Yesterday marked 50 years since “Bloody Sunday” — the first attempt by non-violent protesters to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama as a part of the march to Montgomery. The behavior of the State Troopers and other local law enforcement is a black mark on the soul of Alabama. It left scars that may never completely heal, both on those who were working for voting rights and those who sought to maintain the status quo.
Today at mass, after communion we heard a lovely, soulful piano rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” It is a good thing that my mascara is waterproof. Images filled my head — the juxtaposition of the attitudes and beliefs of various family members clashed with each other and with society.
I grew up in Alabama in the 50’s and 60’s. I am of an age to remember asking about White and Colored water fountains, restrooms and movie theater entrances. I have memories of seeing the news on TV when Bull Connor turned the dogs loose; I remember George Wallace in the door at the University of Alabama. JFL’s assassination and Martin Luther King’s assassination are real life events for me. It was very confusing. Why were the asian and other international families more or less accepted and the black families not? (yes, those families that were sort of accepted were generally scientists employed at TVA); Why would someone shoot a US president or a black Baptist preacher?
In my world, we still stood for Dixie with even more pride that the Star Spangled Banner. The only version of that other song (Battle Hymn of the Republic) that we sang generally had words that were making fun of school or striking out at other things that children like to rail about.I could sing them now and type them out, but they seem so petty and mean at this point in my life. My father held a deep distrust, and maybe even hatred of Catholics. And yet, this morning I was moved to tears as I sat in a Catholic Church listening to the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
One song brings memories of another. Past life plays a role in shaping current life. Injuries, like the injustice, fear and just plain meanness at the Edmund Pettus Bridge leave scars. Even when the injuries heal, the scars are often left behind. I’m thinking that is not a bad thing to have to see and accept the scars along with the beauty. It is difficult to accept and forgive my home. Today, as in the past, Alabama shows off her wounds and her meanness and her stupidity (and seems to want to brag about them!). Some days I want to take this state, its people and its government, and just shake it and holler “You are better than this! You know better! Stop it!” But then, I must love her, scars, fear, hatred, love, smiles, Auburn football and all.