Do Stories about Past Evil Keep Hate Alive? Or Can a Priest's Crisis of Faith Illuminate the Post-Truth World of Election 2016?
When I started working on this story, I worried about dredging up the terrible past. But then came the news in January of 2017 that Carolyn Bryant lied in 1955 when she said she'd been molested by 14-year-old Emmett Till. There was also the Walter Scott verdict, the 194 African-Americans killed by police between January and October of 2016, the fifteen who were killed since Colin Kapernick began taking a knee, and the catastrophic presidential election of 2016. And I realized that some things must never be forgotten. "The past is not dead," wrote William Faulkner in Requiem for a Nun, "It isn't even past."
Critics claim the so-called liberal media is biased when it reports the number of blacks killed by police if it does not also report the number of whites, Asians, and Hispanics. They say reporting only the black numbers is part of a left-wing narrative. While this seems a valid critique on the surface, it fails to account for the single most important difference beneath those statistics. A difference that is really a question: What role does racism play in the needless killing of blacks?
We have seen too many videos that document the deadly shooting of African-Americans, which could have been handled another way. Why is that happening? To what extent do police claim their lives are in danger when that feeling is nothing other than a deep-seated fear of black people? How many of those 194 deaths were motivated by racism? How many of them occurred because the police live in white-only suburbs removed from the urban areas they patrol as if members of an occupying army?
Critics who want to widen the statistical net to include other ethnicities are seeking to dilute the issue, to add relativism to the mix, and divert attention from the thing many of them prefer not to look at. As Mark Twain reminded us, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
I didn't write the story because of the 2016 presidential election or because I wanted to hide from the motivational forces that result in one American tragedy after another. I simply realized after writing it that its themes are relevant again. Racism is like the many-headed Hydra from Greek mythology. You cut off its head, and it grows two more in its place. It is as evil in one race as in another. It's as ugly in the unthinkable murder of innocent Dallas police officers as it is in the immoral application of Stand Your Ground laws that made it okay for George Zimmerman to kill Trayvon Martin and get away with it.
Carved from the pages of yesterday's news, this story echoes present-day concerns regarding white supremacy, the unwarranted killing of innocent African-Americans, and the struggle one faces when the human heart finds itself in conflict with itself.
HERE IS A DESCRIPTION
In the Deep South of the 1950’s, a white Catholic priest struggles with alcohol, celibacy, and his secret love for a married member of his all-black congregation. When an all-white jury hands down its not-guilty verdict for the murderers of Emmett Till, Father Claude Fitzgerald faces a hard decision: should he remain true to his vocation and the principles of Faith—or follow the example of Abolitionist John Brown by picking up a gun and taking the law into his own hands? Here is a story about the nature of evil, the desire to keep the white race "pure," and the difficult path to love when slurred words of one kind or another can lead to death.
It is September of 1955, and Father Claude Fitzgerald does not know that in January of 2017 the woman who accused 14-year-old Emmett Till of molesting her will admit she lied about what happened. The priest knows only that the brutal lynching of the black youth by her husband and brother-in-law was wrong. So was the not-guilty verdict returned by an all-white jury in Mississippi. It is hard to be the pastor of an all-black congregation in the Deep South when something like this happens. Especially for Claude Fitzgerald.
Something inside the priest is egging him on. To take matters into his own hands the way John Brown did during slavery. He remembers what it was like before his ordination when he believed he could help save the world from evil—not just sit back and allow it to have its way.
But Father Fitzgerald has other problems that may be behind this nagging inner voice. He’s a man who likes women. Especially Tru Hathaway, a married member of his congregation. The priest is also a man with a weakness so obvious even the altar boys joke about it. The man slurs his words during Mass.
Claude Fitzgerald, a man of the cloth, is awash in confusion. But among the several voices swirling around within him on this late September night one in particular stands out. It's fairly easy to get a gun -- but the road to Money, Mississippi may turn out to be more than he bargained for.
The story can be read on any Kindle device, Smartphone App, or PC. It is available for the nominal price of 99 cents. I hope you'll find something of interest or value in it.
Thanks, as always, for taking the time to read these blog posts. All the best.
I'm a storyteller whose background includes talk radio, newspapers and TV news. I've hosted a morning-drive classical music program on the California coast and published nationally in Reader's Digest, the Christian Science Monitor, and Playboy. I've won awards for my journalism and my fiction. One of my essays even made it into an anthology for college English courses. For real? Yes, for real.
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