fix it.   
    The irony of King Sidwell’s place in this sad scenario is that as youths we had broken the local Sikeston, Missouri midnight to dawn curfew multiple times, sometimes to get liquor from our buddies in the black neighborhood hiding from officers by lying in drainage ditches or standing on tree limbs as they walked with spotlights beneath us.   We did not believe that it would cost us our lives.
             from….One Nation Under Oz: Paying Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain, (pp. 411-412)
     Carr also notes that what is especially troubling about this local police case turned sour is how quickly local autonomy and governance that is not shared by all citizens is handed off to an increasingly powerful police state.   Some have pointed out that while President Barack Obama has done little to challenge the programs of George Walker Bush whose father is named for St. Louis businessman, George Herbert Walker, and that Obama has authorized the killing of an American citizen by U.S. drone strike, Mrs. Barack Obama, Democrat, worked for the Republican Springfield, Illinois law firm of Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln, Sidley Austin Law Firm which in 2000 merged with the New York law firm of Brown and Wood with its ties to  National City Bank.  National City Bank was the company for which two time Congressional Medal of Honor winner, General Smedley Darlington Butler said "I was a goon on three continents," while writing his book "War Is A Racket." 

    We have a devilish dialectic at play between the promise of restored civility, human rights, dignity and freedom, beneath the umbrella of an increasingly totalitarian government.

No comments:

Post a Comment