Absolute Yes To Ed Johnson Statue - And Response

Tuesday, September 5, 2017
At the beginning of the week in the AM, I roll over and put the reading eyes on and go from bottom to top on the Opinion section of Chattanoogan with my cell phone. This morning was a pretty good one. Two Roy pieces got to me again and I was moved to conclude that as ugly as people can be, there are some among us who can be breathtakingly beautiful.  First, there are hundreds of white redneck men with their bass boats in Houston saving thousands for nothing more than a sweaty thank you and, second, there is the wisdom of Eric Atkins.
I hope that one day I can be that good. 

I don't know what to do about Houston but I sure can applaud those guys and that's about all I can do. They are true heroes. I hope they are appreciated by the entire planet. That's what they deserve. 

On Ed Johnson, I have chosen over the years to not know all I should know. I knew it happened but I shut it out because the story is just too appalling. It's more grisly than Faulkner or "Places in the Heart" ever thought about being and, unless I am blurring stories, I think there was more un-anesthetized horror before he was hanged than a mere body full of bullets after the fact. Dear God, it brings way too much guilt for this white boy and that's a problem. My problem. See, if you don't think about something long enough, it'll quietly go away. Right? Sometimes that's actually the case.

So thanks, Roy and all who are involved, for making me process Ed Johnson. His story is vital to every man, woman and child and I believe Eric Atkins is an uncommonly wise man. As a history buff, Mr. Atkins is far wiser than I would ever be if I were in his shoes. 

That having been said and with absolute zero credibility, I opine thissly:  

The Ed Johnson story should never happen again but it could and that's why I scream Yes to a statue that all Hamilton Countians will see as they get their tag or title. Everyone should know what this humble martyr said before he was cut to pieces on our very own Market Street Bridge. I say put a plaque there and build a statue at the courthouse. 

That's right. Build, learn and stop tearing down (unless it's Jefferson Davis or Andrew Jackson - from what I've read one was an unapologetic racist to his death and the other was an ethnic cleansing mass murderer). The main thing to me is to try and be like Eric Atkins and learn how to step forward. Build the statue. What a fantastic opportunity, albeit too little and way too late, to show the world that we can be like the Cajun Navy and thanklessly do what is good in these polar times. 

Again, I ain't got no cred but I think If we build it, everybody will learn and nobody will forget.
 
Savage Glascock Jr. 

* * * 

Unfortunately, there were several Ed Johnsons before and have been several more since, well into 21st century America. The only things missing today are the lynching ropes and mobs. The 1906 lynching of Ed Johnson had become so commonplace that it became practically the norm for the people of that era. In many ways those same attitudes and triggers remain even to this day. 

People living in the moment are often incapable of recognizing such tragedies for what they are or the lasting sufferings they inspire for everyone whether they're directly connected to the tragedy or not. So history repeats itself again and again and the same bridges continue to be crossed over and over because everyone, even the targeted victims, often lull themselves into believing it can't happen again. But in some different form or variation of the same it continues.

The only key to at least attempting a guarantee another Ed Johnson will not happen again is to confront the triggers, attitudes, lies that inspired such a horrific tragedy to happen in the first place when they first begin to show their ugly, deceitful heads. Those triggers often start out small and take many shapes and forms. 

I have a vague childhood memory of what Ed Johnson may have looked like from listening to the elders who lived during that time quietly whispering about him as if the walls were still listening and, out of fear, to speak loudly may trigger another such senseless tragic killing.  It would be a great gesture and honor to have an image of a young man, even if only a composite one of what Ed Johnson may have looked like, to go along with a plague of written words. Overtime, people won't connect words only with an actual image.  

Brenda Washington



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