Monday, August 8, 2011

Freedom Song

I had the opportunity to watch a movie called "Freedom Song" recently. It wasn't a movie blockbuster hyped by Hollywoood, but it was one of the most powerful movies I have seen in a long time. It was a movie full of violence - a true story, but the heroes of the story were young men and women who put themselves "in harm's way" without AK-47's (don't know for sure if that's the name of that weapon), bazookas, suicide bombs or even handguns or knives. In fact, their leaders told them specifically to drop their weapons before entering the fray and even resist hitting back if hit. They were instructed take the blows if they fell. Those still standing were to cover ones taking blows instead of trying to strike at the perpetrators. Courage came not from alcohol, pot or drugs but from musice -music whose lyrics reminded them what they were "fighting" for-freedom.

I had chills being taken back to that time when I was a young girl - just "coming of age" and living in a southern state and watching these ugly scenes unfold on my black and white television set. I remember cheering loudly for these "mobs" being arrested for disturbing the peace as they modeled the power of non-violence. The setting of this movie was not South Africa, Germany during the Holocaust or even Afghanistan. It was Mississippi in the early days of the burgeoning civil rights movement. How were these young people disturbing the peace? They were trying to go to the library, eat a hamburger at a local hamburger place, things most teenagers in America take for granted. They even had the audacity to try and help their parents register to vote.

There was one scene in the movie that caused me to reflect about war as a way of promoting human rights. A long line of students forms as they march from their all black school toward city hall to demand school improvements. Just before they appraoch the front steps leading into the building protected by sheriffs and men with guns and dogs, they pass an alabaster stature of a Confederate soldier. In 1865 those young people's ancestors were "freed" from slavery after a brutal Civil War that annihilated Dixie and bankrupted the United States Federal Government (Union). More Americans died in the Civil War than all other wars this country has fought combined (including World War II). What was the result of that war that "freed" the slaves and the greedy reconstruction period of hatred resulting from waving the "bloody flag of victory?" - One hundred more years of slavery until the chains of bondage were broken by leaders having the courage and faith in humankind to demand their rights as fellow human beings protected by the same government that was founded under the principle that "all men (people) are created equal with the hope that the nation would live up to the expectations of the Founding Fathers who wrote those words.

Because of this non-violent movement the chains of slavery and the Jim Crow system of laws in the south were finally severed without the tragedy of another brutal "civil war" in this country. Those who lost their lives in this war were the very ones who started it. They died not because they carried guns; they died because they believed in the power of non-violence as the best way to find a permanent solution to injustice. I am grateful to those who gave their lives in this cause. So, I express my gratitude to the following: Some are named, some names I can't remember and I'm sure there are others, but these are my heroes from the war I remember best in my lifetime with the highest cause (human rights and dignity) obtained in a way that allowed me to continue to live in a country where the human right to live peacefully is honored and respected.

Thank you
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Medger Evers
Emmet Till
Three Civil Rights Workers (two white) whose names I can't remember
Two little girls who died in a Birmingham church and any others you may recall who are not mentioned here.

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