Southern trees bear strange fruit, goes the old Billie Holiday song. Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
The lyrics come from Abel Meeropol’s poem, Strange Fruit. The poem was inspired by Lawrence Beitler’s famous photograph of the 1930 Indiana lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith.
Truth is the great beauty of such awful things. Forget about the promise of the Statue of Liberty. Keep your platitudes about equality. The legacy of slavery, genocide against those whose lands we stole, the satanic reality of lynching—there’s your truth. Words can’t cover it up.
Nor can they hide the lynchings among our nation’s military that routinely take place every day with the way the Pentagon and VA are covering up the body count of psychiatric casualties and rape. As I have reported below, the Pentagon and VA are engaged in unspeakable evil by allowing the military’s behavioral health crisis and rape pandemic to rage out of control. See the two-minute trailers for Thank You For Your Service and Invisible War for inarguable summaries from military and government leaders themselves.
If you know of a better word than evil for this, please tell me what it is. As The New York Times story The Military’s Rough Justice on Sexual Assault reports, military commanders are actually legalizing rape. Result: grisly crimes like the one committed against 20-year-old Army Pfc. LaVena Johnson.
The evidence clearly shows that she was brutally raped and murdered while serving in Iraq. The Army has officially ruled her death a suicide. This is tantamount to lynching her grieving family in public.
The VA has issued another ruling in the benefits case of Mary Kay McCollum. (See “Raping Mary Kay,” below.) Verdict: even though the Navy discharged Mary Kay in 1983 because the PTSD resulting from her serial rapes, forced drug and alcohol abuse and death threats by a superior officer who was convicted of his crimes against her destroyed her mental health and ability to function, her disability didn’t actually set in until June 28, 2017.
Or so say the casuists of the VA.
This is as patently absurd as the Army’s conclusion that LaVena Johnson committed suicide by savagely beating herself to a pulp, pouring lye in her vagina (it destroys semen DNA), surgically removing part of her tongue, vagina and anus, gluing gloves to her hands, shooting herself in the head with an M-16 rifle found beyond the reach of her violated, bloody body, and attempting to set fire to a tent belonging to the military contractor Kellogg Brown & Root where her body was found and photographed by military criminal investigators.
Would that be the same Kellogg Brown & Root that is a subsidiary of Halliburton, you ask. Yes.
Same Halliburton that gave its CEO Dick Cheney some $34 million in severance pay so he could become Vice President and help President Bush invade Iraq? Yes.
Same Halliburton that made $39.5 billion on the Iraq War? Yes.
The Iraq War that was based on Bush and Cheney’s fraudulent evidence that our former puppet Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction? Sigh. Yes.
So let me repeat: if you know a better word than evil to describe the situation that has placed America’s government and military in the hands of ruthless, corrupt, morally inferior individuals who allow the effective lynching by PTSD and rape of our military members, please let me know.
Post your answer in the comments section below. On behalf of my fellow veterans, thank you for your service.