Monday, July 5, 2010

Day 24 - Marching


Driving over 60 miles along a narrow stretch of highway hadn't bothered me before - except for the trees, of course, but I'm over that now. I drove down US-80 from Montgomery to Selma - the same route the peace marchers and Martin Luther King walked in protest. At first I didn't notice anything but green. Then I was struck by the darn long distance for a walk, and I imagined blistered and bloody feet from uncomfortable '60s dress shoes. And when they reached Selma, they were beaten senseless.

Non-violence, MLK exhorted, borrowing from his (and my) hero, Ghandi. The event reminded me of the time Gandhi marched to the sea to make salt and show the British that the ocean is free, cannot be taxed, and that India was their country. I almost wished the time would go by faster so I wouldn't have to imagine the folks walking so far.

When I first envisioned my cross-country journey, my mind was ablaze with places I wanted to visit. I overloaded my itinerary, of course. I chose historical, political, kitsch, architectural, natural, etc. This was the first time I actually saw, in my mind's eye, the hardship and sacrifice of the Civil Rights activists to make everyone's future a better one. Shortly after the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Bill ensuring voting rights for blacks. What MLK and scores of other supporters pushed for worked and I thank them for their good work. When I see the many museums dedicated to Civil Rights, I don't say, "Again?" I now say, "There should be more."

The beautiful historical markers greeting drivers and passengers on the highways and the Selma gateway sign are impressive. But once you hit the town, you'll get a shock. The town is literally falling apart. Buildings sit half-finished or abandoned. Houses are in a dilapidated condition. Frankly it was like a ghost town. There was even a museum about slavery, and the posted sign was a worn banner. Depressing. You'd think something of such historic value would be preserved for posterity...for our children.

This visit confirms the importance of travel and getting to know places like these. Without the history spilled on those streets, our lives wouldn't be the same. I for one surely wouldn't be driving alone through the American South if it hadn't been for the courage of many before me.

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