It’s been a rare occurrence to be proud of my hometown. But for one shimmering moment, an extremely surreptitious campaign to peel back some deliberately racist history has been successful. Memphis, against the rulings of the Tennessee state legislature sold a couple of public parks to a private non-profit organization. They did this in order to skirt rules regarding statues of Civil War rebel leadership individuals.
While one of these statues was built in the early 1900s (1904, IIRC) of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the other of Jefferson Davis was built in the hottest period of civil rights activity of the mid 20th century. The statue was completed in 1964, in a seemingly deliberate afront to the changing world for black people in the south.
Throughout my life I have been led astray by false leaders and idols, and it has taken these last 3-4 years for me to realize how willfully ignorant and blind I have been to the plight of my fellow Americans. I now stand for a wide swath of different ethnic and social groups and causes that if I told my teenage self, my teenage self would spit in my adult face. In my early military career I followed the heard of “Pro-war/Pro-Bush” and found myself wantonly filling my life with skewed perspectives from specific news outlets. Listening to the vitriol of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, or any other right wing conservative spokesperson garbled my own native beliefs about equality and moral validity. It was not until I left general population military units for ones of higher education and capabilities that I began to dig deep down to find my own true opinions and beliefs. Around this time I realized I did not need anyone else to think or believe as I do, and the simple fact that other human beings had those opposing views was something I celebrated so long as my opposition did not see fit to force his or her opinion on others. I became a sort of beacon for liberal-conservative equilibrium.
Having spent many long days and nights in the cities and deserts of Iraq and the valleys and mountain passes of Afghanistan I continued my soul searching; aiming to become a sort of “warrior-monk”. Dealing in the ways of death so that others may live freely. Seeing first-hand how civil wars have torn nations apart. Viewing the aftermath of self-justifying genocide of other ethnic or religious groups of people is a heavy sight to see and I can still only imagine the burden that those who lived through it carry. This burden shapes the way new minds are molded. The same old hate continues to fester like a bedsore. We offer lip service and prayers and claim to have hope for justice, peace and love to spread but much like the multitude of negligent caregivers in nursing homes we permit the bedsore to grow into an infected, putrefying open wound.
With a profound comprehension of how my wake in combat andin life affects those who follow me, I have reached an epiphany about the minority of Americans clinging to past ideals of those civil war leaders, their statues and the legacy they left behind.
I will forever see anyone who has openly and willfully taken up arms against the American people (read, not her government) as a traitor, enemy, and valid target. I no longer view men who fought for the South in the Civil War as any form of veteran. They can only be seen as my enemies, those who continue to cling to the ideals of the Confederacy are enemies of the American people.
Back to the original subject of this piece, I am proud of my hometown because the city voted for her people. They did not vote for some variation of political or financial gain. The city council of Memphis held a late night vote to sell these parks in a punctuation mark on a longstanding battle with the status of these monuments to slavery, racism and subjugation. I do not know what my future holds for me, but I do know that I want to live in a world where my elected officials speak and vote for their people, not for their benefactors nor for the shadowy entities that donate money to them.
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PS: If my Memphis cop father read this and realized that I am in favor of demolishing the monikers of a failed rebellion, his Stockholm Syndrome-addled head might spin around.
If you have gotten this far, thanks for reading, I was just wanting to brain - > fingertip vomit my thoughts about the situation.