Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Gift of Silence

When I was a boy, of maybe eight or nine, my favorite show on television was The Dukes of Hazzard. I loved the Duke boys, and the way they shot dynamite arrows and blew up nothing more important than randomly placed piles of tires or barrels. I loved Roscoe P. Coltrane—who I thought was named Roscoe Peco Train—for the silly way that he talked. And I wasn't sure at the time why I loved Daisy Duke, but it eventually became evident.

But most of all, I loved the car. That screaming orange 1969 Dodge Charger with the doors welded shut could outrun anything, anytime. It could fly over ravines and barricades. It kicked up rooster tails of dirt even when it was rolling on pavement. I was a model builder when I was a kid, and the General Lee was one of the first cars I ever completed, and I took great pride in the finishing touches: making sure the paint was as smooth as shitty brushes would allow, ensuring that the plastichrome pieces were super-shiny, and using a protractor to get the Confederate flag on the roof perfectly aligned.

It never occurred to me, until very recently, what my parents must have thought of this. My father, an immigrant from the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, and my mother, who was a girl during the Civil Rights era—they must've been appalled that their young black son was infatuated with this show that glorified the very symbol of southern aggression and oppression. That he was playing, every day, with the a toy emblazoned with a flag that had been co-opted as a banner of hate.

But they never said anything. Never a word of discouragement, never a hint of disapproval. They just let me play, knowing that, in time, The Dukes of Hazzard would dim in my estimation, to be replaced by something else just as temporary. And that, someday, I'd learn who General Lee was, what the Civil War was, and why the Dixie flag is such a firestarter.

They never said anything. The strength it must've taken to remain silent, when what I was doing must have bristled against the very core of their being.... They didn't teach hate even though it'd be perfectly understandable if they did. Only a parent can understand that sacrifice in the service of making a better world for their children. A better world that takes root in each small mind.

I thought about that a lot these past couple of days; what it must feel like to finally gaze upon that better world.

1 comment:

Marvin and Roxanne Black said...

I, having been raised also on Dukes of Hazard, was never taught the meaning behind the car and the flag. My family back ground in the Civil War Era is a Colonel in the Confederate Army. After having met President Lincoln in Washington D.C. My great great grandfather return to Texas to find the state part of the confederacy. Do to his knowledge of the Union President, he was comissioned as a colonel in the army. I have learned a lot about the Civil War and the things that are depicted in the show so, like you I am thankful for parents who took the liberty of keeping silent in the matters of hating the slaves or their owners. Now I apprechiate the struggles of their time and the lessons that we have learned.