MLK Day in a very small northern town

Sitting here alone, feeling a bit blue and heading toward a pity party is just not constructive. There are no speeches here abouts today. No events to commemorate the struggle of so many Americans to attain the prize, the vision, the promise that America was supposed to be.

So much wrong with how things are. So much war, so much pain, so much insecurity for most Americans as our economy falls under the crushing weight of keeping the top 1% in the lifestyle they just can’t get enough of. So easy to lose hope for tomorrow.

Tomorrow. Hope. Ah yes, for most of us, tomorrow has a little event that might feed the little candle flicker that is hope. But today…

So Attila flips on KXCI Community Radio, Tucson. Attila is grateful the station does an internet broadcast. She misses her favorite station in her current, remote location. She misses little about city life, but variety of radio and the opportunity to observe community events are sometimes longed for.

MLK Day in a very small northern town is pretty much just another day. About the only difference is county offices and the post office are closed. And too many of the locals will bitch about that, with resentful references to n*g*er day which Attila will never be able to hear without becoming ill and very sad for the pointless hate.

KXCI, the chance to be reminded that what is normal here is not normal everywhere. Special programming today. Lots of good music and lots of good memories about a time when vast numbers of people stopped tolerating the injustice that was institutional in America back when I was young. The Dj even played that lovely old recording of What the World Needs Now that starts with a man asking a youngster what terms like racism, hate, bigotry, prejudice mean. The sweet child keeps answering I don’t know, until the man asks what ‘prejudice’ is. The child answers ‘I think it’s when somebody’s sick’. The music, lyrics go on with bits of the song Abraham, Martin, and John, along with audio snips of famous speeches about our better angels, our purpose as a nation, our hopes, our dreams. There are also snips of the news announcing deaths of John, Martin, Bobby….

Songs of the struggle, of the era I recall as so confusing to a kid. My youthful confusion was that the struggle was needed at all. Why should there be ANY systemic, institutional inequity in my America? Why was it necessary to fight for what we say we already are as a nation, a people? I was so tender and naive. And as I watched the news, I heard such horrible things from my grandfather’s lips. It was shocking. And as tender as I was, it enraged me as it enlightened me a little about reality in America.

Mom and Dad did not raise me to accept the crap I was hearing from a grandparent. They did not raise me to support the fire hoses, ax handles, vicious dogs, storm troopers on horseback beating my fellow Americans I was seeing on the TV.

I was a scrawny white kid, living pretty much in poverty, but not feeling shame, not until the news showed me what scrawny black kids were dealing with, what their parents and grandparents were dealing with. I was ashamed of America and that confused me, because I also loved America.

Learned you could love something and see it wasn’t as perfect as you thought in your ignorance. Learned you could love and want to make better. Learned there were lots of people who felt the same. Learned some of those people were very brave and had a dignity that could not be beaten out of them by axe handles, batons, hooves of horses, teeth of dogs, and no amount of high pressure water would wash the dignity off of people who would not back down in their quest for justice.

KXCI brought it all back in a flood of memories, both horrible and ugly beyond description. In my island of one here in a rural community that will never really accept me, nor I it, there was reminder that here & now is not all there is. My local reality is not the decider of how the world is. No one’s local reality is the whole of the world.

I love the bits of speeches from the day. The flood of memories they bring reminds me of the larger picture, and all the good people I watched, all the good people I was lucky enough to encounter as my path merges with a broader road, better traveled road back then. Such incredible people.

Music, the happy, hopeful spirituals I have always loved, tho I have never been a part of any of the churches. How that singing feeds the soul. It was never about God, or Jesus, or the stories and myths for me. It was always about the hopeful voices, even as they would sing about bad times. Damn, I needed to hear that singing I don’t get to hear around here.

There was a time, a place where people didn’t accept hate for no reason beyond pigmentation. Change was possible, it happened, and though it still needs effort to complete the change, America is a better place than when I was young and naive.

Crackers abound where I live at present. And the crackers are a bit brittle of late. Tomorrow will be pretty difficult for some of them and as annoying as that is to me, I do feel some sadness for them, for their discomfort, for their narrowness that inhibits what is possible for them.

But tomorrow is hope.

Tomorrow is an amazing new leg of the march toward justice, racial, social, and economic. Those things are all interdependent. Poverty is not shameful to the poor. It is shameful to the society that accepts and institutionalizes it. Injustice is the real enemy of America; it is an hypocrisy we should not allow. It is rot in the very foundation of our beloved country.

Tomorrow, as most of the nation celebrates and hopes, I will step back quietly and let my soul be with ghosts of my childhood. So many did not get to the promised land, but they got us down the road, closer to it. I will step back and let their energies surround me, and hope they see America now. I will ask their blessing on us all.

Thanks, KXCI, for letting me hear those voices again. Thanks for helping my soul find the energies again. Thanks for reaching out and spreading hope to places you don’t even know exist. You can never know how much good it does. A ripple in a pond, little waves, radio waves, extending to places unknown, and making subtle changes.

The ghosts, the dignity, the hope, the fight, all go on. America is still a promise and a work in progress. There is hope and from time to time, it is a fine thing to celebrate it all. I pray it reminds me to never be complacent and never sit for the crap that too many still accept as the norm.

That little child in that recording had a point about prejudice. Thanks for reminder..


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