January 21, 2013

One Man Come in the Name of Love

I have the same birthday as Martin Luther King, Jr., and that's pretty special. Not just because I usually get a long weekend around my birthday, but because of the person he was - what he stood for, what he worked for, what he believed, what he believed 'we' as nation could achieve.

I learned more about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement last year on my honeymoon. Jon and I took a whirlwind road-trip through the Eastern and North-Eastern United States for 4 weeks. We didn't have a destination in mind, just hoped to make it as far as we could, which ended up being Niagara Falls, New York. Anyway, it was a great experience and I like to say that the honeymoon continues today - just in Europe! There were many highlights, and I hope I can share them here and there on the blog. Today, in honor of the inauguration of President Barack Obama and the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I'd like to share a tiny bit of this trip that made a profound impact on me. A visit to some important historical sights during our honeymoon really changed history for me, and the way I look at the United States.

This post rambles, but stay with me.

One of our first stops was Little Rock, Arkansas. I had never been to a presidential library and The William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park was close and convenient. Here I am in the full-scale replica of the Clinton-era Oval Office.
I am thinking of a million inappropriate jokes right now, but I smile for the camera. 
And, here you have Lance Armstrong's yellow jersey and bicycle.
It's a museum of lies, folks!
Anyway, I wasn't too impressed with the library, so I went to watch the film. In the film, President Clinton talks about his upbringing in Arkansas, and the path that he took that led him to a career in politics. He mentioned that he was profoundly moved and influenced by the Little Rock Nine and the events that he saw unfold in Little Rock in 1957. For some reason I made a mental note of that, so after our tour of the presidential library we headed to Little Rock Central High School. I thought we should go and check it out. I thought we would just drive by the high school, take a picture, and be on our way.
This is one of Jon's photos.
I was unaware that there is a National Park at Little Rock Central High School. The Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site is caddy-corner to the school itself, and that's where visitors learn about the events and the Little Rock Nine through a detailed, well-designed, audio-visual exhibition. 
This perfectly preserved gas station used to house the museum, but it's also where many journalists watched and recorded the Little Rock Nine events as they unfolded. It reminds me of a Hopper painting.
I knew vaguely about the Little Rock Nine, but I was not prepared for the emotional account of the children who lived through this nightmare in their own country. To even try to comprehend what these children endured - what it was like to be spat upon, to be called names, to be escorted by the National Guard just to go to school for ONE YEAR! What impacted me, what literally moved me to tears: this event was so recent in our nation's history, these nine brave students were children, the hate that was coming from elected officials and the community was astonishing. It's unthinkable, and yet... it happened.
It was extremely moving, very well documented and a visit that I will never forget.

The following day we toured the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.
"Early morning, April 4, shot rings out in the Memphis sky..."
It's housed at the Lorraine Motel where the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. took place. So much of our nation's history is dark and evil, and the National Civil Rights Museum does a good job of exhibiting that. It's definitely worth going to, I'm just not sure about the message it sends. I walked away feeling angry and confused, and that's about all I'll say about it.

I've been watching the news in the United States, and experiencing the "socialist" society of Europe for the past six months. I definitely have my opinions, and I will keep them to myself. Today, I watched President Barack Obama get sworn in for his second term. I hope that God will grace my president and my country with mercy as we move ahead through the next four years. Today is a special day in the United States, and on a day that honors Martin Luther King, Jr. all I want say is, Look at how far we've come! It's amazing. 

P.S. I am wearing the same skirt, I wore 4 years ago.

1 comment:

Kylie said...

Great post, Lydia! I miss you and am wishing we could have watched the inauguration together.