Saturday, May 24, 2014
Just spent 5 days over in Tishomingo State Park with a couple friends and their families for our annual summer kick-off camping trip. It was a good trip, different since Gina and Suzette were not along. But as Suzette said just before she ditched me for good, 'You knew it would not last forever. All things come to an end'. I didn't, actually, but...they do.
I spent a LOT of time in my hammock, first below Amanda's camper and when they had to leave a day earlier, I moved it to the other side of my campsite. I wrote a good bit on my Jones story, the flow of noisy kids is ever inspiration even though my own brood is nearly silent at home. If not for Ben's banjo practice through the day, I'd think I was here alone.
One of the things I try to do while traveling, even if it's only 2 hours away, is find a book set in the area. Barring that, I will read any ghost story, they are especially good when camping. I love feeling spooky-not scared or worried or fearful, those are all bad states of being, but spooky is fun. It adds to the ambiance, that scuffle in the leaves behind you could be all kinds of things instead of just a chipmunk. In the same way marshmallows add to hot chocolate, it's delicious to be spooked.
This time around, along with a couple YA novels (my favorite fiction genre by a LONG shot) I added Natchez Burning by Greg Iles. We were camping on the Natchez Trace and it's set in Natchez, Mississippi, the author's hometown and deals with the Jim Crow era. It's his 4th book featuring the main character, Penn Cage and the first of three about this particular storyline. I was in tears at the end of the first chapter and have had a hard time reading it, though it sucks you in and I am sitting here both itching to get back to it and wanting to forget all about it. I have to wonder what makes me feel that way.
I remember learning in school, probably around 4th grade, about slavery. Before then, I don't know that I ever thought about black and white people. My father's secretary was black, the girl I stayed with when I needed a sitter, Narissa, was black, there were a few black kids in my class at school. Asians and Hispanics were total unknowns, characters on TV. Black people were just other people. My father loved to tell stories of funny things Elizabeth (his secretary) had said or done, she was young and very superstitious and loved to dance and sing and had lots of energy and 2 little girls at home that she doted on, so she was always up to something that amused him. She drove me around to doctor appointments and even to school sometimes, she and Narissa were fixtures in my childhood.
When I learned about the Civil Rights movement and segregation and slavery and all the discrimination and nasty history, I had a rock in my gut made of guilt-I was sorry I was white and I was sorry I was glad I was white so my burden of memory was less. My ancestors were dirt poor, no slave owners in my past. During the early 60's, my father was a seminary student and then an assistant pastor working in Chattanooga so while he may not have marched, he certainly never lynched anyone, either.
When I was older and read about the Klan and what they did, I was sick for a week. My mother married this...man...who was from the flat part of Alabama over near Mississippi and who was all for the Klan, saying they deterred ALL violence and that a man who hit his wife or kids could expect a visit and would be set straight and race was not a factor. He viewed them as masked vigilantes that rode around the county dealing out punishment to evildoers. It was a big deal to be a member, an honor.
I moved in with my sister until my father was able to buy a house and never set foot under his roof again. At 14, I thought the group was a thing of the past, a stain on the south that would eventually fade.
I think it all comes down to, I don't understand hate for the sake of hate. A person is not born by their own choice and they don't decide to be a certain race or if they will be gay or Jewish. But people DO decide at some point to hate that very thing the other person has no control over and punish them for it and often anyone who helps them in any way. It's the ultimate shittiest thing, ever. And the south seems steeped in it, though there is hate everywhere for all manner of things. Google 'war' for more info.
I do know the other part of the way I feel, the part I can identify with no pondering at all is that I feel helpless to anything about it. I read about the murder of a man who committed the 'crime' of registering to vote. Or the rape of a woman who was unlucky enough to be pretty and draw attention to herself and needed to be 'taken down'. I feel rage and disgust and fear and even some hate of my own.
It's a powerful book and a story that needs more light cast on it. I think now more than other times, when gay rights are in the forefront, there needs to be that reminder of how hating an entire group of people solved nothing and has left an entire region with edges that are still tattered and may never fully recover. And to what end? WHY is my big question/issue. Who gave one group the authority to cast judgement on another group and then end their LIVES because of the way they were born? That kind of hate is taught-someone did that on purpose!
As you can see, I am still trying to wrap my head around it.