But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. – Amos 5:24
Tuesday turned out to be a productive and fun day. I managed some writing I was very pleased with, I did some work for AllProDad, I put in a couple of hours of yard work, I got in nine holes of (really good) golf, and still made it home in time to fix a decent meal.
Then, in the evening, Rebekah and I sat down and watched the difficult but important movie, “Selma.” The film, released in 2014, depicts a small slice of time from 1965, the immediate events leading up to the march from Selma to Montgomery.
The movie not only documents the behavior of officials both in government and law enforcement, but – tacitly – how such abuses need (feed off) the approval of the public if they are to continue.
I was also struck by some of the rhetoric – the ideas ring eerily/disturbingly familiar today:
- George Wallace saying, “We need to dominate the protestors” in the streets.
- The references to feeding carefully calibrated lies to people who are already fearful. Lies that fuel their fear and their consequent prejudices, until they become so used to lies that is all they want to hear.
- The preposterous claim that it wasn’t a desire for justice that filled the streets (then, and now) but “troublemaking.”
- The argument any violence visited on protestors was their own fault.
But the tactics of repression – the lies, the gas, the batons, the dogs, the gunshots, the terror playbook – was (and is) designed to deter questioning the status quo, to subdue free speech, and to intimidate people who want to see positive change. They were then and they are today.
Look behind the protests to the root cause:
It wasn’t until millions of Americans turned on their television sets to see images of peaceful protestors being assaulted by armed military-style police – on the nightly news – that President Johnson was moved to take more deliberate action to address the root causes of inequality that were behind the demonstrations.
Today, in June 2020, we have to look behind the protests and see what needs to be fixed. In 1965 there was a lot to be concerned about: segregation, Jim Crow, unequal access to education and healthcare, voting rights, law enforcement intimidation. Voting was the specific focus of the Selma marches.
Today a lot of the same issues are on the table, including voter suppression – but the specific focus of the protests following the murder of George Floyd is the fact of unequal treatment, the prevalence of profiling, the use of violence, and the lack of redress. All this quite often when black and brown people are minding their own business, or simply being detained for questioning. White people tend not to have their car windows broken so they can be tasered and then violently dragged from their vehicles when no apparent violation had occurred.
So, yes, I would recommend the movie Selma. But I warn you, you will be horrified at how familiar some of the justifications and racist ideologies sound.
And if you are anything like me you are going to wonder why a lot gets done, fairly quickly, in response to the nationwide awareness these moments bring about… but then nothing else changes until something blows up again later.
Fact is, we don’t like to be disturbed by the truth, so we pretend it’s all okay – until it so obviously is not. But then we complain that people “overreact.” Really?
So click here to take a listen to Rebekah’s message from Sunday (the sermon begins around the 30-minute mark). In it she tells a story from the 1980’s when she talked with leaders in a depressed community about what they need. “This town already knows what we need,” was the reply.
But we always have known, haven’t we? And that is what – 55 years down the road – is so troubling. – DEREK