I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The world we live in today

Log being taken over by fungi
It was only a few weeks ago that I discovered that this particular fungi, Trametes versicolor, is edible. Well, "edible" might be a little bit of a stretch. Although it's pretty, it's rubbery and tough. But it does have medicinal properties, and some say it can take the place of chewing gum! Next time I see it, I might harvest a little bit and take it home. Many forms of fungi are poisonous, but apparently this type never is. It is usually dried and ground and made into a tea.

Sunday again, and here I am thinking about what to write. Last week I picked up an interesting book at the library, The Sun Does Shine, by Anthony Ray Hinton. He was arrested and accused of crimes he couldn't possibly have committed, and spent thirty years on Death Row in Alabama, before the US Supreme Court unanimously exonerated him. His only crime, as he says in the book, was being born black in Alabama. His lawyer at the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson, writes a moving foreword to his book. A quote:
I have represented scores of condemned prisoners during my thirty years of law practice. Many of my clients were innocent people wrongly convicted or condemned. However, no one I have represented has inspired me more than Anthony Ray Hinton, and I believe his compelling and unique story will inspire our nation and readers all around the world.
Stevenson explains that, in the fifteen years he worked to exonerate Ray, he had never before had so many correctional officers, guards, and other prison workers pull him aside and ask how they might be able to help Ray. He was beloved by all, a man filled with forgiveness and love who tried to help his fellow prisoners however he could. I am halfway through the book, and as hard as it is to read, I realize that one of the things that separates me from his fate is that I was not born a black man in Alabama. What a story he writes! He was released in 2015 and travels around the country as an inspirational speaker. He is now 62 and hopefully has many years ahead of him to enjoy his freedom.

Tonight will be the 91st Academy Awards, and I've seen all the movies that have been nominated. One of the movies, Green Book, also tells a true story of an accomplished black musician who wanted to perform in the South during the 1960s, and hired a driver to safely take him there. The book referred to in the title was compiled to assist African Americans to know where it was safe for them to stay or dine in the Deep South. Both men who starred in the movie have been nominated for awards, as well as it being nominated for Best Picture. I suspect that Mahershala Ali will win as Best Supporting Actor and that will be it for the film. It was good, but not great, although the performances were outstanding.

Another one of the movies, also a true story, covers the infiltration of a black man into the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado Springs in the 1970s. BlacKkKlansman is also nominated for Best Picture and several other awards. I enjoyed this movie very much; it's got lots of humor and pathos and some great performances. Of all the movies, this one would be my pick for Best Picture, although I don't think it will win.

That brings me to wondering about the world today, how the issue of race and fairness still resonates enough to have movies and stories still capture the imagination and interest of many of us. And it also makes me wonder whether we will ever be a country where the color of your skin makes little to no difference in how you are seen as a person. My optimism tells me that yes, there will come a day when the world will not judge us by our race, or our age, or how much money we have in the bank. It won't be tomorrow, or any time soon, but it is not only possible, but probable. As Martin Luther King, Jr., once said in a powerful speech, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

 I hope that is true. It's people like Ray Hinton who spend their lives working to bend it, and people like his lawyer, Bryan Stevenson. If you get a chance to read the book, I'd be interested in knowing what you think of it. And, of course, there are plenty of online videos to watch if you want to "meet" Ray. After I finish the book, I might just do that myself. In any event, tonight I'll be watching the Academy Awards and hope that some of my favorites will win.

And with that, I realize I've spent more time than usual writing this post, and it's getting late. Time for me to get up and start the rest of my day. My sweet partner is still sleeping next to me, and my tea is long gone. The day beckons, one which I hope will be sunny, if not actually warm, as we continue our journey towards the first day of spring. Not long now. It's been a rather difficult winter season for many of us, and as the days lengthen, we can look forward to a delightful spring. Until we meet again next week, I hope you are happy and healthy, and that you enjoy yourself and your loved ones. Be well, dear readers.


Marie Smith said...

I will watch for both of those movies, Jan. I probably won’t watch the awards though. I have given up on award shows.

gigi-hawaii said...

Well, we did elect Barack Obama to be our president for 8 years. He is half white and half black but looks black. Yet, he managed to be our president. Awesome accomplishment!

Tabor said...

We are not racist...much...until we run low on resources and then everyone becomes the "other."

Linda Reeder said...

I admire your optimism for the future, but I tend to agree with Tabor, which portends the opposite.
Since we seldom go to movies throughout the year, and we don't subscribe to Netflix, and we didn't feel compelled to see all of the nominated movies this year, we will not be able to judge for ourselves all of the movies, or all of the acting roles. We do have some favorites, and we'll be watching with curiosity.

Linda Myers said...

I'll watch both movies when they arrive on Netflix.

William Kendall said...

I will have to seek out that book.

Red said...

As much as I hope for a society without racism, I'm not hopeful. Racism is with us in many forms. we are still churning out young racists. When I taught the kids common view was racist. they were not active but racism is what they knew. I wish I could be hopeful but I'm not. Now this comes from a very optimistic person!

Far Side of Fifty said...

I am watching/listening to the awards now...of course I know hardly anyone. I like the dresses:)

Rita said...

Don't have regular TV, but I suppose there might have been some live streaming online. Haven't even heard who won, but will check online later to see if your picks did come out on top. I see them later when they come out on Netflix.

I tend to have the same kind of far-reaching optimism about humanity. :)

Arkansas Patti said...

Just put a hold on the book. Thanks, sounds like one I'd like. Sometimes I think the only way we will all get along is when everyone on earth is tan.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, thank you for sharing this book. It's the second one from you today that I've copied down to look for as an ebook from the library Overdrive. Your reading ranges far and wide, and I've read several books through the years that you have recommended.

Mostly I read mystery novels and history. Right now I'm reading another book on the Korean War, which was being fought when I was in high school. One of my best college friends married a Korean War vet in 1958. They met at college. He never talked about the war and I'm now learning so much about it.

Parts of what I'm learning rank with the horrible mistakes made by the top command in the trench warfare of World War I. Those mistakes ended up leaving dead soldiers on the field.

Well, I seem to have gotten melancholy here. For me, reading history is so satisfying. It helps me become the kind of human I want to be. That's why the book you suggested is one I want to read. It sounds as if I'll meet an amazing man as well as learn a lot about the dismal history of civil rights in our country. Peace.

Galen Pearl said...

I grew up in the South, so I remember things that my kids find hard to believe. I remember segregated buses, water fountains, schools, bathrooms. I graduated in the first integrated high school class in my city. Now movies and books and sadly too often the news, reflect to us the ongoing legacy of prejudice and discrimination. As always, your Sunday morning reflections give me a lot to think about.