I’ve just returned from the VA Hospital in Sepulveda for an annual. I really like my doctor there and am grateful for her continuity. While waiting to be called, I sat in a semi-circle of other vets, several wearing shirts or caps that identified them as Airborne. Tho I normally do as well, today I had on shorts and a black t-shirt, no cap. I picked a magazine…and then began to overhear a conversation across from me. Two Nam-era vets, taking turns disparaging Obama, then widening their targets to insult Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, pretty much anyone in public life with dark skin. I was the only person of color within earshot.
I suddenly found myself speaking out to them. “You two are so pleased with yourselves, aren’t you? Full of bullshit opinions. How about you vote for Trump, maybe he can take us back to slavery.” After a couple of exchanges, we were soon on the same page, disgusted with the political choices and things in general. And then, exchanging horror stories from combat and gruesome airborne accidents in Vietnam and Grenada, laughing out loud.
See the thing is, it took about 3 minutes for us to find common ground. What astounded me was my initial reaction. I was like a cartoon thermometer; I could literally feel the heat rising in my body up to the top of my head, just before challenging them. I guess that was the surge of adrenaline. Doesn’t happen all that much, nowadays. I really didn’t give a fuck. Damned if I’m willing to listen to such bullshit while I wait for a VA doctor.
I am struck by the commentary of many posters regarding this recent “civil disobedience” at the House. In this era of social mediums, snark seems to be an acceptable form of self-expression…and I guess it’s personally satisfying on some degraded level. But I personally felt great pride and affection for this recent sit-in.
SOMETHING was being done, beyond moments of silence and distracting arguments. All journeys begin with a step. No single sit-in in the 60’s represented THE pivotal event that propelled us towards the civil rights legislation of the 60’s. There’s a concept called “critical mass”…meaning at some point, enough people have enough conviction and sufficient dedication to generate profound change. I am hopeful that we are progressing towards that point.
I imagine there existed black conservatives in the 60’s, people of color who were critical of sit-ins and voting registration, etc. Channeling my inner Eddie Murphy, I imagine them sitting on their porches or cracker barrels, mocking “those silly Negroes” 😉 But I struggle to grasp the satisfaction black conservatives today gain from their derision and misdirection for elected officials doing WHAT THEY COULD DO to compel their colleagues to acknowledge the will of a majority of Americans, regarding gun legislation.
Just don’t get it.
In my years and travels, I have met many inspiring and accomplished men. Because of what he endured and transcended, because of the dignity and decency with which he conducted his life, my father remains at the very top of that list. He is my standard for the measure of a man.
Osborn T Smallwood. 1911-1998. Lutheran minister, PhD, Fulbright professor, Foreign Service Officer, University Administrator.