Saturday, March 25, 2023

A Fitting Representation

This year is the 30th anniversary of the siege in which

Federal agents raided the compound about 10 miles east of Waco on Feb. 28, 1993. They were trying to arrest sect leader David Koresh for stockpiling illegal weapons, but Branch Davidian members had been tipped off about the raid and a shootout ensued. Four agents and six Davidians were killed that day, leading to what would become a 51-day standoff.

As the weeks dragged on, federal authorities said they were becoming increasingly worried about the Davidian children possibly being abused. Then on April 19, 1993, after an FBI negotiator shouted over a loudspeaker for Koresh to lead his people out and “be a messiah, not a destroyer,” military vehicles began ramming the buildings and spraying tear gas inside.

A few hours later, flames were seen spreading through the compound. Authorities said the Davidians died by suicide by setting the fire and shooting themselves. Survivors have denied there was a suicide pact, saying military vehicles knocked over lanterns and ignited the blaze.

Nearly a dozen Davidians went on trial; all were acquitted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges. But five were convicted of voluntary manslaughter and weapons charges, and three were convicted on weapons charges.

It was thus Donald Trump's modus operandi to choose Waco for his rally on Saturday evening. In a commentary appearing in June, 2020 in The Washington Post, history professor Peniel E. Joseph noted

President Trump’s original decision to stage his first public rally on Juneteenth in Tulsa — the site of the worst anti-black racist massacre in American history — has deep roots in political leaders’ strategic displays of political solidarity with racists and those who support racial terror. The vocal minority of Never Trumpers — including such notable conservative intellectuals as George Will, Max Boot and William Kristol — proclaim their loyalty to a different Republican Party, that of Ronald Reagan.

Reagan, the iconic former B-movie actor, California governor and two-term president, ushered in “Morning in America” through trickle-down economics that paved the way for the huge wealth gap the nation suffers from today.

Black America remembers Reagan much differently than apologists who claim him as a politically conservative figure who stood above the racist din of some of his more unseemly supporters.

As the Republican nominee for president in 1980, Reagan staged an Aug. 3 rally at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi, an event that was weighted with racist symbolism. Neshoba County was the site of the brutal murders of the black activist James Chaney and white civil rights workers Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman.

Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman were killed during 1964’s Mississippi Freedom Summer, a historic effort by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to bring democracy and racial justice to the Magnolia State. The interracial trio of activists went missing June 21 outside of tiny Philadelphia, Miss. Their bodies were recovered Aug. 4 in an earthen dam, and they have become enshrined as three of the most visible martyrs of the civil rights era.

The fact that two white men were murdered by a combination of racist law enforcement and white vigilantes lent their deaths more weight in the public’s imagination. Freedom Summer continued, with activists emboldened, rather than fearstruck, by acts of racial terror orchestrated by Mississippi officials. Almost 1,000 white volunteers bolstered the SNCC staff’s efforts to organize Freedom Schools, literacy and civics classes, voter registration and integrated libraries.

Reagan knew all of this and still held a raucous rally in Neshoba County, where he declared his allegiance to “states’ rights,” a dog whistle fully understood by the white people in attendance who embraced the conservative former California governor and actor as a political hero straight from central casting.

There is a straight line in the Republican Party from the man Archbishop Desmond Tutu labeled "a racist, pure and simple" to Donald J. Trump. Ever eager to stir up racial animosity, the 45th President of the USA, updated for the 21st century, is a proper heir to the patron saint of the GOP. It will be Donald J. Trump in the flesh in Waco, Texas. But the ghost of Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6) will join his Republican Party in attendance.


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