Inspire conjures up the act of breathing, breathing in some magic spirit like freedom that leads to the creation of something new. But that breath does not always show up, just like perfect crystalline days don’t show up too often here in Central Pennsylvania. Many days are smudgy with all the humidity loitering in the warm air. Old timers blame all the trees that grow here for the moist weather. They expire, the trees and the old guys do… and I don’t get their reasoning. However, when the dew point moves past 60, muggy is the word. I sort of like the criminality of that weather word, as if the very air is forcibly robbing us with nothing more than a sweaty hand in its saggy pocket.
“Stick’m up, pardners! This here is a wet robbery. I got a big old squirt gun under this paper bag. Plus, I got a fat lady with a wet wool blanket ready to squeeze you taight if you don’t behave. Ya’ll been sweatin’ up a bunch of stink. You’ns can put your arms down now. Whew. I’m just muggin’, okay? Nobody needs to get hurt here if you just slow down and act like some good ole Alabamians. Get you some tea and put your feet up in a shady spot. There ya go. Just procrastinate a while. Live in the past. Drink a lot of liquor.”
Whether or not you like it, weather is not that polite or predictable. It swarms in over night and saturates the local atmosphere. No negotiations. The combination of heat and humidity can stultify a man’s brain, leaving him uninspired, a locked vault door behind which are wonderful treasures piled high. We can’t have this outcome, bloggitties. A psychic thunderstorm must well up and conquer this wet blanket of oppression. We cannot tolerate weather thugs with bags on their heads mugging us.
Ah, much better. Refreshing actually. But is it enough to turn over the inspiration ignition? Let’s see. “Vrrr, rrrr,rrrr, room, room, room.” Alright! I’m breathing hard and deep. Ready to run a creative marathon. Maybe just finish this post. We’ll see.
So, I’ve been observing lately that doubt precedes faith, which precedes proof or facts, and then eventually along comes validation. The other night I was watching a show about The Freedom Riders in the 1960’s Deep South. What heroic folks they were. They knowingly boarded Trailways and Greyhound buses for Montgomery, Alabama and Jackson, Mississippi in order to be arrested at their destination and put into prison on bogus racially discriminatory charges. Along the way they were often beaten or nearly killed. In Mississippi they were put in an infamous prison and forced into hard manual labor or death row accomodations. And still more came, flooding the prison. In the film footage I watched, the Freedom Riders looked curious and resolute but never scared. They complied nonviolently with hostile morons in police uniforms who believed in or belonged to the KKK. Somehow the Freedom Riders stayed united in spirit, unbroken in their faith that they would prevail along with justice. The native whites reminded me of nauseating Nazis off the leash, unrestrained. How on earth did that unjust oppression work for so long against so many? Makes me wonder if we have a similar atrocity building up today that is merely tolerated and buried in the back pages of our news. There is no shortage of ignorance or guns in our country after all.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, the Kennedy brothers looked for political solutions. They did not want to turn the conflict into federal versus states’ rights. Backing southern governors into a corner only fueled the anti-federal government feelings already at fever pitch in Old Dixie. The rule of law had to come from their pens not from the elitist East Coast Kennedys or the Supreme Court. The south refused to recognize the fact that Jim Crow laws were found to be unconstitutional. They simply continued on as usual. The political humidity built and built past muggy into severely oppressive, into total saturation. Southern torpidity was complete; a fresh wind had to blow through like a tornado and turn shacks and shanties upside down. And that is what happened.
The fresh cool wind was actually comprised of committed black and white Americans on buses and then trains heading south, into the torpid wall of resistance and ignorance. Cold dry air slamming into hot moist air creates tornados which create havoc and destruction. Yes indeed, as in mother nature so too in human nature. The two forces collided and both moved.
On May 14, Mother’s Day, in Anniston, a mob of Ku Klux Klansmen, some still in church attire, attacked the first of the two buses (the Greyhound). The driver tried to leave the station, but was blocked until KKK members slashed its tires. The mob forced the crippled bus to stop several miles outside of town and then firebombed it. As the bus burned, the mob held the doors shut, intending to burn the riders to death. Sources disagree, but either an exploding fuel tank or an undercover state investigator brandishing a revolver caused the mob to retreat, and the riders escaped the bus. The mob beat the riders after they escaped the bus. Only warning shots fired into the air by highway patrolmen prevented the riders from being lynched.
I wonder what the sermon was on that Mother’s Day that those Klansmen had heard? I don’t ever recall hearing a call to arms in all my 58 years of going to church. Never heard one that urged me to hate my neighbor or to kill my perceived enemy. Rather, I recall being urged to love my neighbor and my enemy, to seek justice and to give mercy.
Eventually the federal troops arrived; desegregation began in earnest; and the humidity of stupidity began to drop below muggy for the first time in 350 years.