Leo Frank, who was falsely accused of murdering one of his 13-year old factory workers, Mary Phagan. How someone was inspired to make a musical of such a traumatic event, I will never know. However, I had worked with the director of the show in the musical Grease before-hand, so I thought I would enjoy being in another musical. Boy was I mistaken!">
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Commentary on the News
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Rebecca Droeger

Three years ago, I was cast as part of the ensemble in the musical, Parade.  It was a dramatical show about a Jewish man, Leo Frank, who was falsely accused of murdering one of his 13-year old factory workers, Mary Phagan.  How someone was inspired to make a musical of such a traumatic event, I will never know.  However, I had worked with the director of the show in the musical Grease before-hand, so I thought I would enjoy being in another musical.  Boy was I mistaken!

Parade starts out showing how the small town of Marietta Georgia celebrates a Confederate version of Memorial Day.  It portrays the pride of the community and how close-knit everyone felt to one another.  Basically, the playwright was attempting to convey that the towns’ people were normal, average, salt-of-the-Earth, hard-working Americans.

As the first part of the play unfolds, it follows the course of events through the day, and how Mary’s path crossed with Leo’s on that fateful day.  After Mary’s murder, Leo was not initially thought of as a suspect.  Thanks to sloppy and questionable investigation techniques, a prosecutor with high political aspirations, and sensational journalism; by the time the trial occurred, the entire town was in an uproar and already had it in their collective mind that Leo Frank was responsible for the murder.

The remainder of the play showed the mob-mentality of the crowd in the courtroom, and the extreme hatred directed towards Leo Frank and his wife, Lucille.  Many anti-Semitic slurs were screamed during the trial scene; and you could literally feel the hatred of the towns’ folk towards Leo Frank.

Horrible words of hate were shouted at Leo, such as “Jew-*expletive*,” “hang-em,” “kill-him,” “make him pay!”  The audience could feel the venom from the angry mob which was frenzied up into violence.  These were the same people who were just your regular, every-day, all-American country folk just days before in the play’s timeline.

Once the verdict takes place in the trial scene, the audience witnesses the courtroom crowd’s gleeful celebration that a verdict of guilty was handed down.

The last part of the play shows Leo’s wife, Lucille’s dedication in proving his innocence and having the verdict overturned.  His wife works with the Mayor of the city, and all of her legal resources in order to commute the verdict of a death sentence to a life in prison sentence in the hopes that Leo’s innocence would be eventually proven.

Unfortunately, with the media involved, the town was whipped into a ferocious frenzy.  Many members gathered in town to reform the Ku Klux Klan under an order of the Nights of Mary Phagan.  They set-out to lynch Leo Frank so as to render the “justice” that could be thwarted by the system.   In their eyes, they thought the Jewish money might buy Leo Frank his freedom.

At the conclusion of the play, even though the audience is assured of Leo’s innocence, he was lynched by hanging.  The message intended to reach the audience was how a collective group of normally good people can do incredibly despicable acts of injustice.

Never again will I participate in a play of that magnitude.  I had many sleepless nights, woke up in night sweats, feelings of strangulation, and an overwhelming crushing feeling.  I had to act the part of one of the angry mob members, and it really exuded a dark heaviness over my soul.  It was so against my nature to feel this way about someone who I know was innocent, but I had to project in my mind that I believed he was evil in order to convincingly portray my part.  By the end of the performances, I was so mentally exhausted that it took quite a long time to recover.

In my mind, I had to reconcile how something could get so out of control.  Having the Holy Spirit inside me, it was foreign to ever understand the mob mentality and how dangerous it can become.  I have no other way to explain it than it can only be demonically orchestrated.

Satan plays on the weaknesses of people’s preconceived notions about certain “classifications” of people.  Then, you have a group of people who are branded as a certain category out of ignorance of the branders.  Whip up the preconceived notion about race, ethnic group or a religion and mix it with a traumatic event and fear, and you have a recipe for disaster.

This can happen with any group of people.  At a young age, we are taught to sort things into groups to see what things are alike and different.  Cars, trucks and vans are all vehicles.  Crayons, pencils, markers and pens are all writing utensils.  These same categories are applied to different ethnicities, races, religions, social class and political views.  Of course, these categorizations can be totally benign, or incredibly divisive.

The current fiasco has manifested itself with the Black Panthers accused of voter intimidation in Philadelphia polling places in the 2008 Presidential Election.  The Panthers accused in the case were dressed in militant uniforms with nightsticks clearly visible.  Couple that with the offensive posturing and the hate emanating from their faces, the case appeared to be clear that voter intimidation occurred; but not according to the Department of Justice who dropped the case.

What I find tremendously disturbing and sickening was the footage of one of the individuals, King Shamir Shabazz, raving like a lunatic that white people (who who lovingly calls “crackers") should be killed; Even their babies.  The hate in his eyes and his dark passion frightened me beyond what I can describe.

Granted, I’ve seen a lot.  I’ve usually read about it, or watched it in movies, and even old footage of communist like Hitler speak passionate words in another language; but I’ve never actually seen a real-live person speak words like that in my lifetime.  I was mortified, overwhelmed, and shocked.

Now, I realize that this group is a fringe group and it does not mean they will be able to organize a big enough coalition to cause problems; however, one crisis could give these folks ammunition to work others into frenzy.  Additional job loss, further debt crises, food shortages, you name it; and anything could happen.

The fanatic Shabazz reminds me of seeing Ayatollah Khomeini as a child and being frightened something awful.  I thought he was Satan when I was little, he looked so evil.  I had never seen someone with so much hate in his eyes.  I never knew the things he said until I was older.  But still, seeing them written in words, and watching Shabazz are two different experiences entirely.  It makes it real; it makes it close to home; and it makes it possible to happen right before our very eyes.

It goes without saying that acts of men like these are anti-love.  It’s not about being Anti-Semite in Leo Frank’s case, Anti-white in Shabazz’s case, or anything to do with racism, discrimination or religious intolerance.  These are all about anti-love for fellow mankind.  These individuals and their organizations make it about group classifications, but it really is about anti-love for fellow man for the sake of their cause.  Let’s just pray that God holds back the thunder from their coming storm until after we’re out of here.

About Rebecca Droeger

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