Overwhelmed. That’s the word for the month, overwhelmed. There’s much in my head, as usual, but more of it that I don’t know what to do with than is common. It’s taking over. I did manage to go out with my camera last weekend, and it was my intention to post those photos on Saturday, or even Sunday, but the weekend got away from me. Three day weekend, the import wasn’t lost on me. In fact it made it more difficult to figure out what I wanted to write. For those of you not from the US, it was Martin Luther King Jr. day last Monday, a Federal holiday in honor of his birthday (January 15th). I was off since I work for a company that recognizes it. It’s a day when Federal offices are closed. For others, it’s a floating holiday, a day they can take on the day itself, or save to extend a vacation. For others still, it’s not observed at all. Recognized around the country, in some cases grudgingly so, it’s a day to remember where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and how much farther we’ve yet to go. Unlike Memorial Day, it’s not often warm enough for a barbeque, so…
Monday, I went to the movies. I’d wanted to see Selma in theaters, but since I usually go to the movies alone, the draw isn’t all that strong. This, though, I asked my father if he would like to join. An account of the period leading up to the march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama, I thought it might be tough to watch. I didn’t realize how much. Showing a couple of the reasons for the march at the outset – voting rights for all citizens, not just the white ones, and the general violence toward blacks just for being black – provided an interesting beginning. Perhaps shocking for those of us who weren’t there, who only heard about these things in history class, or from our parents or grandparents. I’ve seen videos from demonstrations, and the videos from the brutality at the hands of police against people trying to exercise their right to assemble, so that they can exercise their right to vote, their right to the same service as the white citizens. There are inaccuracies, of course, imagined and dramatized moments, just as there are in other historical dramas; it’s not a documentary. It does, however, use real events to enhance the plot. It does use historical figures to explain the feelings of the time.
There were other controversies with the movie, particularly the Oscar snub of the director and actors, but it has been nominated for Best Picture. It was a good movie. The audience was relatively diverse; not necessarily representing the racial makeup of the area – predominantly white suburb of Cincinnati – but it did represent a fairly wide age range, from those who remember to those who heard the stories from their parents, from their grandparents, and even the tales of their great-grandparents. It was at several theaters around the area, some fairly large ones. The one we were in was popular, but not especially large. Not for around here, anyway. Throughout most of the movie, you could hear a pin drop. There were times when you couldn’t be sure anyone else was in there. Even the crying – and yes, of course there was crying – was fairly silent. The ticket taker had noted that the show had been sold out all day.
After, when the credits began in earnest, after the initial credits showing the stars, and the historical facts about them, I saw only four people move – one was a woman and her companion. She had a walker and needed a bit of help getting in and out. Another was a young man and his date. He’d gotten to the bottom of the stairs just as the woman was getting her walker set up. Silent, he held his phone to the steps so that they were better lit for her. The lights came up after the Oscar-nominated song Glory ended.* Some applauded, all rose, continuing the silent contemplation. Kindness – silent – and respect – silent – was shown to all. There was a camaraderie with the audience that I found intriguing. Elders – and somehow I got lumped into that group; that wasn’t depressing or anything – were accorded deference from the younger members. There were nods between audience members, particularly the older ones, the ones who lived through it. “Intense” doesn’t begin to cover it.
It’s better, we’ve come far, but it isn’t over yet.
*Regarding the lyrics – there are people who are upset over the mention of Rosa Parks and Ferguson, MO in the same sentence. They’re missing the point, IMO. It’s not about Michael Brown. It’s about the fact that this is even a conversation we’re having, still, that there is a divide between the way white and black suspects are treated. It’s about Eric Garner, about the young man and little boy here in Ohio who were killed by police, about vigilantes tackling citizens lawfully carrying a gun, about how Stand Your Ground is inconsistently applied based on the color of skin, about a man breaking into his own home because he got locked out, showing his ID to police, and still being arrested. It’s not about Michael Brown.