"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

"She was fed up"

Good NY Times piece on Rosa Parks. Didn't find out until just now, having been at a 3-day Legal Services staff conference that was held at a place a bit off the beaten path. The timing is personally significant, however. On Monday, our keynote speaker was Eva Paterson from the Equal Justice Society, who talked about the need to speak openly about race in our country, get it back on the table, and not let the far right continue to advance its bullshit agenda that we're living in a "colorblind society" now and discrimination is a thing of the past. (Those are my words, not exactly Ms. Paterson's.) Sorry, if anyone from the Federalist Society or the Heritage Foundation happens to be reading this, but the data just doesn't bear out the colorblind theory. Probably because you made it up.

I have a little story about Rosa Parks. When I was at BYU in 1992 or thereabouts, she came to campus to address the students. Whoever was in charge of the event apparently really misjudged the kind of reception Ms. Parks would receive. They booked her into some little lecture hall. The building has faded from my memory but I think it was one of the newer buildings at the time. Students filled the lecture hall to its standing capacity, filled the halls and rooms surrounding the lecture hall, and overflowed to the outside of the building itself. The powers-that-were had to scramble around to set up TV screens so that more of the multitude eager to see Ms. Parks and hear her words could do so. I couldn't even get into one of the overflow classrooms.

Still can't help but wonder (as did many at the time), what the hell were the planners thinking? Am I wrong to wonder if somebody in some BYU admin office thought that some old black woman who rode a bus home from work 40+ years previously couldn't be much of a draw? That a group of predominantly white Mormon college students wouldn't care about or want to connect with the civil rights movement? What did it do for them? Do they even ride buses?

The glass half full version of the story is, of course, that despite any reason or lack thereof for poor choice of venue, so many of us showed up that the building wouldn't hold us. That means that it wasn't just the liberal BYU fringes coming out of the woodwork. Some Young Republicans must have been there too.

The parallel universe fantasy version of the story, as I would like to have seen it happen, is that Rosa Parks was booked for a devotional address in the Marriott Center during the special Tuesday time when no classes were held, and everyone was instructed to go and witness a living example of that great-things-accomplished-by-small-&-simple-means concept they may have read about in a book. The whole town of Provo and perhaps even bits of Springville, Orem and American Fork showed up as well, if only for the novelty of it, and re-runs of the devotional were played on KBYU Channel 11 so people all over Utah saw Rosa Parks at the pulpit for years afterwards.

It's been awhile since I thought about Rosa Parks. She was tired and fed up and did something unexpected, and the effects traveled in time and space all the way to Provo which is definitely in a galaxy far, far away.

Anyone else out there feeling a little tired and fed up? How's this for a statistic: for every $1 of direct spending in the federal budget, our government shells out $642 (yes, that's six HUNDRED forty two) in tax benefits. Now that's a healthy welfare program. I'm not saying all those tax breaks should go away; some of them are available to poorer people in the form of the Earned Income Tax Credit, some of them promote homeownership, etc. which is great and I hope to cash in on that eventually, but mostly our government operates as a mutual aid society for rich people. Speaking of whom, here's another statistic: the wealthiest 1% of US families hold about 33% of the nation's wealth. The next 9% owns another third, and the rest of us (90%) own a third. Of course when you think about how things are going up there on Walton Mountain these days, it's shocking that the top 1% has only a paltry third of all the wealth. Surely they can do better than that. Please, the Waltons need you to help them own the whole world! Call the IRS and your state franchise tax board and ask them if you can just pay your taxes to Wal-Mart this year: cut out the middlemen, have smaller government just like folks want. Whether you shop there or not, you basically owe your soul to the company store, so why not get real about it?

1 comment:

M.A. said...

Yeah, sister, yeah!!!