Leslie Guditis, Ph.D., LMFT-S - Marriage and Family Therapy, Personal Coaching, Family Life Education

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Thoughts about my trip to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute - Please read on - I couldn't bring myself to post the photo on Facebook.


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Thoughts about my trip to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute - Please read on - I couldn't bring myself to post the photo on Facebook.

March 22, 2016

I want to share some thoughts about my seeing Joan Baez in concert last weekend and going to the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, AL.  I walked through the museum and viewed a lot of artifacts, pictures, and videos from Twentieth Century, and most, including the “White” and “Negro” water fountains, were from a time that I remember.

The atmosphere at this museum is different from the atmosphere I’ve seen at many museums. Parents weren’t talking with their children and explaining things to them.  Children weren’t running around grabbing their parents to show them something they found interesting. It was pretty somber, actually….people reading and standing, often silently.  I had a lump in my throat from the time I set foot in the building, and I shed some tears along the way. 

When I got to this exhibit in a glass case (pictured here), in a room almost to itself, I saw this overpowering image staring at me through the glass.  I suspect they purposely presented this the way they did. It was one of the most powerful visuals I’ve ever seen. It took my breath away, and tears ran down my cheeks. 

This KKK robe……this symbol of hatred is a very powerful visual indeed. The hatred we are experiencing in our society right now goes beyond White vs Black.  It goes beyond male vs female. It goes beyond Christian vs Jew, Christian vs Muslim, Christian vs…..well anyone who’s not Christian. This is not just about heterosexual vs lesbian and gay.  It’s not just about cisgender vs transgender.  This is not just about rich vs poor. This is an overwhelming and insidious cancer that is permeating our society and the souls of its individuals.   

Some people say Trump scares them.  Some people say Hillary and/or Bernie scare them.  They don’t scare me.  It’s the growing hatred that scares me.  The way we treat each other at times is unconscionable.  What’s it going to take for us to right this listing ship?  We aren’t broken.  We are damaged.  We are hurt.  And it’s going to take all of us, working together, to heal this.   

At the concert, Joan Baez talked about politics.  It’s Joan Baez!  Of course she talked about politics!  She made the comment that “criticizing Trump is “riskless.”  I think in many arenas, Facebook for one, it’s also “riskless” for people to mercilessly criticize Hillary and Bernie and whoever they choose to criticize, including their lifelong friends.  It’s amazing and actually quite offensive to read some of the comments that are posted on Facebook these days.   

But this is not just about politics.  It’s about humanity, in general.  The way people talk to each other and about each other is really scaring me.  One of my daughters said she was at a baseball game the other day, and some of the fans of the opposing team were being quite nasty to them and saying some pretty rude things….to their face.  People cut each other off on the roads, without a thought.  People are quick to carry guns, so they can “protect themselves.”  Protect themselves……from what?  They’re “protecting themselves” from the hatred that is growing in our society.  Violence, or the threat of violence, is not the answer. There aren’t enough guns to end this.  Laying down our guns (metaphorically speaking) is at least part of the answer.  If we want to end the hatred coming toward us, we must end the hatred within ourselves. 

Joan Baez protested the Vietnam war and championed civil rights.  Regardless of whether you agree with her politics or not (Please read about her politics before you judge. She has been a peace activist who has approached a variety of different groups, in an attempt to promote a peaceful coexistence.), she has made a huge difference in the lives of many.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made a huge difference.  Rosa Parks, among many other amazing and strong African American women, made a huge difference.  Bobby Kennedy made a huge difference. The Suffragettes made a huge difference. Gandhi made a huge difference.  Mother Teresa made a huge difference. The list goes on and on. 

We CAN help make a different world. We don't have to be a Gandhi.  We just have to do what we can, in our own way, to help make a different world.  

My almost 91 year-old father said the other night that he is on his way out.  He said he’s not going to live to see how bad it gets, but he worries for his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

We don’t have to worry.  We CAN change the trajectory now. 

“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will riseup and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (*and women*) are created equal.’”

                             Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28, 1963

We are more alike than different, and we can do better than this.  We know how to get along.  But it will take “laying down our (metaphoric) guns” and opening our hearts and minds to others. Several years ago, I was affiliated with an organization, Creating a Culture of Peace. This kind of says it all. Let’s start creating and fostering a culture of peace.  Please.

"Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me."

17 Comments to Thoughts about my trip to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute - Please read on - I couldn't bring myself to post the photo on Facebook.:

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Caren Caruthers Pankonien on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 6:00 AM
Well said Leslie. Working with the public, I have seen such disrespect from adults and it has moved to the children. I am frightened for our country if we don't get a handle on this. We must all come together.
Reply to comment
Leslie on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 11:12 AM
I know, Caren. It's everywhere. It is permeating our society, and it's scary, sad, frustrating, etc. I don't know what the answer is, but I will do what I can, whatever that is.

Cheryl Jordan on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 8:06 AM
Well said Leslie.
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Leslie on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 11:10 AM
Thanks for reading it, Cheryl!

Dona Smith on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 9:30 AM
Beautifully written. I struggle each day with these same thoughts: what went wrong,how do we fix it, how many people will get hurt or die before we figure it out? What I feel isn't fear, it's sadness and frustration. Wondering what my next step will be to start fixing things.
Reply to comment
Leslie on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 11:09 AM
Thanks,Dona. Yeah, I don't know what the answer is. It is sad, and it is frustrating. When I see the Trumps of the world who just want to retaliate and "fight fire with fire," it makes me wonder if there is any turning back. Ugh. :-(

Royce Lester on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 10:53 AM
Leslie you are always insightful and caring. Just for the sake of discussion I believe that nothing will change without education. It seems harder today for young people to pull themselves out of a life of poverty than it has in many years. I believe that this is a direct result of a lack of life skills, compassion, and common sense. When we were growing up these were things that were taught not only from our parents, but at school as well. In the past number of years this type of education has been taken out of the schools and entrusted to the parents. If the parents have no desire to educate their children in what is right then how will they learn. It creates a never ending cycle. In certain cultures, hate is taught at the earliest age possible. Until this changes, their culture will never change and the people will never change. With the proper education of these types of skills, I believe that the United States could once again move forward away from hate and division that seems to be gripping the nation today.
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Leslie on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 11:07 AM
Thanks Royce! Yes, you are correct. It is about education. And I do believe there is a huge disconnect along the way, both at home and in schools. When we were kids, most parents were still married, most mothers didn't work outside the home, most families had family dinners, etc., etc. I'm not judging people for doing what they have to do to survive, but I do believe we have lost a sense of family, a sense of community, and a basic sense of altruism and caring.....not all of us, of course, but it is pervasive and getting worse, I believe. Teachers spend so much time teaching social skills, they don't have time to teach "the 3 Rs." I don't know what the answer is, but this craziness must stop. I just have to keep saying what is in my heart, and I hope I can make a little difference along the way somewhere. :-)

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