Friday, March 6, 2015

Questions: Who is Edmund Pettus & how is Harrison Ford?

I was torn this morning about writing a serious Selma-anniversary post or more light-hearted observations about Harrison Ford surviving plane wreck. So I thought, “I know, I’ll do both!” Why? There’s no rule book here in blog world.

No paycheck.

But no rule book.

• Did you know that Edmund Pettus was a Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan? 

That’s just one of the life accomplishments that in 1940 earned him bridge-naming honors in Selma, Alabama, this week the focus of historic recollection.

So he’ll likely be spinning in his Dixie grave Saturday when our first African-American president marches across his bridge in commemoration of a pivotal Civil Rights victory that’ll forever be linked to the march toward racial equality.

In terms of historic irony, it’s on par with a vegetarian being devoured by wolves.

• Harrison Ford crash-landing his plane on a California golf course is to many people the most exiting thing to happen on any golf course since Tiger Woods won the ’09 U.S. Open on a broken leg.

• I contend the men and women who marched across the Pettus Bridge 50 years ago and all Civil Rights activists from back then are the bravest Americans ever, braver than even the men from The Greatest Generation who stormed the beaches at Normandy.

The D-Day soldiers were well-armed and well-trained to fight back. But the instinct for any oppressed group who is being systematically murdered and otherwise intimidated is to implore the armed authorities for just intervention. In every instance of the Civil Rights protests, it was the armed authorities who were encouraging or organizing the terror.

• Many people were surprised to learn Ford’s a vintage plane aficionado. Not me. In fact, I nearly met the 72-year-old actor last year when he was in Latrobe getting his helicopter repaired. It’s true. There’s a guy in nearby Mt. Pleasant who’s expert in repairing the rare kind of chopper Ford flies. Apparently Ford flew it to the guy’s house and then had someone drive him to DiSalvo’s Station Restaurant to enjoy a cigar. Me and my buddies are there all the time. My buddy Joey DeSalvo has a picture right here and said Ford was perfectly cool. Of course, he is. 

• I’ve long believed it’ll take another generation or two before the greatness of Martin Luther King Jr. is fully comprehended by Americans. I may have been pessimistic. My change of heart is because of the movie “Selma.” It’s fantastic and the kind of movie that will mesmerize high school students for generations to come. Flattering critics said actor David Oyelowo really brought King to life. I only wish that weren’t hyperbole.

• I don’t recall seeing any of the shows, but Ford scored early roles in “Gunsmoke,” Ironside,” “Love, American Style,” and “Kung Fu.”

• As great as his “I Have a Dream” speech is, my favorite King “speech” is his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” It was scribbled in the margins of a newspaper article — it’s amazing it even survived — and later published. It’s directed at prominent white clergymen who were urging King to be more patient, more conciliatory, about achieving his goals.

I’ll summarize: “It’s easy for those who’ve never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.’ But when you’ve seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you’ve seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and brutalize and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity …”

And this is the part that really gets me: “When you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your 6-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has been advertised on television, and see the tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky … 

“When you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at a tip-toe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments, when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness;’ then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”

• Sure he was great as Indiana Jones and Han Solo, but two of my favorite Ford movies are “Witness” and “The Fugitive.”

• Edmund Pettus was also a thrice-captured Confederate general. Maybe there were extenuating circumstances, but he couldn’t have been that good of a general.

• In Pittsburgh, three of our most prominent bridges are named after humanitarian baseball superstar Roberto Clemente, pioneering environmentalist Rachel Carson and pop artist Andy Warhol. Gen. Pettus would find something to hate about each of them so, yeah, screw you, Pettus!

• Harrison Ford was also a professional carpenter, which makes him my third favorite carpenter behind Jesus and Karen.

• “I’m one of those Christians who believes in God, but has trouble believing God could ever believe in me.” That’s the kind of 8days2Amish tweet that convinces me if he were alive today, MLK would be following me and using all the crayons.

To sum up, I’m glad Harrison is still with us and sad Martin is not.

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