We come from humble origins. The type of humble that conjures up a vision of a whiskered chin resting tight against a frail chest, a folded hat, white knuckle gripped at the waist, no eye contact dared. While that mental picture could point to my southern heritage, the “we” I was referring to wasn’t just me, it is us…
We all come from humble origins, the humblest. We don’t have a say if or when our faces sweat in the sun of this planet or teeth chatter in chill on the other side of it, at least for a time. We don’t choose our parents or siblings, and we are dependent on someone to care for us when we can’t; all of us when we’re young, some of us when we’re grey.
The in-between is an illusion…
“You were too dumb or crazy to be scared,” I told him with a chuckle, “But I was scared,” I admitted to my older brother. He laughed as he pondered my thoughts, I could tell by the style of his laugh he was opting for the “crazy’ category, instead of the “dumb” one. He’s right, of course, he’s not dumb, which only leaves one option… Better to laugh I suppose.
“We just didn’t know any better, it’s all we knew,” he explained. It was our world, we were like fireflies caught in a jar, captured by something bigger than us. We weren’t quite as delicate or pretty as the lightning bugs, but almost every bit as subject to the masters of our world… for a time.
It was the late sixties and there were places where violence was a way of life. We lived in one of those places. While racial tension and violence were real, it was only part or the story. The truth is there was violence everywhere and the color of skin or hair, even if it was the same as another person’s, didn’t seem to bring peace. I’ve noticed it still doesn’t.
I didn’t realize at the time we were a unique part of this country’s evolution. I wasn’t old enough to realize that we were a part of the gathering, all members and descendants of the trek by the first few generations of poor folks flocking to urban areas, trying to make a better way for their families.
In hindsight, it’s easy to see it was like speeding cars racing for a one lane finish line. The independent people with the attitude that made this country great would struggle to fall into a civilized set of rules that didn’t match the ones they’d live for generations by in the thickets.
Violence was part of life and real men didn’t run from it. No matter the color of your skin, we had more in common than most folks could know at the time… my dad knew. As a sharecropper he’d worked with and around all kinds of other folks with different colored skin, his dad being half Cherokee may have had something to do with his perspective.
A lot of folks back then were like fighting dogs and roosters, bred to fight and tossed into a cage… that’s when ugly shows up.
Regardless if you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth or a shovel in their hand, we all have choices to make during our in-between. Where we’re born and how we’re reared we can’t change and it will have some impact on our lives one way or the other.
The gift of free will is used to choose our destination. I often wonder if those of us who were born with less… were given more? Sometimes crazy is the closest thing to sane…