Saturday, March 26, 2016
The other night I watched the movie "Selma". It was incredibly moving and eye opening. The event in the movie happened in my lifetime. Seriously, in my lifetime! And I am not that old.
I am amazed at how much and how little our world has changed. Today the emphasis is on LGBT issues and Muslims as the whipping boys; racial prejudice is real and alive today in 2016.
The images of people being beaten and killed based on the color of their skin broke my heart. I grew up in the South in the 1960's but I never experienced the degree of hatred and violence portrayed in the movie. I know it existed in the world, there is documentation, photographs and news reels of it happening. But in my small insulated world it didn't exist to my knowledge. I lived next door to a black family. There was a cluster of houses down the road that the Barlow family lived in. I walked to and from school with those children. I was never taught to hate them because of their skin color. I don't remember segregation in school. They went to a different church, sure, but in school and community they mixed with us without interference as best as I can recollect.
Harking back to the movie, set in 1964, chronicling Martin Luther King's march to Montgomery from Selma, I was astonished at the politics. President Johnson was portrayed fairly, I think; a man struggling with his own conscience and a myriad of issues, Viet Nam, poverty, civil rights. It was a divisive time in the USA. JFK was dead, the world was challenging belief systems and no one was sure of who was safe. J. Edgar Hoover was still active although becoming more virulent and paranoid.
I started to wonder what our world would be like now if both JFK and MLK had lived. Would we be a more peaceful, idealistic nation? Would we have overcome the prejudice that ripped us apart? Would there have been a huge shift in the world's culture of war?
If they had lived, would there have been a Nixon? A Reagan? Even speculating further, would a Trump be this far along in the Presidential election process?
I think about the "What ifs" a lot. What the world would have been like if so many men had not died in the Civil War which effectively eliminated many children being born; that loss of potential inventors, diplomats, healers, helpers... On the flip side, perhaps there was evil that didn't come to fruition too.
But still, what happens when idealists die?
I know that both JFK and MLK were human with their own foibles and faults, particularly having affairs with multiple women. But what if they had lived to carry forth those ideals of justice and equality? Would we be living in a different and possibly better world?
And what of the other people, not as well known, but just as important in the civil rights movement. What of the ones who marched and believed and fought and died who did not make the history books?
The world is so large and yet so small that every life is interwoven and the loss of one has far reaching consequences. It is easy to write off one life at times. It is easy to lull ourselves into thinking we make no difference in the world; but we do. Even a quiet, low key life has import and meaning.
"What if" is a question with no answer, only repercussions.