106 years ago in Marietta, Georgia, Leo Frank was dragged out of jail by an angry, hateful mob. The self-anointed Knights of Mary Phagan, a vengeful horde of white supremacists seeking justice for the murder of a 13-year-old girl, tied a rope around Frank’s neck, and hanged him from a tree at Frey’s Gin.
Leo Frank, a Jewish factory owner wrongfully convicted of Phagan’s murder two years prior, was lynched in the same grotesque and heinous nature as scores of Black people had and would continue to be executed for decades to come, unlawfully murdered by groups of delusional zealots with nothing better to do but foment racial strife and commit crimes against humanity in the name of a rigid ideology seeking to subjugate whole races of fellow people.
As a young Jewish boy growing up minutes away from Frey’s Gin, I recoiled in paranoid despondence after first learning of this travesty. Knowing that the state I’d just moved into hosted the most infamous murder of a Jew by an American mob of anti-Semites utterly shocked me in a way I wasn’t used to at 9 or 10, maybe 11 years old. My second/third generation American-Jewish parents, themselves the grandchildren of immigrants, raised me to be mindful of how our neighbors treated us.
Always, always keep your head on a swivel. Be ready to face more than a handful of Jew jokes mocking the size of your nose, the wild curled locks of your hair among other stereotypical features.
As I’ve mentioned before, never was I called a kike. I was, somehow, the first Jew one particularly sheltered young man had ever seen in person.
It was at a baseball camp at Georgia Tech, I think in 2004. The kid said he’d never seen “one of y’all”. Not in a distrustful nature – he simply never knew a Jew (heh, that rhymed).
I’ve been blessed with next to no epithets hurled in my direction, something my mom’s eldest brother and my own dad didn’t have the luxury of avoiding.
Never was I called a Christ killer, or a money-grubber, a secret Rothschild…
But that didn’t make Tree of Life any less harrowing.
It didn’t soften the mental blows of watching Katyusha rockets destroy Israeli homes near the Lebanese border.
The fear of Nazi resurgence lingered and grew ever more tangible as I aged into adulthood. Now, it’s almost an expectation that at some point in my life, I’ll experience some horrid instance of anti-Semitic hatred.
It feels inevitable.
And yet, on the sixth day of the new year, Georgia elected Jon Ossoff, its first Jewish U.S. Senator, mere hours after the inspiring if not somewhat depressing election of Reverend Raphael Warnock, the first Black Georgian and merely the 11th Black Senator ever sent to the Upper Chamber of Congress.
Against all conventional wisdom and odds, both Democrats defeated a pair of corrupt tax dodgers and pandemic profiteers who resorted to employing racial and anti-Semitic imagery in futile attempts to turn the people of Georgia against two seemingly decent men.
On top of the glass ceiling shattering for two of this country’s most maligned ethnic populations in one of its most diverse states that has tried for decades to leave behind its racist past, Ossoff and Warnock have ended the reign of the single most vile cretin to ever occupy the role of Senate Majority Leader. When Joe Biden takes office, Mitch McConnell will be relegated to the human equivalent of a noisy gnat – a barely noticeable nuisance presenting next to no threat aside from occasionally flying down one’s windpipe and causing a mini-coughing fit. That’s assuming of course that Biden takes a more aggressive approach to his first 100 days in office, but the end goal for the Democratic Party came to fruition as the newest members of Congress from the Peach State pushed them across the 50-seat threshold thanks to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote as the incoming new President of the Senate.
But like so many days in American history, a moment of triumph fell victim to its darkest hour in a generation.
Procedure dictates that when the election results have been certified by all 50 states of the Union, the delegates selected for the Electoral College from each state congregate at the Capitol and officially certify the election results. It’s always been seen as a sheer performative function, a dog-and-pony show that “officially” ends the election cycle until we start all over again in four years.
Quadrennially, our election results come and go without incident and our democracy moseys along unhindered.
Not in the era of Donald Trump.
Instead of the penultimate civil event of peaceful transition I’ve known it for in my 28 years, we saw a fucking coup d’état nearly destroy our democracy.
While the Senate and House met in their respective chambers, a jacked-up mob of delusional conspiracy theorists and fascists stormed Capitol Hill, rushed past Capitol Police (who more or less matadored out of the way of the MAGA Mob), smashed through barricaded doors and windows and stormed into the Rotunda of Congress. In the melee, a woman was shot and killed while four others sustained injuries. The insurgents galivanted – under police supervision in some cases – into the offices of the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader and stole a dais from the Senate Chamber, Confederate and Trump flags in hand, and freely waltzed out of the halls of Congress once they grew tired of running around an empty building save for some velvet ropes and a handful of ostensibly docile officers of the law.
Meanwhile, members of Congress hid in their offices, barricading their locked doors with furniture while hiding in dark rooms as the marauding MAGA-hat-clad goons and thugs stormed down the corridors of the country’s legislature.
All of this chaos, this insanity, this attempt at intimidation and sedition, all thanks to a madman’s call to arms hours before. Donald Trump held one of his final Nuremburg rallies down the street from Capitol Hill, and riled up his demented supporters. He implored them to march up the steps of Congress and “show strength”.
And like every worst-case scenario that us anti-Trumpers imagined during our bleakest moments of existential fear during these four ungodly-long years, reality usurped even our wildest imaginations.
Yet despite the attempted overthrowing of our democracy, Trumplican aiders and abettors continued their bullshit plays to the crowd, objecting to the certification of the Electoral College count for Arizona. Never missing an opportunity to profit off of our suffering, cocksuckers Ted Cruz and Joe Hawley have continued their Quixotic filibusters of closely-contested but nonetheless Supreme Court-affirmed electoral results within Arizona and Pennsylvania. Before the attempted coup, 11 senators joined the two Trump toadies in their journey to erode our democracy in the eyes of over 75 million aggrieved Trump voters. When the moment came hours after the shitshow, only six voted to throw out reviewed, counted, recounted, and state-certified electoral votes for the President and Vice President-elect.
On Twitter, folks were talking impeachment. Mitt Romney allegedly yelled at his colleagues amid the fracas and evacuation of Congress, shouting something along the lines of “this is what you get”. Hell, the 25th amendment has been bandied about like a pie-in-the-sky instrument of freedom to end the psychotic rogue presidency of Tangerine Hitler.
As of this writing, no bombastic condemnations of the criminal president from top Republicans. No serious calls for resignation from the movers and shakers of either party sans Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.
They’ve continued as if a lone intruder burst through the doors of the Chamber, yelled some wild bullshit about lizard people, and then security promptly snatched and expelled the harmless loon back to the street. Sure, Pence talked a good game as did McConnell and Schumer, but they simply moved on to re-starting the count.
To our horror, these “people” may be as numb to what feels like the millionth perilous outburst of absurdity as the rest of us plebeians.
As we approached midnight, Washington D.C. sat under a curfew, the cretins who’ve spent four years telling progressives to shut up and get over the fascists’ dubious election now conducting the boring formality. Brian Williams presented a brave face, somehow managing not to publicly motherfuck and goddamn every scoundrel seeking to undermine the Constitution on-air.
And thus, the story of America added a chaotic yet familiar chapter.
A victory for equality overshadowed by a historically reprehensible act of terrorism bordering on fascism followed by the cadre of out-of-touch dinosaurs droning on about procedure and duty and superfluous words of encouragement that better days are ahead and after all, “tHiS iS NoT wHo wE aRe!”
I’d like to think Leo Frank is looking down on Jon Ossoff’s historic victory with some comfort, perhaps a warm grin, at the sight of a Jew representing the state that callously slew him over a century ago.
Maybe that is the case.
But after witnessing some masked sack of shit named Scott Perry submit an objection to Pennsylvania’s electoral count with the blessing of the Hitler Youth Senator from Missouri hours after violent mobs of pro-Trump Nazis stormed their place of business, I fear that in spite of its remarkable electoral triumph over fascism, our country is precariously balancing on the edge of a cliff.
We’re either seeing the end of this nightmare or the beginning of a dark age for the United States of America.
G-d help us all.