Michael Moore and Emmett Till

News & Politics

Michael Moore's recent controversial blog post calling for crime scene photos from the Newtown massacre be released so that the American public can really see what happens to a child's body when shot at close range with an assault rifle got me thinking.

His post was reported around the same day that my daughter came home from school and passionately retold the story of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old African-American boy who was murdered and disfigured beyond human recognition in 1941 for doing something deemed improper with a white woman in Mississippi—like looking at her or speaking to her. Mamie Till, Emmett's mom, held an open casket funeral, and she showed her son's almost featureless, monstrously bashed-in, bloated head, to reporters and others who dared to look. Many people criticized her for that decision. How could she put her child on display like that? What kind of a mother would do that? She wanted the world to see what they had done to her son, and she never stopped telling his story until she died in 2003. The trial was predictably a travesty and the perpetrators walked, in part because the judge said the body looked like something Mamie Till had dug up, while her real son was alive and well in Chicago. Today, the Emmett Till story is taught in social studies classes, and pointed to as a turning point, or at least a factor in civil rights history. 

I would never presume to tell Newtown parents who lost their children in that shooting what to do. I don't know what I would do if I were in their position. I read that one parent, Veronica Pozner, brought Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy to see her son Noah's body at the funeral. He had been shot 11 times. I didn't read any descriptions of his wasted little body. I guess it's not considered in good taste. 

But I don't think Michael Moore's idea is crazy. Apparently weeping fathers of slain six-year-olds at Senate hearings about the proposed assault weapons ban aren't doing the trick. Diane Feinstein's description of how assault weapons don't just punch holes in people, they dismember them; authoritiative statements that Adam Lanza could not have killed that many children that fast but for the power of his weaponry—all of these mere words are failing to register for the merchants of death, the NRA and their legislative lackeys. And now the assault weapons bill is off the table, and the limits to magazine capacity is in jeopardy. Newtown is being allowed to fade into memory.

Sometimes, an actual picture is needed.

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