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Righting Wrongs

July 6, 2018

 

"I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart," Bush writes.

"Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso," she continues. "These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history." First Lady Laura Bush 6/17/18

 

It had been a tough week.  I had spent a good part of my days of that week reposting news and posts from others on the administration’s zero-tolerance policy, the separation of children from their parents, the detention centers, the mixed messages from the administration, the finger pointing, the reports, the pictures and the statistics.  By the end of the week, I was snapping at Chester and crying in frustration the next instant. 

 

It hadn’t been just about the children.  My parents’ situation, Duck losing his fight with cancer, and Ms. Joanna in intensive care. All coming on the heels of a poignant visit to California with the “grands”.  I was an emotional desert, sand dunes swelling with despair, cacti sharp with anger, sagebrush brittle with cynicism, with no rain, no relief in sigh.  Desert made me think of the immigrant children, again. The children made me think of my own brown kids and “grands”. I fell asleep listening to the recently released tape of crying toddlers from the border detention centers that someone had taken, tears welled behind closed lids.

 

I woke up Saturday morning with every intention of going to the Bee Jubilee at the Expo Center in Oxford.  It was the early hours of the morning, that time between darkness and light. Not wanting to disturb my husband, I left our room, closed the door carefully, so not to wake him. No need for both of us to be sleep deprived. I got in bed in what I now call my “One Earth One Sky” room.  I borrowed that phrase “One Earth, One Sky” from my dear cousin, Ed.  It’s our guest room, but it is where I sleep during the work week, because of Chester’s nocturnal schedule.  It’s where I sleep when I wake up next to him and can’t go back to sleep, as I had that Saturday. I was able to sleep another three hours, got up again but this time, made coffee and brought it back to the room.  I opened up the news apps on my ipad and social media.  Few minutes later, tears running down my face, a couple of angry reposts and pointed posts of my own, I’d talked myself out of my planned outing to the Bee Jubilee.

 

An hour later, when Chester found me in bed, sitting up, coffee long gone cold, he listened as I told him why I wasn’t’ going.  I’m not afraid of much, but I was afraid I was going to snap if someone who knew me, asked me how I was doing. I told him I was so mad, as I blew my nose, that I might just bite someone’s head off.  There is a certain benevolent half-smile that tugs at my husband’s expressive face when he understands what’s going on with me, but is about to dissect it, lay it all out of me to see, and point by point bring me to an understanding of what is really bothering me.

 

“Honey, you aren’t mad, you just got your feelings hurt”.

 

Well, just forget “Point A” and “Point B” and go straight to “C” for “conclusion”.

 

“Now, let me tell you. I’ve been mad a long time,” he begins. “I remember being nine years old and running home with white boys chasing me, just so they could see me run,” he tells me, kneeling down by the side of the bed and leaning on his elbows, getting comfortable. I leaned back against my pillows and sipped on my cold coffee watching his face.

 

“Just to see me run,” he repeats. “Look at that nigger run! They would say, as I hid in the ditch, hoping they would get tired, go home, so I could go home.  But, back then, it was their sport.  Chase the little nigger boy home, just to watch him run.”

 

I watch my husband’s face recall this memory from childhood and there is no sadness, no anger, no questioning of why these boys treated him the way they did.  My heart ached for him, ached for a society that allowed their children to treat black kids as if they were something “less than”. Bullies then and bullies now. More tears and more sniffles.

 

“That ended when I went to Vietnam.  I knew I was not going back to that little boy or even that teen that left Oxford in 1969.  I had just returned in 1970 and gone to see family.  I was coming from that little store that sells those ugly hotdogs you don’t like, heading back into town, when I heard someone call out, ‘Hey, Nigger, whatcha doin?’

 

 Errrrrrrrrrrrr (brake noise sounds from Chester) “I stop in the middle of the street, jump out of my car and head to the group of white guys standing in the parking lot of that corner store across from the Masonic Home.” He pauses and looks at me directly.  “You know where I’m taking about?” I nod, and he continues.

 

Who the fuck said that?” I shouted as I headed that way. I had just returned from a year in Vietnam. I had killed folks, been shot, and I was not anyone’s nigger. Not anymore.

 

 I hear one guy say, That’s Chester Evans, he’s crazy. Then I hear the same guy say louder, Hey, Chester, no one here said anything.  

 

“I looked hard at the guy. I recognized him. He was one of kids that lived on the same road we had lived on.”

 

I had heard this story before, but not the part about the guy had known him as a kid, or the “crazy” part.

 

“Wait!” I say before he can continue, “How did that guy know you and how did he know you were crazy?”

 

“We lived here,” he said as he poked a place on the quilt with his finger. “There was a house here, one here, and another here,” he said poking places in the quilt away from the first. “That guy lived here. How did he know I was crazy?  He knew I was crazy, because I went to Vietnam. He knew I had gone. That kid? He didn’t go to Vietnam.  He didn’t have to go. He was a farmer’s son.”

 

He smiled, struggling to get up, because he was stiff from kneeling.  He patted my leg under the quilt, leaned over and kissed me on the top of my head. 

 

“I’ve decided in this age of Trump, I am not going to go back to being mistreated.  I am polite as I can be.  I smile to everyone I meet.  I someone is rude to me, I call them on it.  Right then.  I am NOT going to be mistreated.”

 

“Go to that event. Don’t let this craziness affect what you have always done and what you want to do.  Be polite and be nice and if they give you shit, give it back.”

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