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There really was a "war" on telephone poles, and Eula Biss, in her article, "The War on Telephone Poles" (Harper's, Feb. 2009, pp. 19 - 22) tells all about it.
Ms. Biss, with facts and humor, describes this war, which was first reported in 1889 by the New York Times.
"Whenever telephone companies erected poles, homeowners and business owners were sawing them down, or defending their sidewalks with rifles. Property owners in Red Bank, New Jersey, threatened to tar and feather the workers putting up telephone poles."
But there was a darker side to telephone poles.
"In 1898, in Lake Cormorant, Mississippi, a black man was hanged from a telephone pole. And in Weir City, Kansas. And in Brookhaven, Mississippi. And in Holdenville, Oklahoma, where the hanged man was 'riddled with bullets.' In Danville, Illinois, a black man was hanged from a telephone pole, cut down, burned, shot, and stoned with bricks. A black man was hung from a telephone pole in Belleville, Illinois, where a fire was set at the base of the pole and the man was cut down half alive, covered in coal oil and burned. While his body was burning, the mob beat it with clubs and cut it to pieces."
There's more, much more.
"In Shreveport, Louisiana, a black man charged with attacking a white girl was hanged from a telephone pole. 'A knife was left sticking in the body.' In Cumming, Georgia, a black man accused of assaulting a white girl was shot repeatedly, then strung up from a telephone pole.
"A postcard was made from a photo of a burned man hanging from a telephone pole in Texas, his legs broken off below the knee and his arms curled up and blackened. Postcards of lynchings were sent out as greetings and warnings until 1908, when the postmaster general declared them unmailable. 'This is the barbecue we had last night,' reads one."
Moving right along.
"In Pittsburg, Kansas, a black man's throat was slit and his dead body was strung up on a telephone pole. 'At first the negro was defiant,' the New York Times reported, 'but just before he was hanged he begged hard for his life.
"In Cumberland, Maryland, a mob used a telephone pole as a battering ram to break into the jail where a black man charged with the murder of a policeman was being held. They kicked him to death, then fired twenty shots into his head. They wanted to burn the body, but a minister asked them not to."
Ms. Biss says that over 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress during the 20th century, but none of them became law. "Seven presidents lobbied for anti-lynching legislation, and the House of Representatives passed three separate measures, each of which was blocked by the Senate."
I recall, years ago, of reading how men from a Methodist church in a small southern town, following an evening prayer meeting, decided they needed to lynch a black man, and did so. They had a great time. Knowing something of the religious demographics of the southern part of the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century, one can be fairly certain that most of those involved in the lynchings of blacks were members of either a Methodist or Baptist church.
Good Christians, too. Believed in Jesus. Going to heaven. Baptized and born again in the Holy Spirit!
Of course, the religious right, is not into lynching blacks today, but rather have taken after gay people (in every way but actually stringing them up), and they cry out, in wounded whimpering, that these United States is a Christian nation, always has been, and by God, if they have their way, it always will be. Some wish to stone gays to death just like God instructs his followers to do!
As if that would make us better people.
If we've always been a Christian nation, maybe we ought to look for another God. Or none at all.