Is Sparkman, the late cancer survivor and single dad, the human victim of this deep anti-government sentiment pulsing in America? Or a working-class casualty in a sordid, pedestrian crime in Methland, USA?
Saturday, September 26, 2009
The Murder of Bill Sparkman: We'll All Be Found Guilty
The man pictured above, Bill Sparkman, was the part-time Census worker who was murdered in Clay County, KY, a couple of weeks ago. Although he resided in Prestonsburg, Sparkman looks very familiar to me and Mrs. RSI and we may have seen him several times around Morehead. Sparkman's body was found nearly naked (except for socks) in a cemetery. He was bound up with duct tape and left hanging by a rope with "fed" written across his chest and his Census identification "duct-taped to the side of his neck, on the right side, almost on his right shoulder."
According to the coroner, Sparkman died from asphyxiation, but it hasn't been determined yet whether Sparkman died from hanging in that particular spot or whether he was killed and then moved to the cemetery to be displayed. Either way, the killing was designed to evoke memories of lynching. Either Sparkman was lynched with a great deal of terrifying ceremony of being stripped, bound, trussed, and hanged or his body was staged to imitate a lynching. Every killing is barbaric--even when it has military justification. But lynching is a particularly sick form of killing that functions as a kind of "terrorist ceremonial" designed to intimidate some sort of target population.
But who is being targeted in Sparkman's case. Does the lynching and the scrawling of "fed" across Sparkman's chest mean that the lynching was motivated by the anti-government sentiment associated with Glenn Beck and Michelle Bachmann? Or was the murder motivated by a more diffuse anti-government or anti-Obama sentiment? After the election, there was lots of chatter about assassinating Obama in this part of Kentucky. It's conceivable that someone decided to go after a much easier target in Bill Sparkman. Perhaps the murder of Bill Sparkman had something to do with the marijuana or meth business instead. At this point, there isn't enough information to come to a conclusion.
One thing that seems certain though is that the murder of Bill Sparkman is going to produce another spasm of Appalachian stereotyping. Here's Richard M. Benjamin of HuffPost:
Meth and OxyContin are just as pervasive in this area as cocain and crack are in other parts of the country. My kids know meth and pill addicts among their classmates and at least a couple of teachers have been arrested for drug offenses over the last five years. The stereotyping means that nobody in Eastern Kentucky or any part of Appalachia is able to escape the stain of these addication no matter how uninvolved they are with the drugs or how much they accomplish in their lives. It's like my students, my kids, and their friends have a "Methland" tattoo inked into their skins whether they like it or not. The stereotyping of Appalachians is not as pervasive or damaging as the stereotyping of African-Americans, and therefore not as much of a burden. But people feel the stereotyping all the same and it makes everything more difficult.
I doubt that anyone in this area is going to escape the stain associated with the murder of Bill Sparkman.