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Fratricide

By Larry Spencer ~

There was a very upsetting story on CNN.com a couple of weeks ago. What disturbs me most is that few people seem to have noticed the story and even fewer apprehended its horror.

It involves decades of torture and ultimately murder, all at the alleged behest of one of the most revered father-figures in the world.

This personage has many sons (the exact number is the subject of intense argument) but the story concerns just three of them: Paul, Peter and Baptiste. According to the official records, Baptiste was the youngest, although one of the odd things about this family is that each son insists that he is the first-born.

For years, Paul and Peter picked on Baptiste. They would put him down and leave him out, but that’s normal in most families. What was not normal were the tortures. For example, on more than one occasion, the two older boys tied Baptiste so he could not move, lit a bonfire under his bare feet and kept him there until he could not cry out anymore. Other tortures were more clever and I cannot bring myself to describe them.

That would be bad enough, but the father made it worse. Although Baptiste begged his father to make the other boys stop torturing him, the older boys claimed that their father actually encouraged this behavior. The father’s wishes in this matter are a matter of dispute, but it is known that he has sanctioned extremely violent behavior toward people both inside the family (for discipline) and outside it (for not showing proper respect) on more than one occasion.

Whatever the case, all parties agree that the father kept a very close eye on his sons and could have stopped the tortures at any moment. Nobody is sure why he did not, but suggestions have included that he wanted to toughen Baptiste’s character, that he wanted to test Baptiste’s loyalty (would Baptiste run away or not?), or that he simply felt Baptiste’s safety was not as important as Peter and Paul’s freedom to do whatever they wanted.

Left unchecked, Peter and Paul eventually tortured their brother to death.

Peter and Paul were put on trial for murder, and the father for conspiracy, but the jury could not reach a verdict. Although the evidence was compelling, most jurors had so much respect for the father that they could not bring themselves to believe he had done anything wrong. As for the sons, by the time the trial took place, the media scrutiny had motivated them to largely reform their violent ways. That, plus the fact that most jurors were relatives of the family, was enough to bring about a hung jury.

As I said, this story went almost unnoticed on CNN. Maybe that’s because the whole thing was buried in a couple of throw-away sentences in the main story.

The throw-away sentences:

Anabaptists had the distinct notoriety of being tortured and killed by both Catholics and Protestants…. Anabaptist men and women…were mocked by neighbors, burned at stakes and drowned in rivers.

The main story was written by one of Baptiste’s descendants, yet is inexplicably concerned with whether it is proper to sing the national anthem at sporting events. (What???) You can read it here.

Forget about the national anthem! Don’t people see that there are larger issues and disturbing questions here??

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