Today is the 65th anniversary of the lynching of 14 year-old Emmett Till. I don’t remember the incident, but I do remember seeing a photo of Emmett Till lying in his coffin. I don’t remember how old I was, but I know it horrified me.
Seeing was believing.
The photo was black and white. It possessed an unreal quality, almost as if it were a theater poster for a science fiction movie from the 1950’s. But it was all too real.
If you have never seen the photo, I suggest you use the Google machine and take a gander. There are many before-and-after pictures. See a pic of the lady who claimed the boy wolf-whistled at her, the reason her husband and his half-brother tortured and murdered him. Some folks claim the crime galvanized the civil rights movement. I remember Emmett Till’s mother in an interview. “I want the world to see this,” she said, meaning what had happened to her son.
So was it the crime itself or Emmett Till’s photograph that galvanized a movement?
The other night thanks to Twitter I saw what an AR-15 round can do to a human arm. There wasn’t much left of it. Most of the musculature above the elbow was shot away. Seeing this arm made me wonder. Suppose the parents of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary got together after that terrible day and decided to publish photographs of their children’s bodies. What would have occurred if the Sandy Hook crime scene photographs had been published?
Something tells me people would claim the photos were doctored. ( Just like the moon landing!) Of course Sandy Hook took on a bizarre nature of its own. Some people claimed it didn’t happen. It was crisis actors, a deep state conspiracy.
Only the most knuckle-headed among us won’t admit the last few years truth has gotten the shit kicked out of it. Like an old palooka in his last fight, truth gets bounced around the ring. I’m talking about truth, not facts. Facts don’t seem to matter anymore. Facts used to be something you could not combat with reasoning. Now it’s what you believe that counts.
Well, the men who murdered Emmett Till believed what the woman claimed. They believed a black boy had no right to wolf-whistle a white lady. And they believed he deserved what happened to him.
When humans carry their beliefs to an extreme or try to foster their beliefs on others, those beliefs become lost, clouded, without form. They don’t bring people together. They isolate. When you separate yourself from mankind, instead of looking for the common–justice, dignity, love–you see only the particular. When you separate yourself by your beliefs, it breeds violence.
Don’t believe me? Check the historical record. You may not believe what you see.