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Monday, January 31, 2011

On this day

Sometimes, events in life conspire in such a way as to take your breath away.

The whimsical, fanciful way things sometimes happen in such a disordered fashion that brings a sudden order to your thoughts can lead you to think that there is a hidden hand somewhere, out there in the cosmos that is either trying to send a message, or just having fun.

This can happen in "real time" - the present - or in the past, by observing history.

Some folks call that "Coincidence". It's something uncanny, accidental or unexpected that happens without being related to the original event or intent. The folks in 12 Step Programs maintain that there is no such thing as "Coincidence," which some maintain is the name God uses when S/he wants to remain anonymous.

Others call it "Synchronicity." The concept of synchronicity was developed by Carl Jung who defined it as "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events.". It's the experience of two or more events that are apparently unrelated by cause and effect or unlikely to occur together by chance that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner.

I like the word "Serendipity". It means those occasions wherein you are looking for something and, quite unexpectedly, find something else that is of equal or greater importance than your original quest.

I don't know whether it's coincidence, synchronicity or serendipity, but reading over today's historical events has given me pause to consider these events on a framework of deeper meaning.
1865: The House of Representatives passed a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery.

1919: Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, who broke the sport's color barrier in 1947, was born in Cairo, Ga.

2006: Coretta Scott King, the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., died at age 78.
There's something about the juxtaposition of these events on the historical time line that catches me up short.

One wonders about things like the destiny of a child born on the day when slavery was abolished and deep sadness of the death of a Civil Rights hero and wife of a Giant of Justice who died on that very same day.

The New York Times article on the abolition of slavery contains this report:
At 3 o'clock, by general consent, all discussion having ceased, the preliminary votes to reconsider and second the demand for the previous question were agreed to by a vote of 113 yeas, to 58 nays; and amid profound silence the Speaker announced that the yeas and nays would be taken directly upon the pending proposition. During the call, when prominent Democrats voted aye, there was suppressed evidence of applause and gratification exhibited in the galleries, but it was evident that the great interest centered entirely upon the final result, and when the presiding officer announced that the resolution was agreed to by yeas 119, nays 56, the enthusiasm of all present, save a few disappointed politicians, knew no bounds, and for several moments the scene was grand and impressive beyond description. No attempt was made to suppress the applause which came from all sides, every one feeling that the occasion justified the fullest expression of approbation and joy.
One can only imagine the joy of that moment. . . restraining joy while waiting for that 'final result' that would finally remove the stain of slavery from our democratic process.

Well, slavery may have been removed as a legal entity, but the stain of the history of slavery can never be removed. Racism continues to linger today, in this very moment in history.

There have been some bright spots along the way. Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson would be one of them when, in 1947, the Brooklyn Dodgers signed him on to be come the first black Major League Baseball player since the 1880s.

It wasn't only that Robinson was a magnificent athlete and stellar baseball player. The example of his character and unquestionable talent challenged the traditional basis of segregation, which then marked many other aspects of American life, and contributed significantly to the Civil Rights Movement.

It should be noted that part of the significance of this dramatic event was that it was played out on the 'fields of dreams' of the great American pastime of baseball.

He was one of the children of The Great Migration, born the youngest of five children of a family of sharecroppers in Cairo, Ga, during a Spanish flu and smallpox epidemic. After Robinson's father left the family in 1920, they migrated to Pasadena, CA, to be part of an extended family, which was one of the survival strategies of people who were fleeing the harsh injustice of Jim Crow.

There's something in me that rejoices in the birth of Jackie Robinson, who did his part in the Civil Rights Movement by being all that he could be as a man and an athlete and a citizen of the universe. That his birth "coincides" with the date on which slavery was abolished brings greater significance to both events.

And then, there's Coretta Scott King, whose most prominent role may have been in the years after her husband's 1968 assassination when she took on the leadership of the struggle for racial equality herself and became active in the Women's Movement.

She was roundly criticized for her support of the full inclusion of LGBT people. In a speech in November 2003 at the opening session of the 13th annual Creating Change Conference, organized by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Scott King made her now famous appeal linking the Civil Rights Movement to LGBT rights:
"I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people. ... But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people."
Coretta Scott King's support of LGBT rights was strongly criticized by some African-American pastors. She called her critics "misinformed" and said that Martin Luther King's message to the world was one of equality and inclusion. She told them "Like Martin, I don't believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others."

Coretta Scott King, died in the late evening of January 30, 2006 at a rehabilitation center in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, In the Oasis Hospital where she was undergoing holistic therapy for her stroke and advanced stage ovarian cancer.

Her legacy of peace and justice makes her a Giant of Justice of equal stature to her husband. Her call to "make room at the table" is one that echoes the message of the abolition of slavery. Her death underscores the importance of this day in history.

Coincidence? Synchronicity? Serendipity?

I'm not sure.

I think history has a way of calling to the future, underscoring certain events with happiness and joy, sadness and loss, reminding us of the lessons we've learned - and, perhaps, have forgotten.

George Santayana said it best: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

We still have much to learn about the shameful legacy of slavery and racism. On this day, may we commit ourselves to those lessons of the past, that we, ourselves, might be transformed and become agents of change and transformation of the future.

1 comment:

DeanB said...

I was expecting you to go somewhere with Jackie Robinson's birthplace as part of the synchronicity (maybe I didn't read carefully enough).