Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Among Sebastian Junger’s exceptional gifts as a journalist is his ability to make a straightforward recitation of facts deeply visceral, the sort of writing that you can feel in your nerve endings hours after you read it. His lengthy, expertly paced explanation of the human body’s response to drowning in The Perfect Storm will both astound you and give you phobias for the rest of your days.
In chapters 7 and 8 of A Death in Belmont–Junger’s 2006 book about the notorious Boston Strangler and his own family’s tangential connection to the case, which I’m currently in the middle of reading–he takes us into the life of Roy Smith, a poor black sharecropper’s son from Oxford, Mississippi who was the first real suspect in the killings. He then expands the lens to describe several instances of Southern lynchings and other injustices perpetrated by whites against blacks during the height of Jim Crow America. These are unflinching, grotesque, savage, difficult to read. And they absolutely should be read to fathom the level of atrocity that accompanied a single lynching, much less the thousands that occurred.
If you know anybody who still feels entitled to ask aloud why black people can’t simply “let go of the past” you should have them read chapter 8 of A Death in Belmont. And then you should ask them why black people should ever forget, much less ever forgive, what was done to them as a matter of course for the decades following their era of institutional bondage.