Lessons from Selma, Ferguson, and Seneca Lake

When the events depicted in the film Selma occurred, I was a four-year-old girl in rural New England.  I do remember seeing Dr. King on the news when I was a bit older and definitely remember his assassination in 1968 in the midst of the Memphis strike by black public works employees who were facing discrimination.  It was incomprehensible – then and now – that a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of such an important social movement could have been only 39 when he died. Because he was such a force and martyred so young, his legacy became a legend, masking his complexity as a human being. While the public life of some of those around King, such as Ambassador Andrew Young and Rep. John Lewis, was decades long and vital to keeping the civil rights movement going forward while remembered its momentous, if painful, past, King’s life has been shown on film only as a secondary character until the release of Selma a few weeks ago.  The film shows how complicated things were for Dr. King during the 1965 voting rights struggle that led to the march from Selma to Montgomery.

Daniel Oyelowo portrays the complexity of Dr. King, trying to balance political, religious, tactical, family, personal, and interpersonal forces in situations where even the best possible course risked injury and death. Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King underscores the precariousness of their family’s life and the strength of will that it took for her to keep the family together in the face of betrayal, wiretapping, and threats against all the family members, including their four children. Although based on actual events, the film is not a documentary and the script does not include King’s own public speeches, because his sons would not give the filmmakers permission to use them. Despite that, the speeches in the film sound like those of Dr. King and Oyelowo delivers them with passion.

Throughout the film, I was reminded of how far we have come as a nation – and how many challenges or even regressions are still to be rectified. While I am grateful that voter registration forms no longer ask for an applicant’s race, we have recently seen some of the protections of the Voting Rights Act scaled back and the advent of new voter ID laws  and changes in polling hours and places that make it difficult for older voters, people of color, and those in low-income communities to vote as they are entitled to as US citizens.

In Selma, we see police arrest, beat, and use teargas against peaceful protestors. We sometimes see this happen now, too, in Ferguson, MO and other cities protesting against racial problems with policing. We saw police use similar tactics during the breakup of the Occupy movement. It’s sad that I have cause to worry more about my nephews who are of color being stopped or profiled by police than I do about my nephew who is white.  In the fifty years since the march from Selma to Montgomery, we should have progressed more than we have.

Near the beginning of the film, a number of protestors, including Dr. King, are jailed for trying to enter the courthouse through the front door. I immediately thought of the members of We Are Seneca Lake and their supporters, who have been barred from entering the court room and the town hall in Reading, forced to stand out in the frigid cold, not even able to wait in heated cars because the police have banned parking near the court. Non-violent civil disobedience to keep Crestwood from expanding fossil fuel storage in the salt caverns near the drinking water supply of 100,000 people has turned into over 180 arrests with hearings by a judge who refuses to recuse himself despite industry ties and who is violating the legal rights of the defendants.

There are many tactical/political conflicts in the film. What should be handled by federal, state, or local governments? When is the right time for a march or civil disobedience or legislation? When is the right time to bring in allies? What is the relationship between faith values and government? Who makes the final decision on strategy?  These factors and others have been playing out for me over the last several years in our fight against high volume hydrofracking in New York State.  While I am not in a leadership position, I have interacted with many different organizations and leaders with differing opinions on the right way to proceed. Should we work for a continued delay or a ban? Legislative action or executive/regulatory action? Work on local bans or just on the state level?  Argue on scientific grounds, environmental grounds, economic grounds, or moral grounds? I admit that my own approach was to throw everything I could at the problem, changing tack depending on the circumstance.

While we were thrilled but stunned by the Dec. 17 announcement of an impending state-wide ban , we still have a lot of work to do on infrastructure and waste disposal projects in the state, continuing work to keep the ban in place, accelerating our roll-out of renewable energy and efficiency projects, and helping our allies to stop unconventional fossil fuel production in their states, too.

As in Selma, any victory is only partial and leads to more work.  Keep on keeping on.


Empty nest or open face sandwich?

Excuse the (very) mixed metaphor.

As I’ve mentioned before, my spouse and I may have gone into empty nest phase for the final time, with our younger daughter heading off to grad school. Our older daughter is also in grad school – and holding down a job, married, and living 5,000 miles away.  Someone commented to me that empty nest for the sandwich generation is of a somewhat different order than our image of it. Maybe now it’s an open-face sandwich?

Back on July 24th when I wrote the linked post above, I had planned to realign how I use my daytime hours, make some lifestyle adjustments, and readjust how we use some of the space in our home. I anticipated these as some empty nest blessings, although paling in comparison to the biggest blessing, which is that our daughters, both of whom have faced health challenges, are well enough to be off on their own.

And, thank God, our daughters are doing well, finding their way as independent young adults, while still being connected to our family, even with the (considerable) physical distance that separates us.

In the sandwich generation metaphor, one slice of bread is the younger generation, one’s children and sometimes grandchildren. The other slice of bread is the elder generation, with the adult child as the filling squeezed between. Maybe the baby birds eat the top slice of bread to give them strength to leave the nest behind and fly off on their own? Seriously, trying to make these metaphors work together somehow….

My parents, Nana and Paco, and B’s mom, Grandma, live in a nearby senior living complex, my parents in an apartment and Grandma in a cottage. They are all in their 80s and in independent living. As with most people who reach that decade, each was dealing with health issues, but nothing that hadn’t become routine, so, in June and July, anticipating my daughter’s departure for grad school in August, I felt justified in making some plans for myself as an empty nester.

And then, on July 31st, in a coincidence that would have seemed overly contrived if it had been fiction, Nana had a heart attack in the ambulatory surgery unit as Paco was about to be wheeled down to hernia repair surgery.  It sounds dramatic – and it felt dramatic to be in the midst of it – but, after an August filled with doctors’ visits, complications, new medications, and adjustments, Nana and Paco – and I – began to settle into a new normal, with them slowly getting back to their routine of activities, errands, outings, and social time and me back to the daily phone calls, frequent visits, and trying to keep an eye on the medical side of things, especially the complex interplay of all the different diagnoses and meds.

Just as I was thinking that maybe I could get to my own schedule adjustments and other empty-nest projects, Grandma progressed from a September backache to a diagnosis of a lumbar 1 compression fracture to the shattering of that vertebra to a hospital visit to inject bone cement to stabilize it to a period of in-home physical and occupational therapy to increasing trouble with atrial fibrillation to a second hospital stay to being back at home with in-home therapy, all accompanied by problems with pain control, loss of appetite, weight loss, medication changes and side effects, and more worries than I can count. The stress level has been difficult to deal with and, as if to prove it, I developed shingles about a week before Christmas.  I caught it early and got on antivirals right away, so my case was much milder than others I have heard reported, but I am still having some pain along the affected nerve.

This fall, I jettisoned a bunch of what I had planned to do as an empty nester, trying to deal with the ever-changing health challenges of our elders, and, as the new year starts, it is unclear how much of my plans will be feasible/possible/desirable to reclaim.

The amazing thing to me is that I managed to retain one of my original goals, which was to work on my writing, especially my poetry – certainly not perfectly or as much as I had envisioned, but enough that I have made noticeable progress.

July 31st fell toward the end of the summer sessions of the Binghamton Poetry Project and my correspondence with our instructor led to an opportunity to join a biweekly ongoing workshop of established local poets. I knew that what I needed most to grow as a poet was feedback from a group of knowledgeable, creative, and understanding poets so that I could learn to revise my poems to make them stronger. Even though that opportunity came in mid-September just as things with Grandma were beginning to spiral, I would not allow myself to miss it. So, I printed out copies of a poem and showed up, even though my natural introversion makes groups, especially groups where I know no one, daunting and I feared that the other poets, all of whom publish, teach, give readings, etc., would wonder what ever possessed me to think I should be there among them.

And, despite my fears, it has worked beyond what I had thought possible. The other poets have been accepting of me and constructive in their criticism and I am learning so much not only from suggested revisions to my own work but also from reading, listening to comments, and responding to my fellow poets’ work. Despite my lack of experience, I do have things to say about others’ poems, or at least questions to ask.  I am so grateful to each of them for being so welcoming and generous to me.

Now, I need to get my act together to research and submit some of my newly revised poems for publication. Maybe soon?

I am also proud that I managed to keep Top of JC’s Mind going throughout the year. I was never one for making resolutions and this past year shows why, but I will try to keep growing as a poet and as a blogger.

I hope you will keep reading.

(Even though only some of this post was jotted in January, I figured I might as well add the link for the pingback:  http://lindaghill.com/2015/01/01/just-jot-it-january-pingback-post-and-rules/ .)

SoCS: The T is silent

I wasn’t sure what I would write about using the prompt of including the letter T until I read this:  http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/2014s-runner-person-year about how Stephen Colbert was the runner-up to Pope Francis to be National Catholic Reporter’s Person of the Year.

We are fans of Stephen Colbert and his just-completed nine-year run of The Colbert Report. I wrote about it here.

When I told my family about the NCR piece, our daughter T immediately began to concoct a segment of “Who’s Not Honoring Me Now?” about how Stephen (in character) didn’t much care for this pope but that now it was personal.

In real life, Stephen Colbert is a practicing Catholic and I’m sure is fond of Pope Francis. That would be the Stephen who pronounces the T at the end of his last name.

From the first promos of The Colbert Report, it was pointed out that both the T at the end of Colbert and the T at the end of Report are silent. It was how you could tell that someone was familiar with the show or not. Fans would never have pronounced those Ts.

Stephen, being runner-up to Pope Francis is still a great gig!

This post is part of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday, with the prompt being the letter T: http://lindaghill.com/2015/01/02/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-january-315/ .  It is also part of Linda’s Just Jot It January:  http://lindaghill.com/2015/01/01/just-jot-it-january-pingback-post-and-rules/ . Come join in the fun!

JJJ 2015
Badge by Doobster @Mindful Digressions

Poem for the turn of the year

For the new year, I’m reposting a poem I wrote for New Year’s Eve 2013. The sentiment still applies.

December 31, 2013
– by Joanne Corey

is not a New Year
anymore than
August 14th
or November 29th
or April 4th

Midnight promises only
the next day
the next hour
the next minute

Linda is promoting Just Jot It January or JusJoJan, for short. I am trying to participate some, although likely to be more disJointed and Jumbled than the envisioned version of daily posts with cute badge attached. (As in, it dawned on me somewhat later in the day that I could add the pingback http://lindaghill.com/2015/01/01/just-jot-it-january-pingback-post-and-rules/ to make this post part of JusJoJan, even though most of the jotting of this post happened a year ago.)  Join us! Details at the link above, plus pingbacks to all the participating posts. EnJoy!

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