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Saturday, January 17, 2009

My New Country

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.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a lovely post. Its conclusion reminds me of Tiny Time: "God bless us every one."
May your travels continue to be enlightening, moving and safe.

P. J. Grath said...

So far, so good. Thanks for your good wishes.

David said...

Hi Pamela,

Greetings from St. Louis, where somehow the 2007 November issue of Traverse has made its way to our nightly read-aloud hour at Maggie's bedtime, and from which we've been reading the excerpt of the Detroiters' ill-fated hunting trip to Labrador. Funny how David went to Joe Borri's website to read more (no longer available at the Traverse link) and found your exchange with him. Small world. Snow makes it smaller. We miss you and hope you're enjoying the winter up there.

Jane, David, Maggie, & Kailey

Neige said...

I'm so touched by this post. I wish that one day we Chinese could also have for our country the love that you have for the United States...

P. J. Grath said...

David, Jane, Maggie and Kailey! So good to have a message from you. I'm guessing that you and Jane read Joe's story aloud to each other, not as a bedtime story for Maggie?

We are enjoying the winter all the more since we are no longer "up there" but are, for a couple months, down on the Gulf Coast of Florida. We're currently at Gene and Judy Rantz's place in Suwannee and will go from here down to Weeki Wachee and Aripeka after the inauguration.

Neige, I am sure you love your country. I have always loved mine. The difference for me is that sometimes I have not always been proud of it, and right now I am. In fact, only today I thought of the message you sent right after Obama's election, "America is beautiful." Your country's history is so, so much older and longer than ours, as well as very different. Countries, like human beings, are individuals. We must all find our own way.

dmarks said...

Great post this time, as usual.

Northport is being discussed in my latest blog post.

P. J. Grath said...

dmarks, I looked at your blog and saw the story of the gambler who may have moved to Leelanau, and earlier there was the Peshawbestown postcard. (By the way, I'll be eager to visit the new museum there when we get back to Leelanau. All the reports I've heard so far are glowing.) But a Northport post? Maybe you're still working on it.

P. J. Grath said...

dmarks, I looked at your blog and saw the story of the gambler who may have moved to Leelanau, and earlier there was the Peshawbestown postcard. (By the way, I'll be eager to visit the new museum there when we get back to Leelanau. All the reports I've heard so far are glowing.) But a Northport post? Maybe you're still working on it.