Thursday, July 9, 2015

A courage campaign

I can see how life comes full circle.  Maybe it is something that happens to all of us.  When I was a young man in the midst of the marches on DC,  I felt on fire with the injustice and was filled with righteous indignation.  Now I see social injustice coming to the forefront of my mind again.  I don't feel righteous indignation as much as compassion to help mend the divide that is happening.

So, I have decided that it is time to move from being an arm chair looker at the restless times that are happening in this state, and join a unity movement that hopefully will gain momentum.  It started at the grass roots level here in this city where the Emanuel murders occurred, and has now grown into a state wide idea to get people of diverse backgrounds talking to each other.  Really talking--not just making pleasantries. One of the ways to do this is to eat together and talk about what we think and feel in the three weeks after the nine were murdered.

This is like having an Al-Anon meeting in a way: we meet strangers and a few people we know, share from the heart without fear, and listen to what others have to say while having a meal together.  It's called a Courage Campaign.  I am going to my first lunch get together today.  I don't see this as courage as much as being a part of healing by sharing what is in my heart and on my mind.

The division within this state since the murder of the Emanuel Nine has slowly eroded the good feelings of unity that happened after the shootings.  I listened to the debates at the state house over the removal of the Confederate battle flag.  I read hate filled comments on social media.  And I could see that the lines are firmly entrenched, just as they were on the battlefields some 150 years ago.

My ancestors fought in the Civil War.  Most came home according to written history.  One died of wounds.  My great grandfather was wounded twice at Gettysburg but managed to get back to Virginia.  I don't know what kind of people they were in terms of how they viewed the war or slavery. What I do know is that none of the letters I have from after the war, mention it at all.  It is as if that terrible time did not exist but was replaced with a desperate desire for normalcy of business and family.

What kind of horror my ancestors saw, I can only imagine.  Did they still see the blood from the musket and bayonet in later years?  I don't know.  None of that was passed down in oral or written history.  I have photos of one great grandfather as an old man sitting with a long grey beard.  His eyes are piercing.  I wish I knew his thoughts on whether his fighting was worth the blood and the death of hundreds of thousands.

Maybe the best way to determine that is to look at those family members that I did know.  My mother was an example of a person who was against segregation. I remember being with her when she greeted the first black lady who attended the church.  The higher church officials walked out, but my mother talked to and shook hands with the lady who walked into that church to integrate it.  Some how that seems courageous to me--to be the first to attend an all white church and to be one of few who greeted her.

And my father was a Democrat with a strong dislike of Nixon and Reagan. He once told me that it was important to treat everyone fairly and to not judge a person by color.  I had good teachers in my formative years about treating people well and without prejudice.  I didn't grow up with hatred for someone who was "different" from me.

Nonetheless, I am sure that prejudice was there in some form among my ancestors.  It may not have been overt, but perhaps it was simply a "separation" of space and heart and social mores.  But I want to do something now to provide space and heart and consciousness and unity as best I can.  I can't make up for the past, but this small effort of a Courage Campaign may be a good start.


  1. Fantastic, Syd!
    I've been thinking about you, wondering what you're doing, and here you are doing good things.
    It's hard, isn't it? The real work always is. Thank you for being a force for that which is good and right on this earth.

  2. Syd, as you know I believe in the community footwork, lobbying and activism that can bring about change. It shouldn't be left to politicians and out here many people of all ages and races gather to protest or discuss campaigns, build trust and goodwill. Slow work but necessary. Because if it doesn't happen, nothing changes.

    Good for you.

  3. Strife. It seems to be everywhere. Sad.
    Checking in to see how you are. You seems to have everything under control :), stay safe and happy.

  4. It is good to get out and meet new people. Let them know that not everyone feels the same way. Those shouting get all the attention. While the rest of us just keep doing what we can one person at a time.

  5. Syd--good comment, good start to maybe heal the divided minds of a local community.

    I wonder if you truly understand the divisions of this country, especially those of race and wealth, or better yet said opportunity to earn wealth. White America has one view of this culture and Black America has completely different viewpoint and there will never be a closing of the chasms of division until those two viewpoints are more closely aligned. LBJ tried and failed on the economic front and ever president and congress has tried and failed on the education front since 1954 (Brown v Bd of Ed.).

    I have read fewer more honest words on this subject than what you have written here.

    BUT the division is NOT caused by nor is it over the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. SC never went to war under that banner and if up to 850,000 dead by 1865 didn't solve the issues, if all the marches, assassinations, murders, radicalism,riots, laws, and everything else failed. Then I put forth with have NOT IDENTIFIED the true issues of our divisions.

    I am that black woman in your church every day i continue to live IN Detroit in 48205. Few, very few of my neighbors have a good thing to say about me, and it's ok i want them to fear my Mossberg more than be my friend. bad attitudes and habits run two ways.

    So what or should we ask WHO wants a divided nation and WHY? The WHO even have the T party fanatics voting against their best interests--how? By keeping the nation divided, race is as good a wedge as money, culture, education, and a thousand other local issues.

    Did you happen to read last years study from Princeton and Northwestern University on this country's governance? Look it up and find some things to really discuss that would mayhaps shave some of the distance between cultural views that divide people.

    1. Thank you, Mark. I doubt if I do truly understand because I have come from privilege but I am willing to have a dialogue to understand. Looking up those studies too. Peace, man.

    2. Syd briefly--my parents both worked, we did not live in poverty. their choice to remain in Detroit was conscious, our family easily could have bought a nice suburban 5 bedroom house. Now I am the last one of the 200 year old branch of Durfee's that have include Lawyers, Judges, Engineers, and Doctors to live in the city. I have seen the best of this place and the slide down the slippery slope of hate and no dialog other than race centered. That dialog which has race at every core of every position in every issue.

      Personally I do not care a whit for them who would use the residents for their own greedy means, I will just as rapidly call a white "leader" a political whore as I will a black preacher trying to sway opinion for his own self wealth a Pulpit Pimp. The thing of it is when I am put down or die of natural causes people who know me, read me, will know i gave my all to tell truth in the vain hope that all people will break free of their learned biases--that is what, why and where I am. Exactly where I am supposed to be.

  6. Good post Syd and interesting comments. I get so discouraged with the whole mess but pray that common sense and LOVE will overcome.


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