Censoring History: Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

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Jackson Square, New Orleans, LA

The weekend of July 4th, 2010, my family made the long trek from Dayton, Ohio to New Orleans, LA via a small van stuffed with 4 adults, 2 small kids, and associated gear. We were going to celebrate my Uncle Bill’s birthday with many other family members who hailed (originally) from Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

We drove through states with famous cities and places I’d never seen first-hand: Birmingham, AL, Mississippi, the Gulf of Mexico, and finally, New Orleans (pronounced by my family either as New Orleens, or N’Awlins)!

We didn’t get to see much of the city that weekend, but did tour the area around Jackson Square, which included the St. Louis Cathedral, the Moon Walk by the Mississippi River, and other grand buildings with fascinating architecture, razor-sharp palmetto trees, and street artists sketching, painting, etc. for tourists.

IMG_6142_watermarkThis city contains so much varied culture and history, from the French Quarter, Voodoo-mart (no, really!), street musicians playing Jazz (my whole family has a real love for Jazz music), the unique cemeteries, ghost walks, and of course, Mardi Gras celebrations. It certainly was somewhat of a culture and time-warp from the relatively placid Midwest!

The city both intimated and fascinated me. I would love to go back (maybe not in July) for more exploring and history, but recent events have me concerned. What will be left of New Orleans’ history when I go back? Why does it feel like the Civil War is still not over, but has been reinstated by young, vitriolic college grads who only know half the story (history is written by the winners, you know), and who are ashamed (and rightly so) of certain parts of American history? It seems history is being “white washed” to exclude any and every old white Southern man who had something to do with the Confederacy of the mid-1800s.

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Andrew Jackson

“Anti-Southerners” (my term) now consider every Southern state that used to uphold slavery to be on par with Nazism, rather than a sadly common, worldwide institution for survival as agriculture-based communities. Agriculture, I will point out, that Northern states took great advantage of in their myriad textile factories and other trade goods. 

My biggest fear is not the loss of one iconic statue, but the radicalism behind the movement. It didn’t and hasn’t stopped with just one statue being removed from New Orleans, and community leaders are not being open about how many more will go. This is censorship, backed by a religious-type fervor every bit as consuming and destructive as religious-motivated bombings of historical buildings in the Middle East. Will it result in another Civil War?

Shiny People

I love, and am attracted to, shiny objects. Midnight stars, colorful beads, glassware, crystals, the sun glinting off water. In a similar fashion, much of humanity is attracted to shiny people, but be warned: All that glitters is not gold.

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Pyrite (Fool’s Gold), original photo by Loura Lawrence

Shiny people and their audience tend to trounce logic and reason to the hurt and chagrin of everyone, but especially logical people. There is no room for them at the inn, because they are most likely to tell people exactly what they don’t want to hear, that the shiny person’s foundation is not solid rock but weak infrastructure, and too many people are gathering on the balcony. Such wet blankets are forced out of the happy group, to wander in seclusion.

Shiny people dress in literally shiny outfits with lots of glitter, sequins, bright colors, and power suits. They surround themselves with plenty of actual shiny objects, the more over-the-top the better (golden toilets, for example). Shiny people love a good show, and their audience loves a good show too. That’s entertainment.

Shiny people seem to know inherently how to charm others (or blind them) with their glitz and glamour, and those who love it are like moths to a flame. Just like the basic biology concept of symbiosis, the one can’t exist without the other. Audience and performer all share a high of sensationalism, surrealism, excitement, and mystery.

This isn’t about one-time performances in which you leave on a high note with the thought, “That was fun! I’d like to do that again, someday,” but “Wow! I can’t wait to see what they do next!” Once an audience member has invested some time and money into a shiny person, the superior feeling they get from being associated with them is nigh impossible to break. It takes a personal catastrophe (others’ tragedies involving the shiny person in question, can be reasonably explained away) to shock an audience member back into reality.

Shiny people are like the fusion reactor in Spider-Man 2 (2004); they build their glow and following slowly, but soon they are radiating like the sun with thousands or millions of followers. The more energy they receive from their crowds, the hotter and brighter and more unstable shiny people become, until they finally explode. An explosion from a shiny person necessarily heaves debilitating, even deadly (financial, emotional, spiritual, relational, even sometimes physical) shrapnel to their unsuspecting crowd. And just like Doc Ock’s fusion reactor, the moment a shiny person loses all control is typically unpredictable.

This Little Light of Mine: A Bedtime Lesson

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My daughter’s actual glow stick

My oldest daughter came home with a simple glow stick bracelet from her teacher for Valentine’s Day, with the accompanying message, “You light up my life!” Tonight she wanted to activate it, but upon doing so, she found that only the tip came to life in a neon blue. She was of course disappointed and began to complain, when I took the little glow stick and said, “Follow me. I want to show you something.”

We walked back to her room and I said, “This little broken glow stick doesn’t look like much when all the lights are on, does it?”

“No,” she sighed.

“Well what if I turned out the lights and shut the door?” I turned out the light, and the little broken glow stick seemed instantly brighter. I shut the door, and in the complete blackness, the little broken glow stick looked like a beautiful beacon.


“Wow,” my daughter admitted, “why is it so different?”

img_6622_watermark“Because of contrast,” I replied, leaning on my photography knowledge. “The bigger the difference between the light and the dark, the brighter the light appears.”

I went on to make my moral point, “Good is like this tiny, ½ inch bit of light; you may not notice it, or think it makes much difference when there are many other “lights” around, but this broken bit stands out for all to see, when surrounded by darkness.”

 

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Going Home for Christmas to Coal Mining Country

See more “misty mountain” photos from my trip here

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Tiny towns dot the landscape in rural, Eastern Kentucky.

 
These communities rely almost solely on the dying coal industry that operates mines in the Appalachia mountains throughout Kentucky, Southern Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Not only do these areas struggle with economic depression, and an aging population, the heroin epidemic has hit these communities particularly hard as well.


The mountains here have been dynamited over the years to make room for better, wider, and safer roads. Shale rock breaks easily, so “steps” and ditches have been formed to prevent accidents from falling boulders and rock-slides.

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Remains of the Sidney Coal Mining Company, now defunct. Images of the dying coal mining industry are tucked everywhere in the Appalachia mountains near Pikeville, KY.

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