The Context of Blind Ignorance: Selma stories versus photos

I woke up this morning and as the sun rose a cloudless bright blue sky greeted me as I stepped outside. Here in Maryland, there are still the compacted mounds of snow turned ice from the shovels and plows of a few days earlier. Some yards, including ours are still covered by several inches. The sound outdoors was one of flowing water even at the early morning hour as the mounds melted.  Since I had spoken with my Dad on the phone the night prior, and he remarked of the 70 degree temperatures in Livingston Parish and the heavy rains expected, the sound of flowing water outside had me reflecting to times sitting in an aluminum bateau on the Natalbany, Tickfaw, or Blood rivers using a cane pole and earthworms dug before sunup from beside the chicken coop to catch bluegills amongst the cypress knees.  Peaceful.

Sitting at my desk at present, I could easily walk into a classroom and lecture for hours about the events which took place in Selma, Alabama, before I was even born. Within my office, I could take books from my shelves with information about Selma and build a covered structure around my chair.  Approximately 1.5 filing cabinet drawers of copied journal articles, oral history transcripts, copies of newspaper clippings, and other primary sources would comprise the roof.  Those tomes and files on the 20th Century Civil Rights Movement are only a sampling of the resources at arms’ length. The amount that I have is average for the history teacher.

The era is a part of Southern history. An era with acts of courage that I doubt I have the power to replicate. An era with acts of malice, terror, and barbarism that I pray will never duplicate in the United States of America.

Obviously, the 20th century Civil Rights Movement is but one such era in United States history. I’m neither dismissing nor minimalizing the bravery and sacrifices made by others in their respective eras and areas. I’m not justifying or condoning the acts of violence and oppression committed by others during those periods. Actually no ages in history regardless of location would be free of negatives. Likewise, positives can be found if one continues to search. Some of the negatives and positives, however, just remain unknown until some point in future.

I’m not writing a historical piece about Selma or the Civil Rights Movement. I’m not recapping the happenings commemorating the 50th anniversary of events.  You can find information in a number of sources.  In case it assists, I will link the President’s remarks for the anniversary here as one example.

I’m writing about this furor about a photograph in the New York Times.  The Telegraph provides a summary about the outrage.

In yesterday’s edition of the New York Times, the photograph used did not include the images of former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. In the cropping of the photograph, President and Mrs. Bush who would have been just to the right in the image have been cut from the frame.

I’m not an expert in photography, and I admit that I am often formatting challenged, especially when it comes to forms and multi-column layouts. I need editors, my office staff, wife, friends, student workers, or the friendly people who use the form or workers at whatever destination where I’m submitting to fix my mistakes more often than not. This blog is the only place I write anything at length where I do not make multiple revisions of the content over a course of time, let sit a minimum of a day to reread for typographical errors, or have someone else read to critique and provide constructive criticism and then to proof.

Still, I see the photograph as centering on the President and Congressman John Lewis while not cutting anyone shown on the front line in half because the President and Congressman Lewis were not walking in the exact center of that front line.

Yes, they could have zoomed out and included more people. Maybe that would have affected the detail or maybe not. Personally I would have liked to have seen a picture where they zoomed in on Congressman Lewis to see the extent of emotions which had to be occurring in his mind.

Who knows how many pictures their photographers submitted and what fantastic shots became ruined by being out of focus, an unexpected visitor into the shot, or any number of reasons?

Now the previous day, the New York Times ran an article which mentioned President and First Lady Bush along with a number of other individuals to illustrate a degree of the diversity of people there. This article did note that former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton did not attend and were in Miami working for the anticipated presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. This article also noted that many Republican presidential candidates were in Iowa campaigning as well.

Honestly I could care less about who was not at this event with the exception of individuals who had been a part 50 years earlier and have either passed away or could not attend the commemoration for health reasons. Their physical presence was not of importance to me, but I would want for them to be recognized like Congressman Lewis. For any who chose not to attend, that is their right and perhaps something of more personal significance was happening at the same time. It’s not my place to judge their decisions.

The events in Selma 50 years prior were about race and power.

The events in Selma just days ago, however, were about the people who sought to make a difference half a century ago. The commemoration reminded us of how some things have changed, and some of those changes have been positive while some have been negative. The commemoration reminded us that the march across that bridge represents neither the beginning nor the conclusion of the trek. The reasons, whether they are race, religion, gender, age, or anything else still continues and will continue to continue. Maybe if we were perfect, a finish line might exist, but we are all imperfect and should strive to improve ourselves as our journey continues.

If one sees either image, with or without President and Mrs. Bush, as a racial statement for or against any race; if one sees either image about Republicans and Democrats; if one sees either image about Americans only; I’m sorry, but anyone who sees that is blind. Blind, because those photographs contain images of individuals, human beings, together to commemorate the blood, sweat, and tears spilled a half century ago on that spot.

As I recently noted in another piece I’m not a STEM graduate, but I would think that blood, sweat, and tears of Republican, Democrat, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Man, Women, Child, Elderly, Young, American, Israeli, Iranian, Ukrainian,  Russian, Mexican, Canadian, Indian, Gay, Straight, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Buddhist, Agnostic, Atheist, Short, or Tall have the same basic characteristics. We might be able to, actually we can, use samples to determine gender, race, age, and other groupings.  I’m hard-pressed, however, to think that specific markers for political parties and religious affiliations have been identified.

Whether through blindness, tunnel vision, or lack of perspective and context one can easily divide and promote conflict.

Don’t you find it interesting how much easier it is to stereotype people we do not know as opposed to the individual we do know?

Some people choose to hate. Why?  I honestly don’t know.

Choosing to be ignorant, however, is choosing blindness and relegating yourself to only follow someone or something who or which  may or may not have your best interests at heart.  Often not to have the ability to see with your own eyes, allows you the opportunity to see that which those with sight cannot. Blindness of sight is but one sense while the blindness created by hate and ignorance makes zero sense.


One thought on “The Context of Blind Ignorance: Selma stories versus photos

Comments are closed.