Thursday, October 24, 2013
The Good Old Days That Never Were
Suppression of another kind Birmingham, AL-1963
I had always held a highly romantic vision of the latter half of the 18th Century. Partly because my maternal Grandmother told me stories from her youth. She was born in 1886 in Cold Spring MN near present day St Cloud MN. Her stories often aroused in me a lively and rich fantasy of those times.
One day after one of her stories, enraptured me in a vicarious state of nostalgia—I innocently asked, Grandma don't you miss those days. She looked at me with a quizzical look on her face and after a long pause, said, NO "they were terrible."
From her answer I surmised that just surviving was brutal and harsh, that people were cold and often cruel, hardened by living in that environment and in those conditions.
Such is the naiveté of youth and the steep learning curve of each new generation.
She had survived the deprivations and her life had improved with each year she attained. She was 93 when she died.
At times we all, long after some romanticized idea of our past as a Nation. When men were noble, ignoring the fact that magically thinking we are noble and striving to attain nobility are two different things.
We delude ourselves and picture a kinder gentler time of grace and beauty and that in our present modern times we long for the "myth of America" when fact we are still striving to attain "a MORE perfect Union"—which we have not yet attained.
We have created for ourselves, just as I had created for myself, as a youth, a mythic time and place, when everyone got along and behaved with dignified respect for the rights of others, a time and place that never existed.
We are NOT a Christian Nation when we do not fed the poor, house the homeless and clothe the naked. We are NOT champions of Liberty when we suppress voting rights under the pretext of voting fraud. We are NOT a nation of EQUALITY when we treat ANYONE in our society as UNEQUAL.
We believe the myth and miss the reality, and in doing so we fool ourselves into believing the times before ours were better, when they never were.
We believe we were virtuous when we were NOT. And in the process we gloss over the near eradication of Native Americans, the genocidal nature of slavery, the shameful 100 years of "Jim Crowe"—that kept Africans-Americans in economic and social bondage until 1965. That INEQUALITY is still reverberating today. In believing the myth, we obliterate the hard lessons that instruct us and makes us wise—preventing us from finally attaining "that perfected vision our founders saw.
Todays "conservatives are preoccupied with taking us back to the beginning of the eighteenth century thereby: nullifying the Federal Government, re-litigating states rights, eradicate voting rights, rolling back women's rights, closing down the democratic process, threatening secession—and threatening to dissolve this Union, by economic terrorism, if necessary and in the process destroy this UNION that was won in bloody conflict 150 years ago. The dishonor they heap upon the dead who fought for the vision of a perfected UNION will not be born without the shame of dishonoring their sacrifice.
Commentary: I was alive and witnessed the visually jarring ugliness of the Jim Crowe South. I graduated high school the year that photo was taken. I lived in the South in the final days of that shamefully tumultuous era. It still shocks me that my beloved America ever allowed that kind of legalized brutally to exist. Yet here we are today fifty years later and we are creating Voter Suppression laws under the pretext of rooting out non existent, "voter fraud". The Southern Strategy embraced by the Conservative movement has unleashed a new breed of hoodless clansmen, they no longer hurl racial epithets, now, they speak in thinly coded phraseology that makes other Americans—"separate BUT NOT EQUAL". Some times I need to remind myself what my grandmother taught me: "the good old days never were that good'. The things I remember from my childhood—that were good and still fill me with pride were the struggles of ordinary Americans who fought and even died to—"perfect this Union".
In memory of my grandma Nellie Fitzgerald