I guess this is my opportunity to make a blog post that's deep, meaningful, and socially relevant, to show you all what a socially aware creature I am. I don't know if I can really DO that, to be quite honest. I think I'm too close to this.
You see, about fifty miles from here is a little town called Jena. It's a backwater town, one of hundreds of tiny, backward towns that dot Louisiana, especially in the south of the state. Racism is rampant in most of these little podunk towns, and it runs both ways. And something happened there that has catapulted this bug-under-a-rock town into the national attention. I'm not going to supply a link, all you have to do is run a search on Jena Six, or tune into NPR. It's everywhere.
And that's as far as I got with this post.
No, not really. I had about six or seven more paragraphs below there, but it was like my mood--jumbled, confused. And so, I erased it, all but the first two paragraphs and the last line, which set the mood. My mood. I wrote this next bit hours later. It's got a little more sense in it than what I had managed this morning, but not much.
When I was a kid, Xmas time was a magic time. There was a local guy who would go on TV after the news was over for a little locally-broadcast show, dressed to the nines as The Jolly Old Elf, and he'd ho-ho-ho and read letters from kids in the area and do all the expected Xmas stuff. And at the end he'd pull out a telescope from his red suit's pockets and he'd "look" out across the city and tell us that he saw...us. He'd call us out by name, and the fervent hope, at least in my little heart was that one day he'd call MY name out, that he'd see ME sitting there in my living room, anxious grin pasted on my face. Well, an eye more far-seeing and more extensive than that of Saint Nicholas' is pointed at us, and I can't stand it.
The upset that the Jena Six rally is causing today, already, has had surprising ripples in me, and it'd not just that traffic is backed up for an hour away in all directions from that little town. I'm distressed, but not sure why. I tried to blog about it this morning early--I figured that my little slice of reading public would like to know how it feels to be a mere 50 miles from the main focus, how it feels to be the city that will be hosting Mos Def's rant at the amphitheater here in Alexandria on the Red River, downtown, just about twenty minutes from my house. And you know, I can't? I started, got a few paragraphs down and it's like my mood--jumbled, distorted, makes no real sense. It's just bits and chunks, disjointed.
Do you know that even here, one of the six or seven major cities in this state there's a part of town called "Samtown," which is where the ghetto begins? I always thought that was just a derogatory term for the ghetto, but it's listed on the city maps that you get from the Welcome Center as "Samtown." Lower Third and down. Samtown. The places where a white face isn't ever seen.
I'm of the mind that by nightfall tonight Jena will be host to a riot at minimum, a city-spanning fire at worst. Jesse Jackson has shipped in his own audience--40 busses full of activists, full of strangers into the tiny, insular Jena, where people are desperately afraid and angry of black people, much less strangers, much LESS activist strangers from states so far away that they probably couldn't even FIND Louisiana on a map without a GPS in hand.
I'm afraid, in a way, and I'm angry that so much focus is being paid to this state, so much negative. It feels like someone has turned over a rotten log and is suddenly astounded and shouting to everyone who will listen that they've revealed a squirming, writhing mess of horrible bugs. I mean, it's not like there is injustice only here, only in Jena. We're HUMAN, for shit's sake, it's part of our nature to be selfish, introverted and aggressive. I'm with Nietzsche--we're all born "evil," and have to work to overcome that natural tendency. And then the National Eye turns here, to this rinky-dink state, to a podunk town of 3500 who are so racist that I'm surprised there hasn't been a hanging there recently, and everyone is suddenly "Oh my god, there's RACISTS here!" Wow. Who would have thunk it?
And somehow I don't see Jesse Jackson and Mos Def changing anyone's minds down there. No toothless white-trash redneck is suddenly going to burn his rebel flag because an angry black man came to his town with 40 busses of black activists. No, it's only going to inflame them, make the quiet angers much louder, make the closet klansmen come out in the open. I guess this sounds strange to folks from more civilised places but do you know guys realise that many houses way out in the sticks still proudly display the confederate stars and ex? It's a point of pride. It makes me sick, but there you are, I'm a resident of the most racist state in the union probably. No escaping it, and I don't know that any number of inflamatory speeches and fist wavings are going to change it.
If Jena isn't quite literally on fire tonight I'll be astounded.