America was deeply torn after the Civil War. The fighting may have ended, but divisions had not been healed. Reconstruction, if anything, made matters worse. Policies did not quite appease the southerners, while northerners felt betrayed. And blacks in the south were not in a tremendously improved situation.
Imagine the United States of America is invaded by China. Think of the movie Red Dawn, if you've seen it. We have been conquered and most of our American culture has been banned. One day—remaining in our hypothetical scenario—an individual comes along and claims to be the leader who will free us from our oppressors. We believe him. We follow him. When it comes time to implement the plan to overthrow the invaders, our savior drops a bomb. The problem is with us, not them. We, he says, need to convert. We are shocked. We are offended. And so when the Chinese arrest our leader and sentence him to death, not only do we not object, we approve of his killing.
I'm a bit out of my element in meditating on Jesus the gardener. Full self-disclosure: when I see the flower bed outside the rectory, I see an ash tray for my cigar. Nevertheless, let me try. Our souls are an orchard and Jesus is the optimistic gardener. At least that's how I interpret the parable of the barren fig tree (cf. Lk 13:1-9).