Today I saw a very short article in the newspaper about how U.S. lawmakers announced on Tuesday, the day after the inauguration, the awards of the Congressional Gold Medal of honor to four recipients who may have fallen out of the consciousness of the general American public. These four children, three only fourteen years of age and one a mere eleven, (Malia and Sasha’s ages!) were passively instrumental in the expedient passing of the Civil Rights Law, giving protection to all Americans what these four little girls did not receive in life.
They were Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair who were killed in a Birmingham, Alabama church bombing on September 15, 1963. Even though I was only a tyke I remember seeing Addie Mae’s photo in the newspaper and became concerned that people weren’t safe in a church. Little did I know that a short while later I would watch the President of the United States being killed on television- and I saw the filmstrip over and over again that Saturday morning after until my father finally told me to go play outside or something. The message was clear- you’ve seen enough violence for one day.
Fast forward to the year 1997 when I saw that Spike Lee had made a documentary about the bombing and I bought the two hour long video to find out what had become only a vague recollection in my mind. What did I know about the entire Civil Rights movement ? Without being in the middle of it I knew very little and I wanted to make up for that because I knew I should. The video, titled 4 Little Girls , opened my eyes to how extreme the struggle became. It begins with footage showing the girls graves and Joan Baez singing the song she wrote about it years later- Birmingham Sunday- which still brings tears to my eyes. It’s the most emotional documentary I’ve ever seen highlighting the lives of these innocent children and practically celebrating what and who they could’ve been. Many interviewees spoke about the bombing with memorable quotes from people like Bill Cosby, the man who was attorney general during the time they finally indicted the actual bomb maker, Robert Chambliss in 1977 and among them I found one person stood out among them all.
This woman’s name was Queen Nunn and she gives an account of how she woke up the day before from a dream where she saw blood pouring out of the 16th Street Baptist Church and how she warned her children not to go there because something bad was going to happen. One by one, her children were questioned and they corroborated her story along with their feelings that she was being alarmist and even superstitious. I can’t help thinking that if she had been taken seriously four little girls may have grown up to be supreme court judge, a biochemist, an artist or another president of the United States. We’ll never know will we?
The good that came out of this landmark case is that today we have a law passed which guarantees rights that prejudicial terrorism wants to systematically take away. We have too many “dynamite Bobs’ on the loose looking for an excuse to take away not only our rights but our lives with them under the auspices of their right to own a gun, weapon or killing device. Is there any other way to put this and make it grab the attention of the American people? The only security to be had in the use of a gun is that if you were stranded in the wild blue yonder you could stay alive by killing and eating game.
How can we get control over an issue that is clearly and officially out of control ? By allowing more and more people to legally own guns ? Will our schools be safer if all the teachers are packing weapons or we finally install security in every single school ? Can we fight evil with more violence ? I don’t believe it can work that way and don’t believe it ever will. The true danger remains with people and their prejudices, mental illnesses and isolation. We need more people to listen to the Queen Nunns of the world and begin to put away our differences and decide where we can come together as one. All our lives depend on it. Believe it. We should all be outraged by the loss of lives this past year enough to finally make some changes that will make a difference and save lives in the bargain.
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