The Lynching of Will Brown Part 2: The Crystal Palace, Eagles, and Organ Stops

Note:  This piece focuses on the international context surrounding the lynching of Will Brown in 1919 Omaha.  Themes explored here will appear in subsequent pieces.  For the introduction to this series, please read The Lynching of Will Brown Part 1

Iolaire (1)On New Years Eve 1918, nine months before a white mob would descend into madness in Omaha, a mass of young men crowded onto HMY Iolaire on the Scottish mainland.  Boisterous yet tired from years of war, they were headed for the northern port of Stornaway, Isle of Lewis, ready to once again embrace their families and friends, their lovers, the soil on which they and their ancestors had formed.

That night almost 300 men, mostly from the Royal Naval Reserve, cozied up on a boat designed for no more than 100, with two life boats and 80 life jackets.  Any fear left over from the Titanic disaster just four years earlier must have been washed away by the storms of World War 1.  These men had just lived through hell, so who would tell them to wait for another boat, another day, when home was so close and the New Year was right now?

Not two months earlier, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the crackling shots and explosions of World War 1 had come to radio silence.  The gears of war had stopped churning at last, and morale was through the roof.  Like other war survivors, the men on Iolaire envisioned hugging their parents and siblings, kissing their nieces and nephews on their cheeks, gorging on their mothers’ home cooking for the first time in years.  They dreamed of sitting around fires, sipping beer and cracking jokes, sharing a story or two from their time serving in the War to End All Wars.  Some had engagement rings.

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Soldiers returning home after the war.  This is not the Iolaire
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Soldiers returning

Families on the Isle of Lewis also anticipated glowing embraces and hearty reunion feasts, preparing for the occasion days in advance with decorations, warm beds, and clean clothes in the wait.  Like magic, the faces in the pictures they had stared at longingly, with such adoration and worry, would spring to life again before their eyes in an instant.

The boat, like the men it housed, had been displaced by the deadliest, most brutal conflict history had ever seen.  Originally built as a luxury yacht, the Iolaire (Scottish Gaelic for eagle) had served the Allied Powers well on submarine patrol, and now stood to transport hundreds of war-weary souls home at last, their final deployment.  Following years of carnage, boredom, and uncertainty, the men could finally be at ease.  Surely they would have found ways to turn the yacht from a vessel of war into more of a carnival cruise, it being New Years Eve and their ticket home.  Spirits would have been high and spirits would have been consumed, all in great relief over the prospect of starting their real lives, their peacetime lives in the Lewis countryside.

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At roughly 2 am, lolaire cut through choppy waves generated from gale force winds in the pitch black night – mother nature was not smiling on these mens’ triumphant return home.  As the yacht made its approach into the port, it failed to slow down as it should have, officers likely miscalculating in the surging storm winds or the fog of whiskey, or both.  With lights from the port in sight, the ship smashed into a jagged rock formation called Biastan Thuilm, or ‘The Beasts of Holm,’ and began taking in water, tilting over just 20 yards from the rocky shore.

Of the roughly 300 men on board, about a quarter of them survived.

Some were rescued when a man swam towards shore with a rope in his hand and was lucky enough to wash up at a spot where he could latch onto firmly, providing an escape line from water to shore.  Another man clung to a mast all through the night, which stood barely perched above water, weathering the surging waves and violent gusts of wind for hour after hour.

Most weren’t so lucky.

As the bodies washed ashore that morning, families grieved.  One mother cleaned sand out of her son’s hair.  His face was blackened from being smashed against rocks as the water rolled him towards shore, then dragged him away again, repeatedly.  His fingernails had also been broken off, indicating he had tried with all his 27 year old might to reach onto a rock that he might use to escape the endlessly forceful waves.  A father reached into his son’s jacket to pull out the letter he had sent to his son just months earlier.

For these families, the only warm reconnection they would have with their loved ones would be through their tears spilling onto the ice cold bodies that had been laughing only hours before.  Young men who had survived the entirety of World War 1 died on their glorious ride home, drowned 20 yards from their beloved land.

The Iolaire disaster is perhaps the perfect embodiment of the horror the world experienced through World War 1.  The ‘war to end all wars,’ which was supposed to wrap up and be ‘over by Christmas,’ as was the popular phrase in August 1915, ended up dragging out for year after year, producing a scale of mass human slaughter previously unimaginable.  What was supposed to have been a quick prick to deliver the medicine of a great victory for humanity ended in years of physical and psychological torture.  What was supposed to have been a short, simple ride home on a nice yacht ended in much the same way in Scotland in the first hours of 1919.

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Iolaire Wreckage

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The trauma from the war and the maritime disaster wreaked havoc on the people of Isle Lewis for generations, and is still felt to this day, 100 years later.   On a broader scale, it’s difficult to overstate how heavy the psychological toll of the war was on the world at large.

At the outset of war, after two centuries of rapid technological advancement, urbanization, scientific breakthroughs, and life expectancy on the rise, there was a sense that Enlightenment ideals were becoming realistic, that the human story is one of progress.  This modernist concept of human advancement past our medieval, primitive past was put on display through a series of ‘world’s fairs’ or ‘international expositions’ that continue to this day.

The first truly international fair was the 1851 ‘Great Exposition’ held in London, where the newest and greatest in human achievement was put on full display, including the latest art, architecture, science, technology, and industry.  Prince Albert wanted the fair to provide a “living picture of the point of development at which mankind has arrived, and a new starting point from which all nations will be able to direct their future exertions.”

The crowning achievement of the fair was the ‘Crystal Palace’ that housed the event.  Neither a palace nor made of crystal, the massive structure with 900,000 square feet of glass plates served as a metaphor for the enlightenment of humankind – the taming of nature, of savagery, of oppressive ignorance that stifled our evolution.  The gargantuan structure boasted nearly a million square feet of floor and was six times larger than St. Paul’s cathedral on the other side of the Thames.  St. Paul’s took 35 years to construct, while the Crystal Palace was finished in just five months.

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News of this architectural feat and of the fair itself traveled far and wide.  In just five months, six million visitors from around the world strolled through it.  Over the next hundred years, almost one hundred world fair exhibitions would be held around the world, all built with the same intentions: to showcase humanity’s triumph over nature, the marvels of capitalism, white Christian Anglo-Saxon demi-divinity and evolutionary superiority, and the final stretch towards perfecting life through rational means.

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Inside the doors of the Crystal Palace, sunlight penetrated glass and split into various directions, showering light down upon the signifiers of human progress so vividly embodied in objects like expertly crafted daguerreotypes, the world’s first fax machine, and the largest diamond then known on earth, Koh-i-Noor, stolen from the heart of India by British colonial settlers and displayed as a trophy of the empire.

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The Crystal Palace also served as an intellectual prism, sending thinkers scattering into different ideological interpretations of what it meant.

To Prince Albert, the exhibition was an example of economic globalism bringing people from around the world together in harmony.  Quite an interesting take for a man who exercised near complete economic and military dominion over India, which already had a population of 200 million by 1851.  In a quote which accurately foreshadows Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’ but doesn’t quite anticipate the coming Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, Albert states:

“Nobody who has paid any attention to the peculiar features of the present era will doubt for a moment that we are living at a period of most wonderful transition, which tends rapidly to accomplish that great end, to which, indeed, all history points—the realization of the unity of mankind… The distances which separate the different nations and parts of the globe are rapidly vanishing before the achievements of modern invention… So man is approaching a more complete fulfillment of that great and sacred mission he has to perform in this world…”

When the Great Exposition ended, the building was re-imagined and re-designed into a museum depicting the history of humanity going back to the earliest agricultural civilizations, and moved to another nearby location.

Russian socialist-utopia writer Nikolay Chernyshevsky marveled at the new Crystal Palace in an essay and later in his famous novel, ‘What Is To Be Done,’ where the protagonist dreams of an idealized future in which everyone lives in glass homes similar to the palace and share things communally, in the loving embrace of the eternal truths revealed by the Enlightenment.  He viewed the Crystal Palace as a great equalizer, a place where the lines between bourgeoisie and proletariat could be blurred, where humans of all stripes live their lives in tranquil peace and equality.

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Directly influenced by the ideals of the French Revolution, Chernyshevsky was a true believer that in finding the workings of nature and living in accordance to reason, humans will rationally evolve into a society where work and leisure are intertwined into perfect harmony.  The Crystal Palace represented the culmination of humanity’s final goals, which are to figure out the puzzles of life through scientific and mathematical formulas, such as the ones used to design such an elegant yet massive iron and glass structure in such a short period of time.

The conservative-slavophile Fyodor Dostoevsky, on the other hand, was disgusted with everything the palace represented.  In his novella ‘Notes From Underground,’ the protagonist, the Underground Man, lives beneath and outside of society.  He observes society as a fly on the wall, one who never fits in precisely due to the fact that he understands so much clearer what the masses fail to even begin to grasp.  In his view, humans can’t be reduced to rational creatures, and will go to great lengths in order to continue being irrational.

When we are expected to say 2 + 2 = 4, we still might say 2 + 2 = 5 just to assert our freedom to do so.  When acting rationally is acting in our own self interest, and human behavior is mapped out for all our needs to be met, humans will act against our own self interests (poor white Republicans?) just to make a statement to the universe, that we are free to do so if we choose.  If humanity is reduced to formulas, he sees true free will as being undermined, making everything predictable and humans reduced to mere ants or bees in a hive.  He asks, “for what is man without desires, without free will, and without the power of choice but a stop in an organ pipe?”

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The idea of humankind finding their final stage, in which all behavior has been mapped out, fitting into rational scientific and mathematical formulas, is terrifying to the Underground Man.  He points out that the cult of reason in France led to the Napoleanic Wars, which were no less insanely brutal than those of Attila the Hun.  The Crystal Palace is therefore both a triumphant finality to the human experiment, and the death of real life itself, which lies not in goals attained, but the process of attaining:

And who knows … perhaps the whole aim mankind is striving to achieve on earth
merely lies in this incessant process of achievement, or (to put it differently) in life
itself, and not really in the attainment of any goal, which, needless to say, can be
nothing else but twice-two-makes-four, that is to say, a formula; but twice-two-makes four is not life, gentlemen. It is the beginning of death.

While Dostoevsky was writing his novel, death ran rampant in the U.S. as the Union and Confederacy engaged in attrition warfare.  Many technological advances saw their start during this conflict, including those which would make World War 1 so exceptionally devastating.  Early submarines, torpedoes, mines, metal-plated warships, observation balloons, machine guns, and the railroad all saw their debuts in warfare.

Richard Gatling claims he was inspired to invent his early machine gun, patented in 1862, by a desire to make what was then modern warfare less deadly.  He thought if a few men with a few of his weapons could do the job of an entire army, it would reduce the number of casualties drastically at least, and make modern warfare obsolete at most.  Perhaps men would stop their endless cycle of war if they each held a weapon capable of killing so many so efficiently.  He called his patent, “Improvement in revolving battery-guns.”

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Here, the idea of modernity is perhaps at its most absurd and profound.  In hindsight, we know the machine gun only served to intensify the scale of carnage in warfare.  Gatling’s vision of more efficient weapons leading to peace could also be seen as a precursor to the nuclear age, which Oppenheimer predicted would result in an era of peace through the concept of mutually assured destruction – no nuclear power will actually hit the red button because they know it would result in the destruction of great swaths of civilization, including their own, when the other side hits their red button in response.  The prediction rang true in the case of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but the nuclear age is still young.  There will be many more chances for humanity to stick out its tongue and declare 2 + 2 = 5.

Gatling’s gun and its variants saw very little actual use in the Civil War, instead finding itself on the giving end of imperialist ventures such as the Indian Wars, in which the U.S. government annihilated Native American warriors and civilians alike, and in the Zulu Wars, in which the British project spread itself though Africa.  At the Battle of Gingindlovu, the British were outnumbered 5,670 to over 11,000 but had two Gatling guns.  Suffering only 11 dead, the British mowed 1,000 Zulu warriors down.

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It’s hard to think of these moments in history as actual wars, rather than exercises in cultural genocide.  People debate which events meet the definition of genocide, but there is no doubt that what the European settler colonialists did to Indigenous peoples around the world was always, at the very least, a form of cultural genocide explicitly intended to destroy entire ways of life that didn’t fit into the narrative presented at the Crystal Palace.

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Imperialism ran through the fabric of the Crystal Palace and every other international exposition that followed it.  Implicit in the narrative was the religious concept of manifest destiny as well as the growing field of scientific racism, in which European pseudoscientists placed humans into a racial hierarchy based on Darwinian principles.

How would the British explain how and why it is their army can mow down 1,000 African warriors as easily as spreading butter over toast?  How would European Americans explain away their genocidal actions spreading west to California, breaking every treaty they signed promising some level of decency?  How would they explain away their mass scale  enslavement of African people, and subsequent racist apartheid state?  The answer was to create the racial hierarchy, placing white people on top, Black people on the bottom, and everyone else somewhere in between.

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In this sense, the whitening of humanity could be viewed along the same lines as the industrial and artistic ‘progress’ displayed at the Great Fair.  Having mapped out racial evolution as a straight line towards whiteness, racial ‘hygiene’ could allow for people of color to more closely align themselves with whiteness, and therefore with the progress and evolution of humanity as a whole.

Scientists of the day pushed the racial hierarchy in books and lecture halls, but people could witness dehumanization in real time with ‘human zoo’ exhibits at P.T. Barnum’s circus.  Pygmy people from Africa were advertised as the ‘missing link’ between ape and human, and white people flocked to see them.  One of them, named Ota Benga, lived his life in the Brooklyn Zoo, where he was displayed with primates.

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World fairs couldn’t help but dip their hands into this honeypot as well.  Fair organizers put together ‘living exhibits’ of human beings from exotic colonies such as the Philippines, where darker skinned people were supposed to have been grateful for the opportunity to be colonized by whiteness, thus giving them the chance to latch on to the progress of humanity and ride its coat tail to the heights of rational harmony so praised by Chernyshevsky and loathed by Dostoevsky.  With these ‘living exhibits,’ whiteness could pat itself on the back for doing the heavy work of civilizing the untamed savages while simultaneously ogling at them from a civilized perch, close enough to touch, yet safe within the confines of the exhibit.

Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’ summed up the attitude best – it is difficult work, forcing people in these wild parts of the world to give up their resources, convert to Christianity, cut their hair, and ‘get a real job’ like servicing white peoples’ every whim.  It’s a dirty job, cleaning up all the savages of the world, but somebody has to do it.

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In the case of the United States, it was Alaska, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines that had recently been taken into the fold of American empire.  In keeping with the human zoo or living exhibition tradition, Filipino villages were set up where visitors could take a simulated tour through one of the newly acquired territories, watching Indigenous people prepare food and crafts in their primitive ways.  Through this tour, whiteness was able to position itself apart from and over the cultures and peoples it had taken under its powerful wings, the eagle both shielding them from other, apparently nefarious, white Christian nations such as Spain, and lifting them to the heights of Western civilization through the kindness of its heart.

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Overseeing much of the colonial process for the United States, President William McKinley delivered imperialist speeches underneath the eagle, surrounded by nationalist pageantry with flags, parades, and bands, all pumped with military gusto from the newest major player on the world stage, the United States.

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McKinley guided the U.S. into the new century under imperialistic dreams.  During a speech at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, he laid out his claims quite clearly:

To the Commissioners of the Dominion of Canada and the British colonies, the French colonies, the republics of Mexico and Central and South America and the commissioners of Cuba and Puerto Rico, who share with us in this undertaking, we give the hand of fellowship and felicitate with them upon the triumphs of art, science, education and manufacture which the old has bequeathed to the new century. Expositions are the timekeepers of progress. They record the world’s advancement. They stimulate the energy, enterprise and intellect of the people and quicken human genius. They go into the home. They broaden and brighten the daily life of the people. They open mighty storehouses of information to the student. Every exposition, great or small, has helped to some onward step. Comparison of ideas is always educational, and as such instruct the brain and hand of man.

The next day, against the advice of his personal secretary, he appeared at the Temple of Music building for a public meet and greet, where visitors would file in one by one and shake hands with the president, who actually enjoyed that aspect of his job.  He reportedly said, “No one would wish to hurt me.”  Extra security was added, including a dozen artillerymen who only ended up blocking the view of the Secret Service.  An American flag was draped behind him.

As the doors opened for the crowd, one of the largest pipe organs ever assembled blasted out ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’  Within that mass was a young man who must have felt like Dostoevsky’s Underground Man, who felt like an organ stop that needed to express its freedom to the universe, an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz.  In his right hand he concealed a .32 caliber Iver Johnson revolver.  As he approached the president, he squeezed the trigger twice aiming into McKinley’s abdomen.  The president fell backwards, caught by his confidants, and immediately ordered the crowd beating on the assassin to go easy on him, then gave instructions on how to break the news to his wife.  McKinley died a week later of gangrene in the lining of his stomach caused by the bullet.

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Although the Pan-American Exposition itself was famously lit like Disneyland by incandescent light, the emergency room where the president was taken lacked such technology.  In a mad rush to show off progress, President McKinley and American society had failed to take basic safety precautions into consideration.  Even though a new invention called an x ray machine was being shown off at the exposition, and could have been used to locate the bullet causing the president’s body to swell with toxins, nobody thought to use it.  Doctors told everyone he would make a full recovery, so even then Vice President Roosevelt took off, assuming things would be fine.

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The hubris of empire was thus on full display.  All the illumination of human reason could not provide the common sense application that would have saved the president’s life.

It was then, perhaps, fitting that the incident which sent the rational actors of white Anglo-Saxon imperial powers spiraling into the absolute chaos and depravity of World War 1 was sparked by another young anarchist who shot at close range a nationalist leader wearing green peacock feathers, parading around in an open vehicle in an area of his empire where the people despised him.  Archduke Franz Ferdinand represented the Austrio-Hungarian Empire, which Slavic peoples felt was oppressive and keeping them from their own national autonomy.  He wore this goddamned clownish hat in his visit to Sarajevo, a Slavic stronghold.

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When World War 1 began, the hubris didn’t stop.  It was declared the ‘war to end all war’ and people cheered in ecstasy as they mobilized for a war they said was sure to be over by Christmas.  A war where young men would once again go to earn glory on the battlefield.  All the rationality and scientific measurement of the European imperialist powers had become so bottled up that it had to burst at the seems, spilling out through streams of blood and guts spread across hellscapes where shivering louse-infested men drank water from where bodies of their friends soaked, mixed with urine and feces of men and rats.  Where men lost their minds and shook uncontrollably enduring blast after blast after blast, day after day, week after week, in order to take a section of land the size of a football field, only to have it then taken back from them the next month by other crazed zombie-like shells of men.

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During the war, 125,000 men trained for war within the walls of the Crystal Palace, dubbed HMS Victory VI by the Royal Navy.  Among the men who trained there were the men of the Iolaire.  The massive steel and glass prism of reason took bright eyed young men from Scotland into its walls, broke them down and built them up into nationalistic warriors, fighting for rivalries and alliances between men they would never know, made over colonies they would never see, and sent them off to witness the calamity of war.  Those same men, many of whom had survived the madness of the trenches, torpedo hits from enemy submarines, and the loss of their brothers before their eyes, ended up drowning 20 yards from their homeland, fighting for their lives as the waves bashed them against the same rocks they so eagerly anticipated.

Although Gatling had died in 1903 and his gun had become obsolete by World War 1, the hope that his machine would make modern warfare obsolete came true – although in the opposite form he had hoped for.  The machine gun became the signature weapon of trench warfare, and instead of sending less men into war because of how deadly it was, leaders of nations sent *more* men into the grinder and allowed them to be mowed down for years on end.  Gone were the days of two armies meeting in a battlefield, walking towards each other until they were close enough to stab one another, and then one side retreating after losing more of its men than the other side.  Battle used to be considered glorious because there was more of a sport to it.  Gatling’s vision brought an end to that era.

The technological seeds planted during the age of the Crystal Palace had finally sprouted into full bloom, and their power was inconceivable to those who planned and fought in the war.  Nobody could have predicted how the unleashed killing power of machine guns would end up putting armies into tactical stalemates and placing men into the position of animals, burrowing into the ground, perhaps reading Dostoevsky as the shells crashed around them, wondering along with the Underground Man how any of the madness of the war could be considered sane at any level, let alone rational.

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The idea that warfare was somehow romantic and heroic was switched upside down with this new kind of conflict.  There is no way to paint the muddy, barren, shelled-out fields of no man’s land, littered with barbed wire and corpses, in a way that has a positive spin.

German machine gunner and modernist painter Otto Dix took breaks from mowing human beings down like insects to sketch and write in his journal.  After the war, he painted in a way that was simultaneously surreal and hyper-real.  Of the war, he said:

I had to experience how someone beside me suddenly falls over and is dead and the bullet has hit him squarely. I had to experience that quite directly. I wanted it. I’m therefore not a pacifist at all – or am I? Perhaps I was an inquisitive person. I had to see all that for myself. I’m such a realist, you know, that I have to see everything with my own eyes in order to confirm that it’s like that. I have to experience all the ghastly, bottomless depths of life for myself; it’s for that reason that I went to war, and for that reason I volunteered. 

After World War 1 and artists like Dix, the romanticized version of warfare would no longer monopolize the collective psyche of the world.

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Trench Warfare

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Following the war, the Crystal Palace became the Imperial War Museum, where it displayed the machines of war behind a flood of nationalistic pomp.  It had gone full circle from the prism of reason and human potential for creating peace and harmony between nations, to a graveyard of machines that served as the meat grinders of millions of young men who willingly threw themselves into them, under the impression they were contributing to a better, more peaceful world – Chernyshevsky’s dream of the future also flipped upside down.

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Also at the end of the war, just a couple weeks after the Iolaire sank in the waters of Scotland, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson attended the Paris Peace Conference where the future of Europe and much of the world would be decided.  At this major crossroads of world powers, he continued the dream envisioned in the original Crystal Palace, trying desperately to solidify his post-war legacy by laying the foundations of the League of Nations.  The Wilsonian worldview advocates for global interventionism, the spread of capitalism, the spread of democracy, and the self-determination of all peoples.

Yet as the Declaration of Independence stated the ideal that all men are created equal but only referred to white men, Wilson’s concept of self-determination did not extend to anyone who was not white.  Young Ho Chi Minh, who had studied American history and admired Wilson, approached the gangly white supremacist in Paris and proposed to him that the French should leave Indochina, and allow the Vietnamese people self-autonomy.  He was promptly ignored.

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Although Wilson correctly joined British economist John Maynard Keynes in opposing the harsh reparations imposed onto Germany, for fear of future troubles in Europe, he also signed the Treaty of Versailles -the U.S. Senate did not ratify it.  He then went home to a turbulent domestic picture, where the same white supremacist arrogance that caused him to ignore Ho Chi Minh would cause him to ignore the gunshots of race riots outside his bedroom window.

A few decades after the Treaty of Versailles set the stage for fascist clowns to take power in Germany, Otto Dix’s paintings went on to become part of the largest art gallery showing in history, when the Nazis placed it in with other ‘entartete kunst’ or ‘degenerate art’ for the German people to jeer at, before they hid or destroyed much of it.  Avant garde arts and music, especially jazz, were considered inferior stains on the human record, viruses that must be wiped out if humanity is to reach its peak potential.

Along with the burning of countless books, the Nazi regime destroyed priceless works of art that was bold enough to be free, to stick its tongue out, to say 2 + 2 = 5.

 

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In 1936, the same year the Nazi hordes fooled much of the world by hosting the Olympic Games in Berlin, putting on a massive theater production that signified strength through peace and racial tolerance, the Crystal Palace went down in flames.  A random fire had started in a storage room, and the fire department could not save the beloved structure from the power of the flame, that ancient, jumpy, seemingly aimless and irrational force that can turn anything it wants into dust.

Winston Churchill, viewing the inferno, said it was the “end of an era.”  He was correct in more ways than one.  As the Treaty of Versailles and the Great Depression set the stage for yet another, even worse world war, the idealism present in the Crystal Palace and other international expositions would no longer be so widely accepted in its naive, child-like form.

If the Crystal Palace represented the final culmination in human achievement, its destruction in flames represented the hubris we had to ever entertain such a notion in the first place.

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The luxury yacht Iolaire, like the Crystal Palace that had housed the same men, could not withstand the random, senseless forces of nature.  The sinking of the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic should have been enough warning for these boys to avoid boarding a ship without enough life boats and safety jackets, but World War 1 had beaten their rationality out of them.

It was New Years, the war was finally over, and they had families to get home to.  2 + 2 = 5 if we say so, tonight at least.  Sure the Titanic sunk in dark frozen waters, but if we have enough booze on hand to stick our tongues out at the ocean tonight, then that’s what we’ll do. 

As they broke their fingernails grabbing onto the jagged rocks, their faces being smashed into the cold sharp earth and pulled back out into the ocean once more, over and over again, the stars gazed down in absolute indifference.  There is no rationality to that, only calm, ancient indifference from the cosmos.

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And so it is that the year 1919 began, at least for an island of people in Northern Scotland.  What does any of this have to do with the lynching of Will Brown, you might ask?  When I say all things are connected, and that is where the beauty lies, I mean all things.  We have spent this piece zoomed out on an international scale, so the next piece will zoom in to the national and local scale context of the horror that occurred in the streets of Omaha in September of 1919.

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One thought on “The Lynching of Will Brown Part 2: The Crystal Palace, Eagles, and Organ Stops

  1. Pingback: The Lynching of Will Brown part 4 – Walk Well Through the Fire

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