Commentary

Snow: Remembering, with shame, how we were

March 16, 2013 

They’re no longer there. But I seldom walk past the courthouse downtown, without seeing them in my mind: the “White” and “Colored” drinking fountains.

And, once again, I’m amazed that a so-called civilized society was still so uncivilized more than 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Our country is spotted with statuary, from sea to shining sea, but I can’t remember when the unveiling of a statue moved me as much as the recent unveiling of the one of Rosa Parks at the U.S. Capitol.

I had not long been in Raleigh when I covered the sit-ins at Walgreen’s.

I always greeted the well-dressed young African-Americans sitting quietly on the luncheon counter stools, waiting in vain to be served. And I always scowled at the big, burly redneck who stood at the door, bouncing a baseball bat up and down on the pavement and muttering obscenities.

But that was about it. I hid behind my cloak of “objectivity” as a member of the press covering perhaps the most historical change in America during my lifetime.

In my mind I wanted to be with the Rev. W.W. Finlator and other demonstrators in front of the Post Office, absorbing the catcalls and insults from passersby.

I remember an excerpt from the late Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald’s memoirs, “Leaving Home.”

He was riding a bus from Raleigh to the Marine base at Parris Island, S.C., having just enlisted in the Marines after a fight with his girlfriend at what then was Woman’s College at Greensboro.

An elderly black lady with a tattered suitcase was leaning over Buchwald. He stood up and gave her his seat.

Moments later, the driver stopped the bus and came back to confront Buchwald.

“You sit back in your seat, you stupid son-of-a-bitch, or I’ll throw you off this bus,” he said angrily.

“Then he did something weird. He apologized to the lady for my rudeness,” Buchwald wrote.

“The lady moved farther back so she wouldn’t be standing near me. For her, I was trouble.”

Years later, Buchwald remembered the woman “and how I failed her.”

Today, I , too, wonder if, had I felt professionally free to do so, I would have had the courage to join those demonstrators at the Post Office.

Boiled alive

It is too early to tell if Gov. Pat McCrory will be remembered more for signing the bill blocking the expansion of Medicaid to about 500,000 low-income Tar Heels or for signing the bill allowing Brasstown to hold its annual New Year’s Eve ’possum drop.

The event was canceled last year by an administrative law judge after a complaint from animal lovers who declared the ritual too cruel.

Raleigh reader Jim Richmond, responding to an earlier column on the cruelty of boiling lobsters, wrote:

“To stir the pot a bit, crayfish, blue crabs and lobsters are boiled alive. Hunted ’possums are caught alive, put in a pen and fed vegetables for a while to ‘clean them out’ before they’re cooked.

“Ernest Hemingway once opined that people who are tender-hearted about animal pain tend to be less tender-hearted over human pain. I think he was talking about bulls’ pain in the bull ring.”

A good point to ponder.

Roundball diplomacy

Is there no end to this country’s adulation of sports figures?

Retired pro basketball star Dennis Rodman cast himself in the role of diplomat by meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and adopting him as a lifetime friend. Our president was not pleased.

Move over, Secretary of State John Kerry. Your days as top dog in U.S. foreign affairs may be in jeopardy.

Message

So you’re tired of those ceaseless telemarketing calls?

You might resort to this suggestion from DeLyle Evans of Ayden, whose friend’s answering machine has this message:

“If you are a friend or acquaintance, I will return your call as soon as possible. If you are a telemarketer, leave your home telephone number and what time you usually eat supper.”

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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