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Blog: Here's what Tom says about that!
I woke up this morning to the horrifying news that 12 people were killed at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado last night. Tommy Nugent, a Facebook friend of mine wrote, “Strip us naked at the airport all day long for security… it’s the Colorado movie theater type killings we can’t do shit about. Scary.”
All I feel is sad. And helpless. It sometimes feels like we are spinning out of control. What can we do? As Jessica Redfield wrote in her blog post last month (Late Night Thoughts on the Eaton Center Shooting),
I know the world is a dangerous place. I understand that there are people who want to attack the United States and kill Americans. I realize that American Presidents face decisions unfathomable to most citizens they pledge to protect. But something has changed in the way the United States practices war-making, and we aren’t talking about it. We aren’t asking the deep questions about why terrorism exists. Most of us are not even aware of the extent to which a new legacy of terror has been created in our name.
On Friday, June 29, 2012, the African American Jazz Caucus held a special awards ceremony at the Indiana Landmarks Center in Indianapolis. The Jazz Masters Award was presented to Melvin Rhyne (jazz organist and original member of the Wes Montgomery Trio), Frank Smith (jazz bassist; performed with Dizzy Gillespie and Zoot Sims), and Benny Barth (jazz drummer; performed with Duke Ellington; original member of the Mastersounds).
When I was a child in the 50’s and 60’s, there were two black families who attended the same church my family did. Mr. Bailey owned a grocery store. He gave several of my friends their first work experience when he hired them to work for him.
In November 2001, Jim Bailey still attended church with my folks after all those years. He came to their 50th wedding anniversary celebration. This was shortly after I returned from Ghana, Cuba, and Rhode Island with 9 distant cousins on the journey that was chronicled in the film Traces of the Trade and my first book, Inheriting the Trade.
With a room full of people surrounding us, I took the opportunity to share with Mr. Bailey how I had learned so much about slavery, racism, and the history of my country that I never learned in school.
He leaned toward me. “We always learned those things in our schools, son.”
Gloria Steinem once said, “the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” She is certainly correct.
I’ve researched my books, traveled my country and overseas, and pondered the United States as a beacon of hope and freedom in the world. How does this image jive with our history of annihilating indigenous people and enslaving African people? In more recent times, how does this image jive with our last President invading another country under false pretenses and our current President having a “secret kill list”? I am certain that drone attacks, which have killed many civilians in addition to their intended targets, create more enemies than they destroy; that they help foster sympathy for, and increase membership in, terrorist organizations. It seems to me that the most effective way to stop terrorism is to stop causing harm in other countries.
I want to believe that my country always stands for freedom and justice, but it too often hasn’t and doesn’t. So the 4th of July is problematic for me. When I responded to a request from my publisher’s blog to write about what I would be celebrating on the 4th, my answer was not the same as it was 12 years ago.
The truth has pissed me off. It has saddened me. It has strengthened my resolve to write more, speak out more, and try to make a positive difference in a violent world.
You can read what I wrote, as well as what my writing partner in Gather at the Table, Sharon Morgan, wrote in July 4th and “The Immeasurable Distance Between Us”.