i began my second read of his book, “walking with the wind,” the day after his passing. the first time i’ve done any such thing. his death was not a surprise, really, having seen the footage of him at black lives matter plaza in d.c. he’d looked so small that day. or maybe not small, but fragile. delicate. i’d watched with my partner and thought so in the moment, but held it to myself, not wanting to tempt fate or make it real by saying the words out loud, not knowing he’d had a dose of chemo the day before.
i began my read that saturday morning intending, wanting. needing to hear his voice in my ear as my eyes scanned those pages again. it wasn’t very hard to do, given his very recognizable voice – that low, steady, stern sounding baritone. i began my read not only to honor him, but too for a remedy, a reminder? i wasn’t sure what, a salve to sooth the trauma of the desperate moment our country and our people currently finds itself in.
i let him tell me about his life again, open the window to a peak back in time, into the south of his youth and all of the things he felt growing up and knew to be wrong. he shared with me his beliefs and the philosophies and discipline behind them, shared with me the inspiration he felt when he first heard the voice of dr. king over the radio, took my hand and led me further on, giving me a little glimpse of the height of jim crow, the hatred and violence he and his fellow freedom riders faced as they sought righteous change, challenging the country to actually FULFILL it’s promises and ideals and never wavering, even after their friends had been found buried in earthen dams or hanging from trees.
the despair of the present around me, the last month or so, in particular, i’ve found more difficult to maintain any semblance of level as we row, row, row miserably along, deeper into the covoid. what we all thought might last a few months, now seems inevitably neverending, with president dump truck donnie at the helm, backed by his willing american stormtroopers, so many of ours lost forever down the rabbit hole of conspiracy and glenn beck, historian.
literally. back at the familial cesspool that is facebook, a woman i once knew, someone at one time i considered a mother, a nurse by profession, she’d once told me stories about holding the hands of aids patients and now she’s suggesting folks should read the great historian, glenn beck and racism doesn’t exist and irish slaves had it much, much worse and would you blame this baby for pearl harbor and george soros is destroying us from the inside, it’s all planned out, you see. here is a clip from glenn beck, historian, he will explain everything to you.
like, how do you even fucking bridge a gap like that? when a frightening percentage of americans can’t, are unable to, won’t, whatever the fuck it is, live their lives here based on an alternate, constructed reality crafted out of thin air, the poisonous fruit of the southern strategy.
a place called hope isn’t in fucking arkansas. a placed called hope, for me, is the country that spent a week honoring the life of a sharecropper’s son from alabama, in a manner fit for a king, only three generations removed from slavery, his head bashed by billy clubs each time he marched. his greatest would be his last, his homegoing, as if to say to us, “look at how far i’ve come. look, look, look at how beautiful it can be when our country fulfills its potential. it exists! there is hope!” and then in the letter he left us on the day of his funeral, reminding us of our moral obligation to say something in the face of injustice and untruths, our moral obligation to get in the way, to make good trouble, to do what you can. we are not all called to risk our lives, to leave our blood on the bridge – but we can all do what we can — whether it be linking arms with your fellows at the front of the line, fact checking folks who laud glenn beck, historian, or casting your vote in november.