Friday, June 24, 2005

Red State Values?

In 1964, thanks to the influence of "Dixiecrat" turned Republican, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, Mississippi had gone from a strongly Democratic state to a strong part of the early formation of "Red" states. Very conservative Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater went on to win 87.1% of Mississippi's vote while Lyndon Johnson went on to a massive landslide nationally. In fact Goldwater carried only 6 states, his home state of Arizona, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi.

In this election year backdrop, three civil rights workers from CORE( Congress Of RacialEquality), Michael Schwerner, 24, Andrew Goodman, 20, and James Chaney, 22, traveled to Mississippi investigate church fires and to register Blacks to vote in the 1964 presidential election. On August 4, 1964 the bodies of these three civil rights workers were found. Each had been shot.

Earlier these civil rights workers were arrested by a sheriff who claimed they were "speeding". And just after their release from jail, Edgar Ray Killen, a Ku Klux Klan official was to mastermind their murders. Mississippi failed to bring Killen to justice, until just this week. A full 41 years had passed before a Mississippi court would bring to justice to the mastermind of the three murders. But even with this 41 years of cowardice, the jury still refused to bring murder charges, and instead returned the lesser manslaughter charges against Killen. But a judge redeemed the jury's lesser charge and brought the maximum 60 year sentence against this man who escaped justice for so many years.

Justice finally came to Edgar Ray Killen. But all the years of justice denied, and the jury ducking out of murder charges presents a terrible moral vision of "Red" state values. The lesson seems to be if you mastermind murder in Mississippi for racially moltivated reasons, you'll be brought to justice in 41 years, and found guillty of a charge less serious than murder eventually, if you live long enough.

This hardly will send a chill up the spine of any would be murderer. Some people in Mississippi better take a good look at the "Red" state values they hold dear. In most states a murderer would face immediate arrest and a speedy trial. It wouldn't take 41 years.

Killen is a pathetic old man of 80, who requires portable oxygen. He won't face execution like the cold blooded execution of the three young men he masterminded. But instead he'll spend his days in anice comfortable prison hospital ward. Despite his evil, and despite his hate, Killen will receive mercy that he did not offer the three young victims.

But despite this evil, Killen has the opportunity to repent. To have faith in God and his son, Jesus. And despite his evil, Killen has an opportunity for full forgiveness from God. This is what is so wonderful, a man may have committed a great evil. But God can still forgive any evil. This mix between justice and forgiveness should prevade the final days of Killen. His debt to society for the long delayed justice must be paid. But he has the opportunity to seek full forgiveness from God. There were two criminals on the crosses with Jesus. One remained nasty to the end. But the other had a repentant heart. The great tragedy for Killen is not to take up this opportunity. To die without the forgiveness of God is indeed the greatest tragedy of all.


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