“We watched the stage set without staying it. We listened to the prologue unbestirred. We saw the curtain opening with disinterest. We have heard the play.” – Eugene Patterson, Atlanta Constitution, in the aftermath of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham that killed four African-American children in 1963
When four African-American girls died in a racially motivated bombing in 1963, Eugene Patterson, a white newspaper editor, wrote of a grieving mother on a Sunday morning in Birmingham, Ala.
“In her hand she held a shoe, one shoe, from the foot of her dead child,” Patterson wrote. “We hold that shoe with her.”
Charles Pierce of Esquire held the shoe for us all on the day after the latest racially motivated, gun-related act of terror at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Pierce’s opinion piece was the 21st century echo of Patterson’s:
“Not to think about these things is to betray the dead,” Pierce wrote. “Not to speak of these things is to dishonor them.”
We must think about change. We must talk about change.
We must make change happen.
We hold the shoe.
You hold the shoe.
Do not drop it.
Change is inevitable. Change is good.
Change also is necessary.
Why do we need change?
Because to suffer the status quo is to relinquish our humanity.
We need change because Tamir Rice would have been 13 on Thursday.
We need change because the NRA has brainwashed so many people into the absurd belief that the only way to prevent more gun deaths is to add more and more guns to the equation.
We need change because 20 percent of families in the U.S. aren’t sure how – or if – they’ll eat today.
We need change because never in the history of this planet were so many people displaced by war and despotism than in 2014.
We need change because no child should ever have to sell his or her body.
We need change because fire water spews from taps in Pennsylvania and the earth trembles in Oklahoma thanks to the hydraulic fracturing techniques used to free natural gas from its underground vaults.
We need change because Koch Industries “pumps more pollutants into the nation’s waterways than General Electric and International Paper combined.”
We need change because in the state where the River of Grass flows, the governor and his minions have banned the use of the term “climate change” in official communications.
We need change because the tobacco industry spends more than $9 billion a year – $30 for every American – in advertising.
We need change because 28 percent of children in grades 6-12 will be bullied this year.
We need change because there are people who, based on their religious beliefs, would deny gay men and women the right to legally marry the person they love.
We need change because diseases thought to be eradicated by advances in vaccinations are making a comeback buoyed by ignorance, while citizens of developing countries would give anything for their children to be protected by vaccines.
We need change because contrary to pop culture dogma (still), not all dads are doofuses.
We need change because of all those reasons, and so many more. So many more.
We could sit idly by and watch the play. The curtain will surely rise and fall with or without our voices in the chorus.
Yet, because we’re human, because we care, we must think about it. We must talk about it. We must do it.
We will not suffer the status quo.
We hold the shoe. We will not let it drop.
We will think. We will talk. We will do.
We will change. And in doing so, we might change the world.
Photo by Whit Honea/Dads 4 Change.