• Melissa Volker

A Slow Burn

Late to the party, I know, but we just watched the movie "Selma".

I wish I could have recorded the moments after that first sentence was written because I paused, hands frozen over keys, eyes fixed on those ten words, not knowing where to go next. I wish I could show it because it exemplifies exactly what I feel -- I have no words, but at the same time I have many, and so am left…paralyzed.

I am, and continue to be, heartbroken over social injustices. I am and continue to be, heartbroken that human beings ever had to fight for their basic right to be human. To be seen as human. That they still have to.

I am unable to actually synthesize the idea because it is incomprehensible to me -- that it is true. The violence perpetrated against others solely because of the color of their skin (or extend that to who they love, or what body they want to live in, or how they worship) is like an incomplete algorithm in a computer -- it does not compute. I do not understand because in my mind it is so basically simple -- human being. There is nothing beyond that.

1965 I was three years old. Far too young to know. 1968, I was six years old, but still safely behind the innocent veil of childhood. It wasn't until so much later that I learned who Dr. King was and what he fought for. It wasn't until later still that I got angry that it had happened, that it still happened, that as far as we'd come, we had barely made progress as a people.

I have no words for what I watched because there are no words to say. It's all there. To see. To be made clear. I have no words to say because while it's my history, it's not my history. The only words I can say is that as upset, and heartbroken, and devastated, and angry as I may feel, it cannot compare to how it must feel to those for whom it is their history.

Their present.

Their foreseeable future.

History is a slow burn. Along the way, there are pops and explosions -- an influx of oxygen-rich atmosphere and so a heightened awareness -- but then it drops right back down…a quiet, steady simmer, fester.

And here we are. All of that in our not-so-distant past, but far enough to feel we should be farther along. Some sort of evolution should have happened, a turning of the page, a crossing -- as it were -- of a bridge.

And yet here we are.

There is no denying the progress that has been made. But neither is there denying the ever-present, slow-burning continuance of hatred and resentment around it. That progress has pushed passed, or moved beyond in spite of it is promising, and positive, but it does not change the fact that it is still there. Stewing. Waiting. Smoldering.

A slow burn.

We see it erupt regularly -- in small and large ways. We see it online, in the news, in the climate of our government. Anger. Hatred. A hair trigger waiting for the slightest nudge -- which can be something as simple as wearing a head scarf, or a hoodie.

"Selma" ought to be inspiring. And while it is at its core, I walked way sad, disheartened and angry that not only do we live in a world where such unabashed violence happened, where it was condoned, encouraged and then dismissed; where perpetrators (official and civilian alike) waved flags, spit, yelled, wielded bats, batons, tear gas, and acted with impunity -- were, in fact, emboldened by the silence of those in power; not only do we live in a world where that once happened, we live in a world where we still cannot say "it will never happen again".

Because it still happens. Today. Yesterday. Tomorrow.

A slow burn.

How is that possible? There is no explanation -- or rather, there is, but it's not sufficient.

It does not compute.

We have come so far and yet progressed so little.

And I walk away from this with sadness -- with an ache, a fear, an anger, all moving through me, settling down inside me…

A slow burn.

#movies #civilrights #social #essay

20 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All