"Living in the South often means slipping out of temporal joint, a peculiar phenomenon that I find both nourishes and wounds. To identify a person as a Southerner suggests not only that her history is inescapable and formative but that it is also impossibly present. Southerners live uneasily at the nexus between myth and reality, watching the mishmash amalgam of sorrow, humility, honor, graciousness, and renegade defiance play out against a backdrop of profligate physical beauty." - Sally Mann, Southern Landscapes
I don't pretend to be well-versed in history by any means, but I have always found myself fascinated by the past. I carry it with me, I cherish the faces and stories of family members I barely had the chance to know as a child. And as a person dwelling in the South, the past is something inescapable. You feel it in the towering live oak trees choking in spanish moss. You feel it in the thick humid air and the buzz of a mosquito and every winding country road dotted with decaying orange groves.
I felt it recently when I visited the Harry T. Moore center in Mims. A place I had heard of, a tragedy from the past I was aware of, but had never taken the time to go to. It was a powerful experience. The original home, which had been destroyed by a bomb blast on Christmas Day of 1951, was replaced by a replica in the same spot as it once stood.
I can't claim to be able to relate to the experiences of any other skin but my own. Though it is my history, as an American, as someone in the South, as a person residing in Brevard County, it's not my history. It isn't a part of me like my Scots-Irish ancestors of the Appalachians, who carved out their existence as poor tenant farms. Or my Italian ancestors, who came to America in search of a better life. That is in my blood.
However, being the in the presence of hate and ignorance - especially when it blocks the path for good and truth - is something universal that crosses all people. It is still with us, disguised in our fears of the unfamiliar, as a way to distance ourselves and say "that could never be me".