Oblivion: A Literary Act
It is painful but necessary for some Americans over the age of sixty to remember that Medgar Wiley Evers was assassinated on June 12, 1963 in Jackson, Mississippi by Byron “Delay” Beckwith and that Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly assassinated John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. To minimize remoteness from the actual encouraged by the fantasy of history which enthralls American citizens in 2013, it is necessary to remember. To remember is painful, because death is an agony, the consolations of faith and spirituality notwithstanding. Our American penchant for trashing moments of historical martyrdom with celebration is shameful and undignified. There is some virtue in displacing celebration with analysis of cold facts and the small contributions of lukewarm recall. Tears for Evers and Kennedy, like prayer, should occur in private. Analysis of what these assassinations tell us about the present should be internationally public. Analysis unveils how the world is resegmenting itself and why, to some extent, the United States of America is devolving into barbarity. Can we abstain for a cosmic second from the mechanical fornications of literary criticism and exercise the option of being homo seriosus?
Remembering the deaths of Evers and Kennedy does intensify notice of the gap between privilege and deprivation; the abyss between the primal racial contract of the United States and the regrettable pretense that the contract has been canceled; the distance between magnanimous statecraft and the deadly theatricality of American government which results from sinister deconstruction of the Constitution of the United States. Analysis of the actual must stand in opposition to the game of critiquing the real. From such a vantage, analysis retards its becoming more of a whiteface parody of itself than it currently is.
Reading Michael V. Williams’s Medgar Evers: Mississippi Martyr (2011) within a context made available by Ira Katznelson’s Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time (2013) strengthens the work of memory, because these two books are literary acts informed by moral transparency and integrity. They are models for engaging the unfreedom of freedom, the dominant oxymoron of the United States in 2013.They expose historical sources for the existential dread explicit in the narrative of oblivion being told by globalization, a narrative we are condemned to annotate with fear and trembling.
Jerry W. Ward, Jr. October 29, 2013