I remember when we were afraid to walk across campus at a rural Tennessee college. Afraid the football team and the ROTC would attack us. We were a small group of mostly sociology majors who had formed a club called “Peace and Human Rights Alliance.” It was 1970 and college kids protesting at Kent State had just been murdered.
I remember fear and divisiveness: the nation torn apart with differing political views. It was more about young verses old, white against black, women’s rights, equal pay, the environment. Long hair versus short hair. There were probably some protesting for gay rights but not in my rural south location.
There were protests against the war all through my high school years. There were demonstrations for civil rights. I remember the television at night full of protests and scenes of battles from Vietnam.
I remember going to D.C. to protest the war and being afraid of the protesters after seeing broken storefront windows. I did not march. Stayed indoors where it was safe as I believed in a peaceful protest!
I also remember a different time in society. A time where women and girls were expected to wear dresses and panty hose. Hair was set in rollers at night. One does not go out without being perfectly coiffed. Pants or jeans were not allowed! Still remember the scandal in our small southern town when the Methodist women started wearing pantsuits to church on Sunday nights!
Women were encouraged to major in education. The teaching profession was an acceptable career path as they could be with their children after school. Women were supposed to look pretty and not think or speak of business or political matters The weaker sex must be protected or beat into submission by their husbands.
I remember hearing about backstreet procedures where terrified, desperate college friends risked death when they unfortunately became “knocked up”.
From my grade school years I remember seeing water fountains with “colored” signs. I remember the first blacks to enter our school. It was the fall of 1965 and there were only two of them. So brave!
I remember being told by my family that the “colored people” were just being stirred up by those who were speaking out for their rights. And remember the reaction I received from my northern classmates when I repeated my families stance. I remember the “n” word being the commonly used noun by my grandfather.
I remember when we threw trash out the window of the car without a thought. I remember when puppies and kittens were tied in a bag and drowned or shot in the head.
I remember being told that I would go to hell and burn in the fires forever and FOREVER if I did not believe in Jesus. I was 9 years old.
I remember injustice, inhumanity and long periods of turbulence.
But our nation has survived and matured.
It may take many, many years but we will get through this time of horrible divisions. And good will come, rightness will win, eventually.
Change and growth do not always go in an upward spiral. Sometimes, for awhile, things go backward.
But I have hope. We, the people, will not allow tyranny, dictatorships or suppression of free speech to become the norm. And I take heart, trying to remember there is good in the worst of us and bad in the best of us. We are alike, not monsters, and we would do well to remember civility.
Thanks for reading this. The travel blog will continue soon.