Tuesday, June 06, 2006

6-6-6: Federal Marriage Amendment Tuesday

Today is 6/6/06, the day Bill Frist and his cronies, including a confused George W. Bush go down in history for attempting to write discrimination into the United States Constitution a second time (the first was back in 2004).

If you are from Arkansas, you have this Will Counts photo emblazened on your psyche.

The picture is of Elizabeth Eckford entering Little Rock's Central High as one of the first non-segregated black students. The woman yelling at her is Hazel Massery.

From a later story in Arkansas Online Magazine:

Hazel Massery drove Elizabeth Eckford home from Central High School in Little Rock on Sunday afternoon. It was no big deal, because the two women have become good friends since September 1997 -- as unlikely as that might seem four decades after their teen-age faces were frozen in a famous photograph epitomizing racial hatred...

"It was the farthest thing from my mind that the photo shoot I set up would lead to a lasting friendship between Elizabeth and Hazel," Counts said Sunday. "I'd had a very difficult time persuading Elizabeth to even be photographed."

Massery, who lives in a rural area of east Pulaski County, said the relationship "wasn't something I ever expected to develop the way it has. I had called Elizabeth in 1962 and apologized for my hateful action. But that was the only contact we'd had until Will got us together."

The two women met for lunch in October 1997 and have seen each other regularly since then. They enrolled jointly in a 12-week course on race relations and have maintained contact with others who took part in that workshop.

"Both of us being mothers, it turned out we have a lot to talk about..."

This story matters because the same outdated interpretations of the Bible and people's same frustrated need to protect a "traditional" yet exclusionary way of life will reveal themselves again as families like mine seek a seat at America's common table. We have already seen the bitter faces of 21st century versions of the 1957 Hazel Massery and worse.

But, as the pastor from my young days used to say, "It's dark. The lightening flashes and the ground opens up. It may be Friday, but Sunday is on the way!" There is much power in the resurrection--both in its glorious outcome as well as it hopeful inevitability.

I've sat in meetings where some black pastors were furious that I see any connection to the hurtful events of the 50s and our struggle today. The irony is not lost on me, but I try not to judge. As humans we fight from our unique place of human experience. They can't know mine anymore than I can know their's. My experience just allows me to better see the overlap. In the future, people will come to see, as the late Coretta Scott King did, "gay people have families and their families need protection, too." My prayer is that one day these same pastors and I will have lunch together like Elizabeth and Hazel. That will be a resurrection day.


Blogger Mike Mather said...

Troy -- the analogy is a good one. Thanks for reminding us. One side note. The photo that you showed was taken by a man who I met a few years ago when he was a professor at IU and a member of First UMC in Bloomington. He was the one who brought these two women together years later -- and there is a picture of them together as well (I have the book if you want to see it). He came and told the story of bringing these two women back together. It reminds me of the passage from Romans 8 at church Sunday that spoke about the pain of childbirth and the groaning in travail of creation. To me -- to my years -- what you are grieving and expressing here is exactly what is being written about. I'm sorry that it took so many years for those two women to get together and for a long delayed apology to come. Maybe in this age when everything seems to be changing so rapidly and computers and technology only last for a year before they are out of style -- maybe the change you write about will be born among us -- soon, God, please, soon.

4:37 PM  

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