Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Play's the Thing

Yes, Shakespeare's words from "Hamlet" "The play's the thing" reverberated in my ears when I waxed thoughtful after we had seen a theater performance of "Alabama Story" at the WHAT Theater in Wellfleet on Cape Cod.

The Date of the play: 1959; The place: A library in Montgomery, Alabama; the social setting: after the Rosa Parks Montgomery Bus Boycott; the subject: a children's book, "The Rabbit's Wedding," about two rabbits -- one black and one white who marry which was illustrated by the author of the book not to make a racial statement but rather because black and white provided contrast so children could understand which rabbit was which when they married. It was, by all measure, an innocent children's book that, not surprisingly for the time, evoked hysteria among whites in the deep south who wanted it pulled as they interpreted it through their own unsurprising racist prism.

The acting was superb. Among the characters were one young, blond, white woman who sat on a "whites only" bus-stop bench, a black man who loved her, a librarian who was flummoxed by the racial animus over a children's book in her library and a large Cat-on-a-Hot-Tin-Roof Big Daddy white senator who held his white, southern, Confederate flag heritage like a badge of honor to his breast.

More details of the story I think are unnecessary to uncork the rationale behind what it said at least what it said to me. Where does this story come from? From what depths of the sea does it emerge that one hundred years after the Civil War was lost by the south the same prejudice and discrimination that began it through slavery gave birth to Jim Crow at that time? The question for our ears now is one which Justice Roberts said when the Court in their infinite wisdom watered down the 1964 Voting Rights Act. He said we are in a post racial time.

Really, Justice Roberts, really? After our cities still burn with black rage, lead-saturated water fouled in a black neighborhood of Flint, Michigan, black men killed for selling loosie cigarettes or killed for walking in an area with a package of Skittles for merely being black. The officers or those who kill them are often exonerated and the black prison population explodes in the business of private prisons. There are so many more examples of that to make one's head spin.

Where is Montgomery now and who is Montgomery now? Montgomery is here and we are, all of us, Montgomery now. It is no accident that the Donald Trump campaign carries with it a heavy dose of white nationalism, Ku Klux Klan support, and Confederate flag sympathy. It is no accident that Donald Trump's audiences are almost 100% white with an occasional black trot-out to show how egalitarian he is. It is no accident that Donald Trump speaks in almost exclusively white forums sometimes on black issues and it is no accident that his goons assault black protesters at his deplorable rallies.

There is a reason the once Grand High Exalted Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, explodes in ebullient praise of Donald Trump. The black man knows when Donald Trump says make America great again he surreptitiously does not mean it is about him.

The arc of slavery runs deep within the American blood stream and has grown a cancer on its soul despite all the changes in race relations where its persons of color are concerned. It is so difficult, we can see, to erase the indelible racist ink from our clothing's seemingly permanent stain.

How do we do this? I do not know. Yet we MUST do this and the way to do this is not through the authoritarian discords, minority group roundups, Muslim keep-outs and other swindles and cons a Donald Carnival Barker Trump can exude. The way, rather, it seems to me, is through understanding and the ability to truly walk in another's shoes. We must do this together and do this now or, as our wise Founder Benjamin Franklin said to the revolutionaries of his time and pertinent, I think, to ours: "We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."

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