Megali - adjective, noun - adjective 1. great or big in Greek -noun 1.. A nickname derived from my first and middle names

Monday, September 19, 2011

There is no Us and Them. There is only we.

Can you remember when your innocence was shattered?  I don't know if I do, because, for most people, I think it happens piecemeal as you advance towards adulthood.  But there are moments in life, like September 11, 2001, that may not shatter innocence, but rip away false notions of what the world is like as swiftly and shockingly as pulling off a band-aid.

When I was in middle school and high school, my family lived in a townhouse.  I hated it there; I missed my old home.  I called it, "The Townhouse", perhaps so that qualifier in its name would signify that it was less of a house, that it wasn't my home.  I may have been determined to loath the place, but I cannot deny the memories built there.  One such memory came when I was in the downstairs family room, alone, watching TV.  I happened upon a documentary about the Civil Rights Movement.  Of course, I knew about it.  Every Black History Month, it was a part of the curriculum.  The text of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech was printed on a poster displayed near the circle time area in my Kindergarten or first grade class, I can't recall which.  So, yes I had learned about the Civil Right Movement, taught facts about inequality and Rosa Parks and peaceful protest by many teachers over the years.  But their lessons never captured my attention or emotions the way this documentary did.  That's the thing about facts - they have the tendency to be cold and hard and yet somehow, not feel real.  Sometimes it takes pictures and video and hearing individual experiences to "get it."

Charles Moore's "They Fight a Fire That Won't Go Out" appeared in Life

Watching the water hoses turned on protesters ( the water pressure strong enough to "peel bark off a tree or separate bricks from mortar") horrified me.  The victims were protesters, innocent bystanders, children ... our fellow human beings for God's sake!  It took being witness, about forty years later, to understand how Americans were capable of relegating people to Other, second-class status.  It wasn't just to an intangible them or in other parts of the world that this happened.  I don't know why I was surprised, but I know that I was naive deluded to think that those things didn't happen here.  See: slavery, the Trail of Tears, Japanese internment ...  America, while beautiful, isn't perfect.  The United States and her people and government are not separate from Tank Man in Tiananmen Square or the Egyptian protesters earlier this year, nor so far removed from the perpetrators of the Holocaust or the Khmer Rouge regime.  All humans have the capacity to want the world to change and be a better place and to commit evil.  There is no Us and Them. There is only we.

Similar to my epiphany, Kathryn Stockett's The Help, set during the Civil Rights era and evoking reprehensible acts of racism, has opened others' eyes to injustice.  The novel has been a runaway hit, popular with book clubs and given readers, especially those who haven't experienced that time in our nation's history firsthand, "access to a more personal, intimate look inside race relations than could ever be gleaned from most history texts." I adore historical fiction.  From the books I gobbled up as a girl, like Number the Stars, The Devil's Arithmetic, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Sign of the Beaver, and oh! how I could go on and on, to what I'm reading now, The Historian, historical fiction comprised/s a significant chunk of my reading history.  Today's Daily Bzz, is The Help.  It has been on my "to read" list, but frequently checked out at the local library.  Regardless of whether BzzAgent selects me to spread word of mouth about the book, I will eventually read it to fulfill Gran's legacy.

Have you read or seen The Help?  What do you think about the divisive book and movie?  I'd also love if you shared the events that eroded your innocence.

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