Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Democracy, Existentialism, Fascism
This essay is derived from a creative work of the same title, posted on my poetry blog Monday.
Happy birthday, mom. I miss you.
Sixty years ago, you were thirty-eight years old. I was one year, one month, and one day old. I was apparently potty-trained, which I didn't know until my big sister told me after I bragged that my granddaughter, your great-granddaughter, was potty-trained at two.
"We had cloth diapers back then. No one was playing with you, Reggie."
I took this to mean the task of changing cloth diapers, flushing the load, and WASHING them was probably unpleasant. It also subtly suggests that disposable diapers stifle our development.
Twenty-two years ago this past Monday, a Saudi Sheik, Osama Bin Ladin, trained by the CIA when he was in the Mujahadeen, fighting a proxy war with Russia in Afghanistan, convinced 19 hijackers, 15 from his nation, to plunge top-filled planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon: Flight 93 was supposed to hit the Capitol, except for the passengers who decided to intervene, "let's roll." 3,000+ people died. The nation was terrorized.
On your birthday, four little black girls were murdered for the crime of singing in a choir, or, correction, PRACTICING to sing in a choir for a performance. It happened on your thirty-eighth birthday. It was a Sunday.
Monday, you and Pop had to go to work like it was "normal." Violence has been normal for African Americans since the 13th Amendment ended enslavement (EXCEPT as a punishment for a crime: "wiggle room" that has been abused), the 14th gave us birthright citizenship, and the 15th gave at least our men, the right to vote. That was immediately thwarted in the aftermath of the antebellum South by naming the number of coins/marbles/soap bubbles in a bottle, poll taxes, tests to recite The Constitution (when civics knowledge for the average citizen - then, and now - would likely fail miserably).
You both had to drop me off at the sitter and hope to see me alive again and pretend, like every black person at the time, that this was "normal."
"Two medical professionals, Dr. Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Dr. Carol W. Greider,
Shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine with Dr. Jack W. Szostak in 2009 "for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase."
"The long, thread-like DNA molecules that carry our genes are packed into chromosomes, the telomeres being the caps on their ends. Elizabeth Blackburn and Jack Szostak discovered that a unique DNA sequence in the telomeres protects the chromosomes from degradation. Carol Greider and Elizabeth Blackburn identified telomerase, the enzyme that makes telomere DNA. These discoveries explained how the ends of the chromosomes are protected by the telomeres and that they are built by telomerase.
"If the telomeres are shortened, cells age. Conversely, if telomerase activity is high, telomere length is maintained, and cellular senescence is delayed."
Telomeres are shorter for African Americans, a byproduct of 400 years of racial terrorism.
We were, and are, terrorized for being human, for wanting what's in The Constitution, for exercising our birthright citizenship. They want to take that away, too., for undocumented immigrants, then probably selective brown people who won't vote for them. The Growth and Opportunity Project said they should reach out to African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, the LGBT, Women, and Youth to expand the party. They instead engage in "culture wars" that are silly, like fighting the banning of gas stoves (there isn't one), the replacement of incandescent lights with more climate-friendly fluorescent or LED lights, and somehow, it's outrageous to suggest limiting beer consumption (no one did).
I'm tired, momma.
September 11, 2001, Pop had been dead for two years. The boys were in fourth grade and college. They had questions. I had no answers, and I wanted to talk to Pop, but I couldn't. Now I can't talk to you.
As Americans finally experienced, on September 11, 2001, the psychological effects of the horrific fear of not knowing what calamity would end your existence.
Living in fear of being killed for the "sin" of being alive shortens your telomeres.
As my big sister observed:
This country needs more cloth diapers for our development.
Happy Heavenly birthday, momma. I miss you. Love, "Stink."