Once again, the humble host of this blog has been confronted with an issue I planned to leave alone. But I received a few emails asking my opinion on the passing of Senator Robert Bryd. I swore to plead the fifth on this one, but the blogger in me wouldn’t allow me to sit quiet. So here goes:
On the one hand, I admire Sen. Byrd’s repentence. From boldly and unapologetically subscribing to racist tenants as a member of the Klan to endorsing a black man for POTUS, I saw a redemptive quality in a person which was on the same level as Paul on the road to Damascus. Unlike certain characters like Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond who clung to their dreams of reinvoking the spirit of racism and bigotry, Sen. Bryd reformed his life and became something of an evolutionary champion for oppressed people. He’s a shining example of how a person with such a stained and sordid past could execute a perfect about-face.
That’s the Sen. Byrd I want my kids to know about.
But another part of me wants to be – pardon the lame expression – fair and balanced in assessing his life. Any student of American history will tell you that the Klan of yesterday is nothing like the folks today. Today, we point and laugh at those clowns as they show up as guests on the Springer show, hide their faces on certain websites, and attend McCain/Palin rall…uh, never mind. But this parody of the Klan today is nothing like the violent and destructive folks who master-minded the domestic terrorism that quite literally silenced thousands of black souls. Those folks lynched black people for fun. They stole land and industry from black entrepreneurs and claimed it for themselves. They created and passed legislation which denied rights. Sen. Bryd was also in that group.
What’s even more disturbing is that Sen. Byrd was able to have such a long life in the Senator. In a time where getting caught in a sex scandal will most assuredly lead to the demise of a political career, it seems farcical to me that having any association with the Klan and its history could still guarantee a long and storied career in the Senate. And in a state like West Virginia, Bryd’s Klan-status may have given him the star power that he’s enjoyed for so long. I mean, do you honestly believe people in Redneck W. Virginia of all places supported Bryd because of his progressive reformation? Really? If I was a betting man, I’d say – being as uninformed as an electorate could possibly be – W. Virginians at large were voting for the Bryd they thought was still a part of the Klan. Most people don’t follow politics enough to understand anything less than storylines and cursory details. They don’t vote on facts or issues. Probably explains how a person like Alvin Greene can emerge out of nowhere. But that’s another story.
My point? I celebrate Sen. Bryd’s turnaround and I thank him for his service. But I can’t completely forgive on behalf of all the souls who were victimized by him and people like him. That’s for them to do.