So, I haven’t posted a lot lately. Partly because I’ve been busy and partly because pretty much everything I wanted to post was a negative reaction to negative incidents going on in this country and I just didn’t want to go there constantly with this blog. Sometimes is fine, all the time, not so much. I’ve been having a hard time being optimistic and did not want to go all curmudgeon, all the time. Then came the weekend of the 4th of July. I took a couple of extra days off from work and spent the long holiday weekend with my family. On the day of the 4th we went to a place for lunch here in Dallas, off of lower Greenville, called the Truckyard. It is an outdoor seating area with a bar on one side and several food trucks to choose from on the other. We had lunch and a couple of drinks sitting outside in the shade enjoying a warm but beautiful day. Next we made our way to Northpark Mall to watch dinosaurs snack on unlucky humans in Jurassic World. It’s amazing how a couple of mojitos make that more funny than scary, lol. It was the perfect way to beat the heat of a Texas afternoon in July. After the movie we jumped on DART and went down to Fair Park to watch the fireworks in the Cotton Bowl. We got there well before dark and had a chance to sit and do a bit of people watching. It was fun and as the crowd got larger as it started getting dark the “wave” made it’s way around the stadium a few times. The fireworks were good although they played some really cheesy music with them. Someone seriously needs to work on that. One of the issues with riding DART to an event like that is that while it may be a bit crowded going, it’s not too bad because people arrive at varying times, but everyone leaves at the same time. So there was a huge crowd waiting for the DART trains. And here finally, I come to the point of this post. The first is that it was a very mixed crowd of people. There were lots of white people, lots of black people and lots of hispanic people. All enjoying a community event together with no issues whatsoever. Brings a bit of perspective. Because even though there is institutional and systemic racism rampant in this country, when it comes right down to it, most people are happy to live and let live and that is encouraging for the prospect of changing the course of things in this country. But this is what really struck me. I was standing a bit behind the others in my group and was looking around people watching again while waiting for the train. And I’m not exaggerating when I say there were hundreds of people waiting. Off to my left were two old gentlemen. I’d say in their late seventies or early eighties, both white haired and clearly elderly. They were both wearing the ubiquitous old man summer outfit of short-sleeved button down shirts, with knee-length shorts and white socks with sneakers. And they were holding hands. They were clearly solicitous of each other in the crowd of people, hanging on tight, making sure the other was ok. I focused on their large, gnarled hands intertwined and it brought me to tears. Not because they were holding hands, but because they COULD hold hands. These were two men who not only felt it was safe to do so, but were completely ignored doing so as if it were the most natural thing in the world. This is not something that has been so for very long. I don’t know if it was the SCOTUS same-sex marriage decision that made them feel safe or if they had felt so before that, but I know that while I have seen some young gay and lesbian couples showing affection in public I had never seen two older men doing so. It was unsafe to do so for so very long. Men holding hands in public not so long ago would have been at the very least verbally attacked and more likely physically attacked. And I stood there in that crowd, waiting for the train, watching those old guys just be a couple and do so without harassment or disgust or whispering and pointing or any other negative reaction and I was proud of my country. Proud that it is finally realizing that love, no matter it’s form is a good thing and everyone deserves it and deserves respect and dignity no matter who they love.
Selma is a powerful, moving, and unflinching look at the true story of the events in Selma, Alabama in 1965 during which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement were working to get legislation passed that would ban the laws, known as Jim Crow laws in the Southern states, that disenfranchised black voters because they disproportionately affected them. Those laws included poll taxes that the poor couldn’t afford, having to have a voucher from an already registered voter before they could register, and laws that said when they registered to vote, their name and address had to be published in the newspaper, leaving them open to harassment or worse from the KKK. This movie is visceral in its portrayal of the violent retaliation against the peaceful protests, including the deaths that occurred during this time. Those include the four little girls killed when their church was bombed; a young black church deacon, shot and killed by a state trooper during a peaceful march while he was trying to protect his mother from a policeman’s baton; a white unitarian minister in Selma for the march, beaten and killed by white racists; and the death of a white woman who was killed by the KKK for the crime of marching with and driving home afterwards, fellow black marchers. It culminates in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama that began with about 3,200 marchers, black and white, in Selma and ended five days later in Montgomery by which time there were 25,000 marchers and where Dr. King gave a speech on the steps of the state capitol. Shortly thereafter, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.
Selma was directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb. David Oyelowo plays Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with Carmen Ejogo as Corretta Scott King. Tom Wilkerson plays President Lyndon B. Johnson and Tim Roth plays Alabama governor George Wallace. David Oyelowo is excellent as Dr. King. He has the cadences of his speech, the way he moved, his quiet authority and his fiery speech making down to a tee. Carmen Ejogo is also excellent as Mrs. King, having to deal with the death threats not only against her husband but also against her children and herself, as well as Dr. King’s long absences and reputed affairs. This movie touches on all of that and the tensions it placed on their marriage, but also the obvious love they had for each other. Selma has a very large cast that includes all of Dr. King’s peers, and all the supporting players in this true life drama from the FBI to judges to clergy to everyday folks whose lives were impacted by these events, and there is not a sour note in the bunch. It is one of the most well acted movies I’ve ever seen. The 60’s era costumes, set dressings, cars and locations were spot on.
The thing that I can’t stop thinking about however, is how much is still to be done. Because racism is institutionalized and almost blind in this country. But mostly about the rich and powerful who use propaganda to keep black against white against brown against gay against woman against anyone or anything “other” in order to keep our eyes away from their pillaging of wealth from the bottom to the top. As Dr. King said in his speech on the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, “They segregated southern money from the poor whites; they segregated southern mores from the rich whites; they segregated southern churches from Christianity; they segregated southern minds from honest thinking; and they segregated the Negro from everything. That’s what happened when the Negro and white masses of the South threatened to unite and build a great society: a society of justice where none would prey upon the weakness of others; a society of plenty where greed and poverty would be done away; a society of brotherhood where every man would respect the dignity and worth of human personality.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. saw through the propaganda, refused to be deterred from speaking out and ultimately was murdered in order to shut him up. Sometimes I despair that enough people will wake up and take back their rights from the vultures who want everything. But movies like this, that remind us of the struggle, the reasons for those struggles, the values we hold dear, and those who were willing to give everything so that we can all someday live in peace and dignity and plenty, give me hope that enough people remember, enough people care, and enough people will keep speaking out so that sometime in the not so distant future Dr. King’s dream may come to pass.