Thursday, May 18, 2006

Snitch of the Week: 4/30 - 5/6

(Free Clyde Kennard!)

I caught two stories in the NY Times that had an odd parallel.

On May 3rd, one article told the story of a group of Germans in Montana in 1918, who were convicted of sedition during WWI for speaking out against American war policies and not buying war bonds and how their sentencing were commuted by the current governor.

From the article, or here if you don't have Times Select

  • In one instance, a traveling wine and brandy salesman was sentenced to 7 to 20 years in prison for calling wartime food regulations a ''big joke."

  • ''I'm going to say what Gov. Sam Stewart should have said,'' Mr. Schweitzer said, referring to the man who signed the sedition legislation into law in 1918. ''I'm sorry, forgive me, and God bless America, because we can criticize our government.''

    Dozens of relatives of the convicted seditionists will be at the State Capitol to witness the signing of the pardons, with some traveling from as far as Florida. Marie Van Middlesworth, the 90-year-old daughter of one of those convicted, Fay Rumsey, will be coming from Medford, Ore. She was among 12 children put up for adoption when the family farm failed after her father was imprisoned.

Great, right?
Happy story about some (late-as-hell) American freedom.

On May 4th, the very next day the Times had an article about Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, who decided not to commute the sentence of a black man, Clyde Kennard, who has falsely convicted to stop him from integrating a Mississippi college.

Peep the racism here or here,

  • Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi acknowledges that Clyde Kennard suffered a grievous wrong at the hands of state officials more than 45 years ago. But he says he will not grant a posthumous pardon to Mr. Kennard, a black man who was falsely imprisoned after trying to desegregate a Mississippi college.

    Mr. Kennard moved home to Hattiesburg, Miss., after seven years in the Army in Germany and Korea and three years as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. He wanted to finish his education at the local college.

    But because that college, Mississippi Southern, was reserved for whites, state officials not only rejected Mr. Kennard's repeated applications but also plotted to kill him.

    They kept him out of college by convicting him of helping to steal $25 of chicken feed based on what the sole witness now says was perjury. The 1960 conviction drew a seven-year prison term, and Mr. Kennard died of cancer in 1963.

Peep the quote from the admissions director at the time,

  • Mr. Lucas said pardoning Mr. Kennard might cost Mr. Barbour a few votes.

    ''There are some people around here still,'' Mr. Lucas said, ''who think we should be separate as races and who refuse to see the errors of our past. But I can't imagine it would be a factor in his re-election.''

So in one (white) instance, the ability to commute a sentence is a meaningful and symbolic sign of forgiveness and self-correction and in the other (colored) instance, a commuted sentence is a late and pointless gesture for a man who was robbed of his freedom 42 years after the first commuted sentence.

That's some ole bullshit.

For me noticing said bullshit, with the help of the NY Times, I am the Snitch of the Week.