Jul 17 2015

Funny things

August 1 1922-3Dear editor,

This is a letter about funny things. A random collection perhaps, but some readers may discern a veritable fountain of flummery, deep and wide, that flows through them all.

Funny thing about that young bigot slaughtering all those people away yonder in a Charleston church just a few weeks ago. Suddenly there’s a surge of patriotism right here in Hot Springs. Grown men and women are waving flags, honking horns, and revving engines. Loud and proud they are once a week, driving by an 80-year old statue dedicated to the memory of a 150-year old war.

Funny thing about that war. Lots of Americans were butchered on the altar of states’ rights. Seems like the most important state right was to keep right on allowing human beings to be bought and sold like cattle and farm implements.

Funny thing about that statue, too. The Confederate battle flag is carved on its northern side, presumably to taunt visiting Yankees.  Another is hoisted high above where it flutters only when passing winds, well, pass. Mostly it just hangs there, limp and forlorn.  (Note to readers:  since this was first written, a bright new flag has replaced the old one.)

Another funny thing is where the statue is located. It’s just north of where the Como Hotel used to be, on a patch of land once called Como Triangle. And it was right there in 1922, about twelve years before the statue was erected in loving memory by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, that 28 year-old “negro” Gilbert Harris was politely escorted from the city jail and hanged by a mob of 500 “very orderly” men. Nice of them, it was, to be so very orderly. You can still read all about it at the public library, in the archives of the Hot Springs New Era.

Funny thing about that newspaper.  The word “negro” got mentioned an awful lot that day. Maybe, just maybe, being a “negro” was what helped that very orderly mob decide to forgo all those fussy things like a court trial. Something to think about the next time you see grown men and women waving flags, honking horns, and revving their engines.

Another funny thing about that newspaper. The next day all was forgotten. There was no mention of the previous day’s violence. At the top of page one, there was a large ad by the Hot Springs National Park Klan No. 7, bragging about their $50 donation to the Boy’s Work Fund. “The Ku Klux Klan stands for better homes and a better nation and anything for the betterment of the boys will make our homes and our nation a better place in which to live.”

Funny thing about being a “negro” in America. That heritage we’re all so proud about right now is all because we used to think somebody else’s pedigree wasn’t near as good as ours. Some of us still think that way. Once upon a time, having the word “negro” show up in your pedigree could get you sent back to your Southern slave masters. In 1922 it got a man lynched. For the last century and a half, it has kept people from voting, and relegated them to second-class schools and second-class jobs and second-class justice.

Deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.

 

Monsieur d’Nalgar
Hot Springs, Arkansas

August 1 1922-1 August 1 1922-2 August 1 1922-4 August 1 1922-5 August 1 1922-6 August 1 1922-7 August 2 1922 August 1 1922-3

Statue - north side Statue - south side Proud and loud

PS – Funny thing about human pedigrees.  They’re mostly just made up.  There’s a fascist impulse that still rages in far too many of us.  It whispers that my race, my ethnicity, my religion, my skin color, my civilization, my heritage – they’re all superior to yours.  Surrender to that impulse has invented pedigrees that justified centuries of slavery and cleansed the American landscape of its first peoples.  The Germans used theirs as an excuse to exterminate millions of Jews.  Funny thing is, now even Israel peddles imaginary pedigrees to perpetuate its brutal occupation of Palestine.  Several years ago, at a Jerusalem rally simulcast here in Hot Springs (organized by our local tea party), I saw Glenn Beck weep crocodile tears as Israel’s frothy prime minister, always itching for Armageddon, revealed an ancient artifact inscribed with “Netanyahu.”  The message was hardly subtle.  Here was unimpeachable evidence of an anointed pedigree reaching all the way back to the bloody Old Testament’s glory days.

Funny thing about facts, though.  Bibi’s daddy was one Benzion Mileikowsky.  From Warsaw.  His “chosen people” pedigree points to Poland, not the Promised Land.  Old Benzion lived most of his life right here in the USA.  His father Nathan was born in what is today known as Belarus.  Awkward facts all, and yet our obeisant Congress still fawns over Netanyahu so much it’s just plain embarrassing.  For them, “Bomb Iran” Bibi is their latter-day Joshua, their long-lost machismo reborn in the nick of time to smite today’s philistines.  Huzzah, huzzah!  Facts be damned, preach our hyperbolic, gilded evangelists and purchased politicians, we must forever stand with Israel even if it is an illegal colonial outpost and the Middle East’s schoolyard bully, a fascist, racist, apartheid blot on the blood-soaked Holy Land (as it is called by ignorant fundamentalists who have turned the place into a false idol and who lust after an ultimate clash of civilizations).

So stand with Israel if you must, and wave your flags if you must.  These, too, are funny things.  Deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.

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    • Mike Nunn on July 17, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    I do wish you would send a slightly revised edition to the paper. Just make it fit their guidelines. It is a great letter.

    • Jacques on July 20, 2015 at 9:58 am
      Author

    Here’s the shorter version (500 words exactly, sans salutation and signature) that was sent in on Monday, July 20, 2015 CE. It was printed in the Thursday, July 23, 2015 edition of the Arkansas Times, and finally printed in the Sentinel Record on Wednesday, July 29, 2015…

    Dear editor,

    This is a letter about funny things. Seemingly random funny things, yet a fountain of flummery, deep and wide, flows through them all.

    Funny thing about that young bigot who slaughtered Charleston churchgoers a few weeks ago. Suddenly there’s a surge of patriotism right here in Hot Springs. Grown men and women are waving flags and honking horns as they circle an 80-year old statue dedicated to the memory of a 150-year old war. Funny thing about that “civil” war. Lots of Americans were butchered on the altar of states’ rights. Seems like the most important state right was to keep right on allowing human beings to be bought and sold like cattle and farm implements.

    Funny thing about that statue, too. It’s across the street from where the Como Hotel used to be, on a patch of land called Como Triangle. In 1922, a dozen years before the statue was erected, 28 year-old “negro” Gilbert Harris was politely taken from the city jail and hanged on this spot by a mob of 500 “very orderly” men. You can still read all about it in the Hot Springs New Era’s archives. Funny thing about that newspaper. “Negro” got mentioned a lot that day. Once upon a time, having the word “negro” anywhere in your human pedigree could get you sent back to your Southern slave masters. In 1922 it got a man lynched. And for the last century and a half, it has kept people from voting, and relegated them to second-class schools and second-class jobs and second-class justice.

    Funny thing about human pedigrees. They’re mostly just made up. There’s a fascist impulse that still rages in too many of us. It whispers that my race, my ethnicity, my religion, my skin color, my civilization, my heritage – they’re all superior to yours. Surrender to that impulse has invented pedigrees that justified centuries of slavery and cleansed the American landscape of its first peoples. The Germans used theirs as an excuse to exterminate millions of Jews. Funny thing is, now even Israel peddles imaginary pedigrees to perpetuate its occupation of Palestine. I’ve seen Glenn Beck weep crocodile tears as Israel’s frothy prime minister, always itching for Armageddon, revealed an ancient artifact inscribed with “Netanyahu.” Clear evidence of an anointed pedigree reaching all the way back to the bloody Old Testament’s glory days.

    Funny thing about facts, though. Bibi’s daddy was one Benzion Mileikowsky. From Warsaw. His “chosen people” pedigree points to Poland, not the Promised Land. Awkward, and yet our obeisant Congress still fawns over Netanyahu so much it’s just plain embarrassing. For them, “Bomb Iran” Bibi is our latter-day Joshua, reborn in the nick of time to smite today’s philistines. Huzzah, huzzah! Facts be damned, preach our hyperbolic, gilded evangelists, we must stand with Israel no matter what.

    So stand with Israel if you must, and wave your flags if you must. These, too, are funny things. Deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.

    [Jacques d’Nalgar]
    Hot Springs, Arkansas

    • Jacques on July 22, 2015 at 8:29 am
      Author

    Looks like they’ve put up a shiny new flag…

    • Jacques on June 14, 2017 at 8:53 am
      Author

    This letter appeared in today’s Sentinel Record (Wednesday, June 14, 2017), wherein Carl Ford responded to Loy Mauch‘s June 6 assertion that Mr. Ford’s previous letter was “vacuous” for having the audacity to suggest the American Civil War had anything to do with slavery.

    Dear editor:

    Loy, we may have to agree to disagree on the Constitution and the war, but maybe we can find some common ground on what happened after the war.

    When I was a boy, my dad told me about a horrible event, one he never could forget, and asked that I pass the story on to my children. The event dad described occurred on Aug. 1, 1922. A prominent businessman had been murdered by a black man during the robbery of his home. Word spread through town that a crowd was gathering at the jail. Dad and some of his buddies decided to go see what all the fuss was about. They struck off for the police station, but before they arrived, they learned that the crowd had broken into the jail and were heading for Como Square with the prisoner in tow. By the time they arrived, the crowd had transformed into a mob.

    At first, they couldn’t see what was happening. The crowd was too large, and they were too little. On one corner of the square, about where the Busy Bee Café used to be, my dad found a place where he could just see a black man being dragged through the crowd. As he was hoisted into the air, he swung wildly attempting to free himself. The moment the man stopped moving, the shouts from the mob reached a crescendo.

    Dad knew that he should be celebrating like everyone else, but he didn’t. It seemed wrong somehow. The experience didn’t stop him from being a racist as an adult, but it did impress on him there was an ugly side of “Jim Crow.” He ended his story by telling me he wished he hadn’t been there that day. That his participation, albeit as a spectator, made him a lesser man.

    How does all this relate to you? At some point, I learned that Hot Springs’ Confederate memorial was placed in 1934 at the same location — Como Square — as the lynching my dad had observed in 1922. Those responsible must have known it was being placed on the very same ground that the man who I now know as Gilbert Harris had been lynched. That bothered me then, and it still bothers me today.

    Loy, I would like you and others to join with me in asking the city, national park, Henderson or whoever has the authority, to place a plaque or some other remembrance alongside the current statue at Como Square. Just as we honor our fallen heroes, we must insure this and future generations remember the horrors unleashed on the South during “Jim Crow.” Certainly, it is something far better to do than parading around with Confederate battle flags flying, honoring a cause that, if successful, would have crippled our chances of living today in the freest, most powerful, most respected county in the world — the United States of America. What do you say? Are you with me?

    Carl Ford
    Hot Springs Village

    • Jacques on June 14, 2017 at 9:12 am
      Author

    More recommended reading here about the enlightened opinions of Loy Mauch, a former (thank you, Jesus!) member of the Arkansas House of Representatives:

    https://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2012/10/06/loy-mauch-update-the-republican-rep-is-on-record-on-slavery-too

    …and here:

    https://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/the-south-shall-rise-again/Content?oid=1380685

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