Thursday, December 13, 2007

Can Forgiveness Ever Be That Big?

All the close up parking was taken so we parked in the lot on the far side and headed onto the Albert Dock. Though it's a tourist attraction now it still has the feel of a working dock and it's easy to imagine the kind of commerce that went on there. We were headed to see the International Slavery Museum which was housed directly opposite the entrance to the dock. But getting there. I was bounced and jostled, Joe's breath became ragged and his hands hurt as we both tried to navigate first the cobblestone and then the ragged flagstone.

At one point we stopped for a bite to eat just to have a bit of a rest, realizing then we'd come less than half way. Joe went back to put more money in the parking and I struck out on my own. I just looked down and carefully tried to wend my way through the rough surface without doing damage to my wheelchair. I made a fair distance and when Joe came back I was, rightfully, proud of myself.

We found our way in and then took the elevator up to the exhibit. We were then quiet for most of the hour and a bit that we were there. Seeing shackles that bound hands and feet, whips that tore at disobediant skin, instruments of torture and degredation silenced all chatter. There were many there and it was deathly quiet.

One photograph struck me, a white family had painted 1923 Merry Xmas and the name of the town they lived in in white, one letter per black man's chest. The 'Christmas Message' stood in orderly rows bearing a letter each staring at the camera. The men's faces, the men's who's bodies were used as background to white paint, those faces - you should have seen those faces.

When we got to the Klansman's robe, all white and hideous, I turned to Joe and said, "I think I'm full up now ... " and was about to ask him if he would mind if I just went back to the elevators while he finished looking at the exhibit. But instead he just turned and put his hands on my wheelchair and pushed me out.

On the way back, the road was a rough as it had been before. But we didn't complain. Because now it felt like whining. Enough with that, it wasn't that hard.

My God.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

i had the same reaction to a similiar showing years ago. As I sit here now, the images still haunt me. How cruel we were to others. How cruel we still are, just in a different manner. We haven't really come that far if you actually stop to think about it.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

With all due respect, anonymous, to say "we haven't come that far" trivializes how bad it really was. We have come a hell of a long way. Got a ways to go, yes, but we are over the hump. The very existence of the International Slavery Museum is a demonstration of that.

Joyfulgirl said...

I got goose bumps and shivers reading that post-I don't think there are words big enough to describe such terrible deeds.
I've been 'lurking' reading and being inspired by your posts for a while now but this post really prompted me to comment and say thanks for the refreshing perspectives you give.

Hebe said...

Just to say hi really - I'm a regular reader and have been enjoying your stories and impressions of the UK. Glad you made it to Liverpool - our fantastic city.
I love to read your blog which usually inspires hope, tears, laughter or thoughtfulness. Thank you.

Casdok said...

We still have a long way to go.

Shan said...

I don't know if I've ever heard anything as hotly humiliating as that human-Christmas-card story.

Oh, and: Hi Uncle Dave! Hope you guys are having a nice time in England, hopefully hoisting some hot toddies or something, at this very moment.

Family e-reunion brought to you by the magic of Google.

shiva said...

I used to have a major perseveration about the slave trade and slavery in the US; i read everything i could possibly get my hands on about the subject when i was about 14-15. It had a profound influence on me and it's still my contention that it was, more than any other historical event, responsible for shaping almost everything about the modern world.

I have thought long and hard about the parallels, and the differences, between the oppression of black people as slaves and that of disabled people. Just about everything that went on in slave plantations also went on, or even still goes on, in disability institutions. Yet the oppression of slaves can be explained easily as motivated by economic exploitation, whereas neither the owners of nursing homes, psychiatric "hospitals", etc nor the capitalist system in general benefit economically from the oppression and dehumanisation of disabled people within those institutions - this, i think, is why it is hard for some, especially those coming from a Marxist-type perspective, to see the oppression of disabled people as oppression, because they assume that oppression always has to involve exploitation...

Yet the parallels are inescapable for those who are willing to see them - people like yourself are part of the present-day Underground Railroad...

Free Our People!

Lianna said...

I don't think I'll be able to shake the visualization of your human Christmas card story any time soon...