Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Will the Circle Be Unbroken? A Condolence

While I grieve and let go this evil that has possessed my soul for the past eight years, this cynical regime that exploited religion and instilled in me hatred for its leaders, I recall that even more immediately Barack Obama and his family will need time to let go and grieve as well -- that many of you here will experience a similar process and need a time to grieve.

Music is part of my family roots, particularly the music of the blue grass country and the Irish who carried it to these shores. It is a way through grief that opens the heart to spiritual healing.

My great-great grandfather watched the family plantation south of Atlanta burn while Sherman's soldiers poured molasses into my great grandmother's imported piano, breaking her heart and taking from her the final dignity.

One can sense the trauma and the defeat in my great-great grandfather's eyes in the family photo to the left. I am a son of the South, a grandson of her past tattered and defeated aristocracy. I know the suffering of a people enslaved and the people who enslaved them. The stories have burdened my conscience since childhood, even as racism continued to grip my family and I fought them.

I am a rebel against my extended family -- a true outsider, a man exiled from his own family traditions and yet I too have a mother whose memory lives on inside my grieving heart and because of her memory, my love for her, my respect for all those suffering and for Barack Obama's great victory tonight in the midst of his grief, a bitter-sweet victory, I offer this tribute from the hearts of people of the land, a land of the grasses that run blue in the springtime: A condolence to Barack Hussein Obama. May the lineage holders of all our parallel family narratives come together some day to sing a final dirge to The South and to the memories of family members we hold dear.

I regret deeply that Georgia did not join us tonight.

My grandfather was the Georgia state blue grass fiddle champion for so long they retired him and made him a judge so that the competition could continue before the contestants resigned. My father played on the radio for a time during the Great Depression. My youngest brother has the very fiddle that our great grandfather carried with him on military campaigns throughout the War Between the States. It was a bloody struggle. Some have still not surrendered.

For a Brief time in his youth, my father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan in Florida, one of the largest chapters in the South at the time. But when he was 19, having lied about his age in order to get a job as a bus driver busing the St. Louis Cardinals around during spring camp in Sarasota, the brakes on his bus went out on a regular run. He was unable to prevent his bus from plunging into a canal while traffic stopped ahead at a draw bridge. He was knocked unconscious. His porter, a young black man, went into the canal and pulled him out of the bus, saving his life. From that day, my father refused to attend another meeting of the Klan. I am so proud of him. He was named after Woodrow Wilson, one of the intellectual leaders of the Progressive Movement of the early 20th century.

Racism contaminated that movement.

Tonight looking at the electoral map, it is obvious to me that the war continues. The hatred lives on needlessly, tragically.

Ask yourself this: Who does this hatred benefit?


This narrative is crossposted to my blog at Open Salon:
Southern Perspectives; The Decline & Fall of the Southern Strategy

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