Evident Truths

Kathie GibboneyBy Kathie Gibboney

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Evident Truths
Fireworks can be heard in our hills. A random, surprising boom off in the distance, somewhere. Even though the Fourth of July has come and gone, it is reported that firecrackers are still exploding all over the country. The sound of fireworks used to excite me. Little brother and I would hear a stray, early pop carried through the morning air, as if someone just couldn’t wait until nightfall. It was a thrilling noise, a promise of what was to come, a celebratory sound in honor of our country’s independence. Now, they sound like gunshots, threaten fire danger, and we know that the land of the free, is not freedom for all. At the 244th anniversary of our nation’s birth, I was reminded of being called, years ago, to my daughter’s school to assist with the direction of a theatrical production. The play was an abbreviated, simplified rendering of the American Revolutionary War, a little piece designed to bring history to life for elementary students, entitled, “The Shot Heard Round the World.” At the school’s outdoor amphitheater, I encountered the young actors taking full advantage of what must have been a break in rehearsal. While their teacher and a few students were painting a backdrop, the rest of the cast was spread out on the wooden benches surrounding the stage, in various positions of repose under the mid-morning sun. A few appeared to be napping with their scripts covering their faces. The scene they presented was pastoral and certainly more suited to Sunday In The Park With George than a revolution. After rousing the actors and trying to energize them with physical movement and acting exercises we began but an immediate problem presented itself. Whereas the shot may have been heard around the world, because the play was being presented on an outside stage, the actors could not be heard even as far as the first row. The line, “King George is a tyrant!” could well be mistaken for, “The gorge sure is vibrant.” We worked on projection. To their credit the actors seemed to rally and were soon shouting their lines at each other with an intensity that was sure to keep the audience at the very edge of their seats. I feared one mob scene between the colonists and British troops might escalate into a real brawl. I like to think the students actually felt the stirring call to revolution, to standing up to oppression, but when I asked my daughter what she remembers about the production, she recalls only shouting her line, “The Redcoats are coming!” I remember much more because I learned it from that simple script. That rudimentary, schoolroom play taught me history I had not known. The first man killed in the revolutionary war was an African American man who was also part Native American. His name is Crispus Attucks. He was a runaway slave who worked the docks in Boston and happened to be on King Street on a cold night in March of 1770. To keep order and ensure that unjust taxes be paid to England, British troops were stationed in the colonies. A group of colonists including Attucks, angry with taxation and resenting the Red Coat’s presence, began taunting the soldiers, throwing rocks, sticks, and snowballs in protest. Things escalated between the two factions and someone shouted the order to “Fire!” The troops shot. Crispus Attucks, a slave who had sought his own independence, fell and died for ours. Four other men were killed that freezing night in their rebellion against British rule. The incident became known as, The Boston Massacre. Attucks’ death is sometimes credited with being the seed of the founding of a new nation. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. honors him, writing, “He is one of the most important figures in African American history, not for what he did for his own race but for what he did for all oppressed people. He is a reminder that the African American heritage is not only African but American and begins with the beginning of America.” The irony of Mr. Attucks’ death cannot be overlooked. It was a catalyst for a nation’s war for freedom, while the fight for true freedom for Black and Native Americans continues to this day. Hundreds of years later a movement, a new revolution against racism, is surging across our country and people are standing up, conversations are happening, politicians are listening, children are learning, and Black Lives Matter, matters! Crispus Attucks’ life matters and his day is celebrated on March 5. On a Sunday in July, weary of confinement, we head to Topanga Beach. It’s the first time I’ve been out sharing the sand, albeit at a distance, with others. I feel giddy with freedom loving all I survey, while eating grapes. There is our sparkling ocean filled with surfers, our daughter in her swimsuit, the Beleaguered Husband asleep in the sun. It is officially summer 2020, there was even a banner flying overhead that read Coors Beer. It seemed so normal, but I now look with new eyes, in a new time and the old normal isn’t good enough. I appreciate how and why we are free to be here at the edge of a continent, diverse families of all ethnicities happy under the sun, together on a beach in America, which is how it always should be. Sadly, it is not. Not yet. How proud I would like to be of a country that really is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Let it not just exist, like Camelot, only in a myth. Let it be made by all of us, finally, what it is supposed to be: a shining vision of equality at last manifest. It will take time but if courageous people, young and old, Boomers, Millennials, Generation Zs and The New Kids On The Block cry out to rid our land of racism, educate our children and, come November, cast a vote for change, we’d have a start. May we please be graced, with every Fourth of July, to find our struggling nation ever closer to the ideals of its founding. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That goes for women too.
Kathie Gibboney

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July 24, 2020