I’m in Montgomery Alabama as I write this, here as part of a colleague’s ordination ceremony. In some stroke of fate, I’m here the day after the Alabama Legislature—25 white men—voted to outlaw abortion, even in the case of incest and rape. They also voted that doctors who perform this medical procedure face life in jail. And, just as I arrived, the Governor signed it into law.
I spent the afternoon driving around to see the sights of Montgomery and what struck me most was the dominant presence of the Confederacy, right next to landmarks of the 1950s and 1960s civil rights movement. Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where the Montgomery Bus Boycott was organized by folks including the young Dr. Martin Luther King, is just blocks from the original Confederate White House, where Jefferson Davis lived until the Confederate capital was moved to Richmond. That House—now a museum—is directly across the street from the Capitol building. The Rosa Parks museum is right down the block from the marker for the Montgomery Slave Market. All of the history—the good the bad and the ugly—is mixed in one giant stew of wildly divergent viewpoints and experiences about America.
Tomorrow I’ll go to the Legacy Museum, Bryan Stevens’ acknowledgment of racism from slavery to mass incarceration, go to Selma and see the Pettus Bridge and all of the landmarks there, and then drive the route which the marchers took from Selma to Montgomery.
I went on a civil rights tour ten years ago led by Rev. Clarke Olsen, who was with UU Minister James Reeb when the latter was murdered by white supremacists in 1965. Somehow what did not glow so clearly to me was the presence of the Civil War and the raw courage to organize resistance, just blocks from its faithful remnant.
Here, so clearly, present day outrages mix with past ones, present day resistance mixes with past resistance, and history goes on. The ordination of my colleague—a stalwart witness against racism and mass incarceration—is one tiny piece of a much larger shared quilt. Were it not for the beauty and joy of the resistance, past and present, it would be much harder to face up to the cruelty and viciousness of oppression, then and now.
— Rev. Meg