The VigilanceVoice

Sunday-- May 12, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 243

The Killing Of Mothers Of Vigilance
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

        GROUND ZERO, New York City, May 12--Four young girls who died 38 years ago won't be celebrating Mothers Day today.
        But the lone, surviving Terrorist who is on trial for their murders nearly four decades later is.
       Bobby Frank Cherry, 71,  is a symbol of perhaps the most insidious and cruel kind of Terrorism--racism.   He allegedly helped plant a bomb in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963 that killed Denise McNair, 11, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Addie Mae Collins, all 14.
        Former Klu Klux Klan members, Cherry ( on the left) and three other men have been charged with the crimes over the past nearly four decades.  Cherry is the last to go to trial. 
        In 1977 Robert Edward Chambliss was convicted of murder in the death of 11-year-old Carole Denise McNair, 14 years after the crime was committed.  Chambliss (picture below) died in prison in 1985. 
       In 1988 Gary A Tucker, a former bus driver dying of cancer admitted he helped set the bomb, causing the case to be reopened.
       On May 17, 2000 Thomas Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry surrendered to authorities after a grand jury indicted them on first degree murder. Blanton died in jail while Cherry fought his indictment on the grounds he wasn't mentally competent to stand trial.  He lost that battle.  State prosecutors and defense lawyers are expected to select a jury this Monday (May 13) and begin opening statements against the single, living Terrorist of the September 15th, 1963 attack that killed the four girls and wounded 18 other people.
       While Mothers Day is supposed to be a day of honoring those who have brought children into the world, it is also a day to remember those mothers and future mothers who were deprived of that right by the forces of Terrorism.
        Four young ladies with a rich life of opportunity awaiting them were erased from the earth by hatred, prejudice, bigotry and violence at the cusp of their womanhood.
        I have a special concern about this case.  My grandfather used to brag about being a member of the Klu Klux Klan in Iowa.   His admission and boasting still haunts me.
        The Terrorists in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombings were members of the Eastview Klavern 13 chapter of the Klu Klux Klan.   I searched for the history of the Klan to research its roots.   It didn't start out as Terrorist group, but as a one seeking to provide Vigilance
        Former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest founded the original Ku Klux Klan following the War between the States to protect the widows and orphans of the Confederate dead and to foster the principles of separation between whites and blacks. He named the group "Kuklos Klan," a mixture of Greek and Scottish meaning "family circle." (kuklos is a Greek word meaning circle or wheel.) Branches of the group sprang up across the South, and many white Southerners, frustrated over Federal Reconstruction policies, used the cover of the Klan to lash out against the occupying federal soldiers or against blacks who were benefiting from Reconstruction's open racial policies. Unable to control the increasing violence, Forrest formally disbanded the Klan in 1869, and the federal government crushed the residual chapters by 1871.
      Inspired by D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, which romanticized the Klan's clandestine exploits, William J. Simmons restarted the Klan in 1915, staging a dramatic kick off atop of Stone Mountain, the future site of the Confederate Memorial Carving. Simmons, who called himself a Colonel although he never received the military rank, burned a cross atop of the mountain and started to solicit membership in the reborn Klan. This new version of the Klan prospered, and began to evolve into a White Supremist group, Terrorizing anyone who challenged white authority.
      It bred hatred.
      I remember my grandfather telling the story of how he and others in the small farming community of Davenport, Iowa, captured a black man accused of raping a school teacher.   They made him run over a freshly cut field of corn barefoot, his feet bloodied by the spears of the sharp stalks.  Then they tied the man to the top of the school and burned it.   I was six years old as he told me the story and I cringed.  From that day on I kept my distance from my grandfather, fearful of him because of the image I had of him.
     I grew up in the military, as the step-son of an air force sergeant.  Racism was rampant.  The "N" word was used as a descriptive adjective as commonly as "Afro-American" is today.   I remember a party once with my father's boss, an air force colonel.  It was a Christmas celebration and everyone wanted a picture of the group.  One of the airmen at the party was black.  The colonel, from South Carolina, was a very pleasant, soft spoken man everyone liked.   When it came time for the picture he halted the cameraman and turned to the black airman standing next to me.
     "Excuse me, son," he said, "but if you don't mind, would you please not be in this picture.  You see, when I retire I'm planning on running for a political office back home. And, if anyone got hold of this picture, well, son, it wouldn't get me the kind of votes I'd need to win.  You understand, don't you?"
      "Of course, sir," the airman replied, and politely stepped out of the picture.
      It was hard for me to not see blacks and Asians and anyone of a different color or creed as a "brother" or "sister" as I grew up.   I can't say I was fed hatred of those of different races, but I was certainly given a daily dose of prejudice and bigotry, laced with the "Christian" blanket that "all people are God's children."  Of course, this was tossed  in after the "N"-word was said, or as an afterthought demeaning a certain person because of race or creed.
     Unfortunately brotherly love of all human beings following a spear in their race or creed doesn't heal the bigotry wounds in a child.  
     As I've matured in life so have my viewpoints about others.   When I moved to New York City from highly conservative, almost totally white, Republican, conservative Orange County, California two years ago, I went through a major culture shock.   It took me months of restraint to accept the diversity of the city and to assimilate the vast cultural differences of people from all walks of life and stations of economic status.
     The writer in me knew better than to narrow my viewpoint about people, but the seeds of bigotry and prejudice planted deep in the furrows of my being as a child and adult held fast to certain black and white viewpoints that I struggled with to turn into grays, and then ultimately into rainbows. 
      Fortunately, my children did not inherit my bigotries or prejudices.   They are comfortable in a world of diversity, and when and if I slip into old behaviors, they admonish me, rightly so, and shame me justly for not guarding the Terrorism of prejudice that, unchecked, leads one to plant bombs and maim and kill innocent people for no just reason.
      That's why I'm on trial with Bobby Frank Cherry.  And, hopefully, anyone who harbors prejudice and bigotry against any group, should also be on trial.   For the trial isn't just about the killing of black children, it is about the killing of human compassion for others.  It is about the danger of breeding hatred, bigotry, prejudice in the minds of children who surround adults infected by the disease of racism.
      And, mothers as well as fathers are to blame for this viral infection of prejudice.   Both deserve a smack across the moral face to awaken them to the dangers of seeding prejudice in a child's mind, either by intent or by omission.

      September 11th was an act by the Klu Klux Klan of Islam.
      It was a magnification of what happened on September 15th, 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama.
      Iraqi dissident, Kanan Makiya, writing an opinion that was published in the London Observer on Sunday, October 7, 2001, cites the similarities between the Klu Klux Klan and the Terrorist attacks of September 11th.  Here is a quote from his article:


In the five-page letter left in a suitcase in the car-park of Boston's airport, this passage, giving guidance to the hijackers in case they should meet resistance from a passenger, appears: 'If God grants any one of you a slaughter, you should perform it as an offering on behalf of your father and mother, for they are owed by you. Do not disagree among yourselves, but listen and obey. If you slaughter, you should plunder those you slaughter, for that is a sanctioned custom of the Prophet's, on the condition that you do not get occupied with the plunder so that you would leave what is more important, such as paying attention to the enemy, his treachery and attacks. That is because such action is very harmful [to the mission].'

This is not Islam any more than the Ku Klux Klan is Christianity. No concessions can be made to either mindset which have more in common with one another than they do with the religions they claim to represent.

      The words that struck me were that the "slaughter" be performed on "behalf of your father and mother, for they are owed by you."
      Compassion for others, in my opinion, should be taught by mothers.   A mother should know and protect the child's sense of justice.  Fathers generally have rough edges and tend to sharpen their knives of discontent with their tongues.  Mothers balance those edges, dull them when necessary.
      It seems incredible to me that a mother today in the 21st Century would allow violence against another race to exist in a family without counterbalancing that prejudice, hatred and bigotry with slaving compassion.   Mothers of Vigilance do this.  They stop the ranting and ravings of hatred, and quash the right of anyone in the family to bear ill upon others of difference.
     I remember my grandmother not saying a word as my grandfather told his Klu Klux Klan story.  I remember my mother sitting there affirming the story.  I do not recall either of them quashing the right to bear witness against another, or the right to act as a vigilante against them.  If they did, that memory was long lost by the power of their silence, or lack of their demand. I wash such thoughts from my mind as my grandmother washed my mouth out with a bar of soap when she overheard me say a "dirty word."  I regret they didn't wash my mind out that day, for I have been known in the past to whisper with some secret pride:  "My grandfather was a Klu Klux Klan member."
      Again, that's part of the reason I'm on trial with Bobby Frank Cherry.   While I can't recall ever acting with violence against any race, I have to admit to years in which I let my prejudices and bigotry and white self-righteousness ooze out of my mouth at the expense of my human compassion, my own Vigilance as a human being who tries to see all as equals--at least these days.
      My point is that while all of us need to be Parents of Vigilance regarding prejudice and bigotry, I throw the weight of that responsibility upon the Mothers of Vigilance.    Some might say I'm being sexist, or granting immunity to the Fathers of Vigilance on this issue.
     I'm not.   Both mothers and fathers need to guard their opinions and thoughts from infecting their children's racial innocence.   But I do believe that men shoot more bigotry and prejudice from their lips than women regarding racial inequality.   And, as a result of the difference in volume and often in the degree of animosity, it falls upon the Mother of Vigilance to perform additional guardianship over the vitriolic tongues of men.
     I do not disagree that women may, in some cases, hold more prejudice than men on this issue.  And if so, then the tables should be reversed.   The Father of Vigilance needs to put up extra sentries to guard against his wife's tongue, if that is the case.   Although, generally, I doubt this is the case.
      Jihads today are created in large part by the formation of prejudices by parents.
      On this Mothers Day, let's all hope we can bite our tongues and wash our minds.  And, that our Mothers of Vigilance will remember the four young girls who died on September 15th, 1963, and have the Courage, Conviction and take the Right Action necessary to stop the Seeds Of Terrorism from being planted in their children's minds.
      I'm on trial today!  Are you?

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