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.