On the outskirts of Americus, Georgia
Another cold morning with bright sun
With the presidential inauguration only three days away, David and I are caught up in pre-celebration mode along with the rest of the country, and it seems a wonderful coincidence that Monday, the day before the inauguration, is the holiday devoted to remembering the birth and life of Martin Luther King, Jr. We gave up television at home but rely on it in motels (local and regional weather forecasts are important when traveling in winter), and a couple nights ago we watched an excellent documentary on King and his times. Our times, those were, too, and not so long ago.
The next morning, we were captivated by a news story featuring a group of young people preparing for the inauguration, where they would be performing for the new president. The viewing audience was given a preview of their song, and David and I were in tears by the time they finished. These children know a world very different from the one Martin Luther King grew up in, thanks to him and many, many other Americans who fought, nonviolently, for change. The first changes were slow, forced by law. Legal rights were sometimes recognized only grudgingly. The law had changed, but people hadn’t yet. They could not yet trust each other.
But I’ve been noticing something this past week and thinking about it ever since Benton Harbor, and after the children sang I finally voiced to David what I hadn’t yet said aloud and hadn’t written to anyone, even in private e-mail: that ordinary interracial conversations we’ve had on this trip seem blessedly unguarded, relaxed and comfortable. Admittedly, this is a subjective impression, not a scientific poll, but what a great feeling! My country today feels to me like the country we dreamed of in the 1960’s. “It’s been a long time comin,’” the old song went, “but I know a change has gotta come.” Now there’s no denying that it has come. No more is there a color line assigning life roles with black on one side, white on the other. David said he had been noticing and feeling the same thing.
We visited the Habitat for Humanity Global Village yesterday, and sometime in the near future I will write about that and post photographs. This weekend, though, all I want to do is recognize and celebrate my country. I love what we have become, are still becoming, can become. My favorite “God bless” sign, though, is one I saw three years ago in Apalachicola, Florida: “God bless the United States and the whole world.” That’s how I feel. No one should be left out.