I unintentionally learned this week about the lynching of Eph Gizzard from the Woodland Street Bridge here in town. The thing I keep thinking about is the crowd. It’s very easy for me to imagine the raw fear of Gizzard.
And I feel like, as ugly as it is, I can imagine being in the mob. I can understand the heady mixture of anger and self-righteousness and bonding and, once you’ve broken into the jail and beaten a few cops, that feeling that you can do whatever you want and no one can stop you.
But the crowd. The description of people lining the bridge and crowding the roofs of commercial buildings and houses? The city like vultures.
This isn’t the only time I’ve read of Nashville doing this. During the Battle of Nashville, papers reported that citizens came out and sat on (or stood, I suppose, on) the roofs of their houses and buildings to watch the battle and, as it became more and more obvious the Union was going to win, the vultures grew more and more quiet.
And it makes me wonder what the scene was really like when the Trail of Tears passed through. Some stories of people lining the streets and reacting to the condition of the displaced people in horror and trying to feed them and give them blankets only to be rebuked by the military escorts do survive. But I wonder how many then were standing on rooftops, watching like vultures?
I mean, I guess, at one level, these are just spectators–the crowd at a ball game or at a rock concert but for death instead.
But I still can’t quite find a way into those heads. But I experience their evil on par with the mob’s.