The Measure of Our Stride
 — Bruce Hartford
August 20 2017

[On Saturday, August 12 2017, white-supremacists in Charlottesville VA attacked justice & equality protesters, killing one person and injuring many. Trump's equivocal response was clearly seen as sympathetic to white-supremacy. In response, a tidal wave of opposition to Trump, Nazis, KKK, and all their enablers swept across the nation.]

As we watched Charlottesville on TV last weekend I'm sure we all shared the same emotional reactions — outrage, anger, trepidation, and disgust. Yet as subsequent events unfolded I confess to experiencing a quiet sense of satisfaction and yes, of pride in a popular response the revealed the shape of what the Freedom Movement of the 1960s actually accomplished. We changed America for the better — irrevocably.

I remember the 1950s and 60s, when KKK, White Citizens Council, and John Birch Society were normalized and accepted components of our political fabric, when white politicians nationwide regularly and consistently espoused blatant racism that was far worse and more explicit than Trump's inane utterances, when derogatory racial "humor" was a staple of our culture, and when the reaction of mainstream media, society doyens, and leaders of business was most often uncomfortable silence or — at best — some form of disdainful "tsk tsk, tut tut, cluck cluck."

Now, today, 50 years on from Greensboro, Greenwood, Birmingham, St. Augustine and Selma a white-supremacy march, mob violence against nonviolent advocates of racial justice and the blatherings of a race-baiting politician are met with:

Yes, the KKK and homegrown Nazis are still with us, they've been in our midst for generations and that's not likely to change. But the Freedom Movement of the 1960s forced government and society to constrain and contain their violent acts though not their thoughts. And the reaction we are seeing now to their re-emergence gives me hope that we will do so again.

When I was a kid in the '50s, memories of World War II were still strong among us. I remember a Bill Mauldin "Willie & Joe" cartoon of the two "dogface" foot-soldiers standing on a hilltop next to a destroyed German tank looking back towards a column of smoke in the far distance. "Gawd Joe, here they wuz and there we wuz." They knew the war wasn't over, but they were measuring the distance they had come. So too do I measure the distance we have come from the 1950s and '60s. ¡A luta continua!

Copyright © Bruce Hartford


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