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A white supremacist carries a Nazi flag into the entrance to Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday, August 12th. Some Pennsylvania residents say they support the white supremacy march there. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
A white supremacist carries a Nazi flag into the entrance to Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday, August 12th. Some Pennsylvania residents say they support the white supremacy march there. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By Eric Epstein

Godwin’s law, coined in 1990 and named after Mike Godwin, states that lengthy online discussions will ultimately degenerate into Hitler comparisons. Given enough space and time, the probability of  referencing Hitler – no matter the issue -becomes more likely.

Eric Epstein (PennLive file) 
Eric Epstein (PennLive file) 

Democrats have been comparing  President Donald Trump to Hitler since 2015. After the inauguration, U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Virginia) took to twitter and compared Trump’s immigration polices to Adolf Hitler’s.

Three days later, former Democratic presidential candidate, Martin O’Malley tweeted, “Now is not the time for reconciliation. Dietrich Bonhoeffer didn’t reconcile with the Nazis. MLK didn’t reconcile with the KKK. Now we fight.”

Prior to his inauguration, Donald Trump compared leaks on Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election to be like living in “Nazi Germany.”

Now comes state Sen. Scott Wagner’s stereotyping of George Soros, as a “Hungarian Jew” who hates America.

Soros survived the Holocaust in Hungary, a nation where 435,000 Jews were murdered with meticulous precision from March 1944 until August, 1944 in Auschwitz.

Soros also survived fascism and the siege of Budapest

We need to focus on the real problems facing our state, like fixing our education system, making our state more business friendly, plugging the pension gaps and creating more better-paying jobs for Pennsylvanians.

Countless Pennsylvanians were tuned in to Wagner’s most recent rant. How many nodded in approval or absorbed the verbal abuse without deploying a distortion filter?

For the rest of the post…

Today marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most horrific episodes of racial violence in American history: the mutilation and public burning of Jesse Washington. It happened in my adopted hometown of Waco, Texas.

Historians call the late 19th and early 20th century the “nadir” of American race relations. The American South was ravaged and destabilized by the Civil War. The corrupt and abusive system of chattel slavery had formed the social structure of much of the pre-Civil War South. Emancipation had wrecked that structure.

For many whites, violence against “insolent” blacks seemed warranted in the war’s disorienting aftermath.

We Can’t Move On 

It wasn’t a coincidence that the Ku Klux Klan was founded right after the Civil War, or that “lynching” became much more common in the post-Civil War South than it had ever been before. White Southerners were grasping to reassert order in their upside-down region. To be sure, the whole nation was experiencing its share of racial strife: the Klan of the 1920s was as big in the northern states as the South, for instance.

But the South has a special burden to carry with regard to those racial “nadir” decades. As my Baylor colleague James SoRelle has noted, more than 3,000 lynchings happened in America between 1889 and 1918. The vast majority of the victims, like Jesse Washington, were African Americans, and the vast majority of lynchings happened in the Southern states.

If you’re from the South, you don’t have to dig around too much to find hideous examples of racial violence from around the turn of the 20th century. But you do sometimes have to dig. My native hometown of Aiken, South Carolina, witnessed the lynching of three members of an African American family, the Lowmans, in 1926. I didn’t learn about that lynching until I was in my doctoral program at the University of Notre Dame.


I can understand why some might not be eager to discuss controversial topics like these lynchings. Shouldn’t we just move on, some might ask? Others would say—rightly, in my view—“No, we can’t move on.” Not until the history of racial violence in America is more fully acknowledged.

Hometown Horror 

The steps leading to Jesse Washington’s lynching began when the body of a white woman named Lucy Fryer was discovered. Fryer had been killed by blows to the head. Authorities identified Washington, a 17-year-old field hand at the Fryers’ farm, as the chief suspect. Scholarly studies have debated how likely it was that Washington was involved with the crime, but the evidence against him was mixed. It included a confession of guilt from Washington, but there were no eyewitnesses to the murder. Washington’s lawyers offered no defense of their client.

A hastily summoned all-white jury convicted Washington of the killing. Then a mob of whites seized Washington and lynched him before a lunchtime audience of thousands in downtown Waco. They cut off parts of Washington’s body, hung him from a chain, and slowly burned him to death. A photographer took pictures of the loathsome scene, providing rare visual documentation of an actual lynching.

Reactions to Washington’s execution ran the gamut from hearty approval to disgust and revulsion.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Letter: KKK does not deserve publicity

Published: Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 10:09 AM.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Last week I was made aware of the article in The Star published May 9 titled “KKK recruitment hits Cleveland County streets.” Since then I have been wrestling with how to respond to an article that received front page coverage in our local paper.

The fact that it got such prominent coverage disgust and horrifies me. It also saddens me that in 2013 we haven’t moved to a place on enlightenment that we are beyond aiding in the promotion of such an organization as the KKK, which sets us back centuries in the growth and development we have made with civil rights for all people. Martin Luther King would have boycotted your paper for what it did on May 9.

Jesus weeps when he sees such hatred promoted toward his fellow man in the name of “free speech.” I was appalled when the KKK promoted themselves as Christian, when a Jewish man like Jesus Christ himself would have even been rejected – dare I say – killed by the Klan itself. Are we forgetting that this group has killed our brothers and sisters in the past and would do it again if they were given the chance?

Cook said he found love and acceptance in the Klan. Well gangs and the mafia and the Third Reich offer/ed that as well. What makes it acceptable free speech to promote a criminal element in our society? What makes it acceptable to promote the degradation of what is good and decent in our society? Bonhoeffer saw the danger of giving evil the spotlight in his time. The Nazis promoted themselves in the media freely, through the church, and in education. In fairness

I also read your May 13 article and I think you realize the magnitude of what you did on May 9. However, I state again would you have given front page coverage to another group in the name of free speech? What lines is The Star willing to cross in the name of free speech? If you felt it important to inform your readers – why the front page? Is selling newspapers more important than morality, decency, and being a shining example and light to the community? I’m sorry I don’t get it. I’m angry about this transgression of The Star and feel more people should speak out.

Cynthia Cooper


Publisher’s note: We reject the notion that The Star “promoted” the KKK by shining a light on its activities. The Star wrestles every day with how to cover the darker side of our community. Fortunately, most of the time, we are publishing uplifting material.

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May 2019
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