When Mrs. Parham first taught us about the Emancipation Proclamation I was immediately fascinated. How can you “grant” freedom? Wasn’t I born with it? The more we learned about the Civil War the more I thought it odd that poor people would so willing to agree to be exploited by rich people. Why die on their behalf? I dreamt vividly that night. I was looking down on the original Proclamation and in small letters I saw something odd — an expiration date. I jokingly told my mother about that years later, she winced but we brushed it off as nothing more than a silly dream.
I would read many more books about many other wars in the years to come. Many from the perspective of a young woman. What does a country in catastrophe look like to a young girl? A young adult? I’ve always had a vivid imagination but some of the images were too vivid. I saw myself fighting to get to Denmark, waiting quietly underneath floorboards on my way North, running through the streets to avoid shrapnel, sitting in basements waiting for the bombs to stop. We have an entire catalogue of human experiences that show us what’s coming next. We all think somehow we’re more evolved, smarter, intuitively conditioned with more sense, special. But are we? History may be linear but human relationships are not. We keep repeating the same offenses ; vying to return to a time that never existed as we thought it did to avoid the time we’re approaching. The time has come to be realistic.
Humans have an unnatural ability to deny the truth. To avoid processing panic or fear we tell ourselves that everything is ok. That may work in certain situations but it will not here. You have to decide if self or community preservation is your highest priority. Self? Move. Community. Stay and risk the possibility of death. I’m not hyperbolizing. How many cycles of history have we seen mirror our own? It starts with a spark and we slowly fan the flames.
Every radical regime happens incrementally. It takes many years, decades really, for those seemingly “overnight” power shifts. For neighbors to start reporting one another to the police. For friends to get round up into camps. For all of us to lose our humanity. It takes time. So what part of that cycle do you think we’re in now? Stop thinking that the chapters of our history are not etched in blood. Some of us will have to provide that ink, others the story. Can you make peace with being either one? I’m an optimist and agree our immediate future is bright, just not in the way we hope. The match is already lit. We may burn now but our children and our children’s children have the chance to blossom in freshly turned soil. Are you ready to be burned? Are you ready to die for what you believe in?