I’m New Here: Weeks Twenty-Two and Twenty-Three…

July 26, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Time seems to be advancing at an ever-increasing pace.  Each day is crammed with more tasks than can possibly be accomplished; I think this means I am beginning to get the hang of things.  But Monday brought me up short a bit as I searched titles tracing a particular story which initially diverted to the Freedom Ride.  As intriguing as the tone in those accumulating reports of bus rides through the South was, the heading on a neighboring column wrested my eyes and my thoughts.  I had to know the reason that divorcees (such a fancy and outmoded term) spent a night in jail.  At least that’s what I believed at the time.  However, since it has been four days since I read the report and I am still ready to sound forth at a moment’s reflection, it might have been better if I stuck to the familiar angst over bus seats allocated by color of skin.

In case accompanying photographs do not tell enough story, women went to jail because deadbeat dads (such a crass and modern term) did not pay court-ordered child support.  Just that.  The year was 1963, and I suppose I am not meant to expect much else from the era — particularly that the freedom to assemble could possibly, legally, be constrained to a total of four persons.

Because, that was the crux of the charges — the reason for the headline:  Night in Jail Makes Divorcees Contrite.  “They promised that if they ever picket the County Building again to protest lagging support payments they will keep within the legal limit of four.”  Fifty-six years ago a woman who was not receiving justice promised by the legal system had to promise to forego rights granted in 1791 by the First Amendment, even as she attempted to bring pressure to bear on the powers that be.  Of course, I’m not foolish enough to think that this tiny fragment that sparks my ire is as important than any of the other Civil Rights /liberties that seem to have too limited of a citizenry to whom they are applied.  And I am fiercely glad that the group of four swelled to an angry mob of twelve, bringing so much havoc upon the town that these single mothers had to be jailed in order to preserve the peace.  Perhaps they were granddaughters of those who marched for Suffrage .  It may be that they were inspired by other heroes that brought about change. Because things are not the same today. Here it helps me to take in the 1963 newspaper as a whole, reading again of the laws that were eventually impacted by two different groups.  In 2019, wearied with seemingly insurmountable conflict, offense, discrimination and outright hatred, the neighboring headline, “11 Riders Quietly Leave for Mississippi Test Run” provides some perspective.  Multiple barriers to equality remain, but many have been knocked down.  Many barriers have been knocked down, but perhaps some have been worn away through the centuries by those whose stories are woven through old newspaper pages, those who find their own, quiet, persistent way to push back.