We’re inching forward, but it is a slow process. The protests are having an effect. In Atlanta, a policeman shot and killed a black man who was running away from him. The policeman has been fired and the police chief resigned. Yes, the black man is dead, but a month ago it all would have been swept under the rug.
And the protests are wide-spread — in every state, large towns and small, in Europe and elsewhere. In Antwerp, a statue of King Leopold II was removed after protestors covered it in red paint, signifying the bloodshed of Leopold’s brutalization of the Congo. In Brighton, England, protestors knocked over a statue of the slave trader Colston and rolled it into the harbor. Here in this country, statues of Confederate soldiers are being removed. Both the Marine Corps and NASCAR have banned the display of the Confederate battle flag.
The top ten books on the New York Times Bestseller list for non-fiction are all anti-racism books. Number eleven is Michelle Obama’s autobiography. Inching forward.
The president’s re-election campaign announced its first rally since things shut down. The rally was to be held on Juneteenth — the day celebrating the freeing of the slaves. To make sure we get the message, the campaign chose the location of the nation’s worst race riot, where 99 years ago rioting whites killed between 300 and 3,000 black people, bombed their businesses and set fire to their homes leveling whole city blocks, and made 15,000 people homeless. After strong pushback, the re-election campaign shifted the date of the rally to a day later. But the thumb-in-the-eye message has been sent out.
Similarly, the administration finalized the rule eliminating transgender people from healthcare nondiscrimination. They announced it on the fourth anniversary of one of this country’s worst mass shootings — the Pulse nightclub shooting that left 49 LGBT people dead. No dogwhistles this time — the message is loud and clear.
Inching forward, pulling back.
Oregon Governor Brown delayed opening the last county to phase one because of increasing covid cases. That’s Portland’s county. Despite the increase, the Oregon infection rate is still low compared to most other states. Andrea and I are getting out a little more often, cautiously.
The local library is open for returns and for curbside pickup of books on hold. I returned nine of the MC Beaton books I had checked out — Andrea is still reading the tenth. Their wifi has been kept on so people can sit outside the building to use it, but they aren’t letting anyone inside yet.
When I go out, I see more people wearing masks.
A friend sent me an open letter to the West Point graduates written by Louis Caldera, Secretary of the Army, 1998-2001. In his letter, Caldera writes about leadership, responsibility, accountability, and honor. This time is calling for those values. We will need them as we inch forward.
Andrea and I have begun working again on the project of adding our story to the stories of others. Each of us frees ourself in the telling, and the telling frees others to tell their own. Our own telling has been a long, difficult project that has been on hold for months. I feel a little like I’m waking to life again and don’t know if I want to inch forward. But I will.
The streets are filled with people telling their own stories — stories of anguish and frustration and the pain of generations. They’ve told them before but we didn’t listen. I can’t tell their stories, I can only listen. Listen with an open mind and an open heart. And I can urge you to listen — really listen — so we can all inch forward, together.