It was my 66th birthday and a fine blue skies day, after 3 days of almost constant rain, to get out and explore a bit of Charleston, South Carolina. I'd never been to historic downtown Charleston, but skirted it once while visiting friends vacationing on Isle of Palms nearby.
We parked Miranda in a lot near the United States Customs building near the harbor and began our walk about. There's a lot of new construction, renovations continue apace, and one can't help but marvel at the magnificent homes located in the historic section of downtown.
I suppose Melanie and I spent about 3 hours or more walking through Live Oak covered parks and making our way through narrow streets and alleyways. And, while it was a great way to spend my birthday, I have to admit it was somewhat tainted by, well, history.
Fort Sumter was visible on our walk and we heard tour guides discussing it and the Civil War with their paid patrons. I wondered aloud what kind of pablum might they be consuming, was it white washed history, Gone with the Wind-styled to assuage delicate white folks sensibilities or were they getting a history that included a discussion of how enslaved labor built many of the magnificent structures that surrounded us, how enslaved peoples made opulent life-styles possible?
There's also the neo-Nazi, Dylann Roof, who murdered 9 people in a bible study in Charleston. One doesn't necessarily have to be from the south to understand how the narrative of root causes of the Civil War got away from factual and was repackaged into the mythical and how much of that mythical southern "heritage" still exists in the telling as I'm typing. We have a white supremacist president in the White House.
Yet for all its appeal, Charleston also evokes a brutal chapter of American life, a city built on and sustained by slave labor for nearly two centuries. Beneath the stately facade of this prosperous city is a savage narrative of Jim Crow and Ku Klux Klan violence, right through the civil rights movement.
One doesn’t have to reach that far back to understand what makes Charleston a haunting place to explore (an estimated 40 to 60 percent of African-Americans can trace their roots here). Only in 2015 did the Confederate flag come down from the state capitol in Columbia, prompted by a young neo-Nazi, Dylann S. Roof, who brandished a handgun and massacred nine people during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the nation’s oldest black churches and hallowed ground of the civil rights movement. That one of the casualties, Cynthia Hurd, was the sister of a close colleague only hardened my sense that the so-called Holy City, nicknamed as such after its abundance of churches, was holding fast to its legacy of racial hatred.- In Charleston, Coming to Terms With the Past
There must be some kind of way outta here
Said the joker to the thief
There's too much confusion
I can't get no relief
Business men, they drink my wine
Plowman dig my earth
None were level on the mind
Nobody up at his word
No reason to get excited
The thief he kindly spoke
There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But, uh, but you and I, we've been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us stop talkin' falsely now
The hour's getting late...-All Along the Watch Tower, Dylan
Good morning from Charleston, South Carolina where we've been in residence for a few days. We succeeded in escaping the unseasonably cold weather bearing down on us in Providence, Rhode Island where we were for 5 days. After traveling over a 1,000 miles in 3 days (not recommended), some stationary time has been good. Yesterday was our wedding anniversary and today, my birthday. Dinner last evening in Charleston to celebrate both was yummy.
We were in Providence last week celebrating the 80th anniversary of Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) with EPF board members and members of the Episcopal Church, Province One. Rt. Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown from Vermont preached. The theme of the gathering was racial reconciliation.
I discussed my surprise and chagrin at seeing confederate battle flags during our travels in Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and New York with Bishop MacVean-Brown as we shuttled from Providence to Bristol for an Evensong where she was to preach. She related a story to me of a time she felt unsafe in rural Indiana only to find out later the location was one where lynchings took place.
The fellow running a campground at which we stayed in New Hampshire told me matter-of-factly that the Civil War was not about race about the time his helper showed up with a confederate battle flag do-rag on his head. There's a jewish white supremacist in the White House in case you missed that. Aside from scratching my head, warding off despair for our nation is difficult at times but for all the great people we continue to meet on the road who are passionate about the issues facing us. I also relish the idea we are helping build an enduring coalition for peace and justice.
A few of the folks we were with in Providence.
Looking back at Richford, New York
Back in late October we were in Richford, New York, just outside Ithaca and were hosted by Linda and Michael who graciously allowed us to park in their driveway for the night. We are grateful for the time spent with them. They fed us dinner and breakfast and Michael took us along for a tour of a working steam-powered engine machine shop. Michael also restores vintage British motorcycles.
We spend one more night here in Charleston, explore a bit and then we head farther south tomorrow, keeping close to the Atlantic coast in search of fair weather and some place to get outside. Watch this space. Peace.
Steven and Melanie