An Observation In Absence

MLK JR.

Martin Luther King Jr.


The other night I attended ‘Just Mercy’ at our local theater complex. It was a late showing, but still I was struck with wonder about the emptiness of the room. I was actually the only person in the theater, it was a rather surreal experience. Now I’ve been to shows with limited audience in the past, shows of little consequence, a comedy that has run its course, the latest version of Die Hard or Transformers after a several week run at the theater house. However, the lack of eyes on this show about Brian Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative upset me on many levels.

In theaters nearby, people poured into the late night showings of Star Wars, and 1917. I wondered to myself, as I gazed around the empty space on a Saturday night, is this really due to the content of the film? ‘Just Mercy’ is receiving rave reviews, and it opened ten days ago on the 10th of January. Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. day and I have thought about this movie’s impact on me all weekend long.

Brian Stevenson began the Equal Justice Initiative in the late ’80’s to defend the false imprisonment of the incarcerated on death row. He has dedicated his life to this cause as executive director and founder of EJI. “Mr. Stevenson is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned” (eji.org). His central focus is to give a voice to those whose lives are marginalized by bigotry and social injustice. Do not for a minute believe he is wanting to release a criminal to the streets, that would be the short answer to defend injustice. His voice is meant to defend the innocence inside a legal mindset bent upon maintaining systemic atrocity in our society.

The movie is focused upon his commitment to releasing several prisoners, namely Walter McMillan, a falsely accused black man who was sent to death row a year before his eventual trial and conviction. Stevenson managed to get the case reopened through avenues only he could challenge as a young black attorney walking directly in the fire of a racist prosecution in Alabama. His case eventually won the attention of a 60 Minutes expose that revealed the truths of McMillan’s plight in a closed door, self protective, small-minded community filled with hatred and denial.

‘Just Mercy’ focused on the familiar haves and have nots, a poignant moment being when at the start of a heated hearing, the sheriff and his deputies refuse to allow McMillan’s family and friends to enter the courtroom until the room is filled with white community members leaving little space for additional seating. The scene that follows is compelling. While all the seats are taken the room is filled with a community who stands together in strength and courage despite living their lives in fear and injustice.

The poignant message in this movie speaks to a familiar issue in our society today. The color of your skin will have a demonstrable impact upon the treatment and respect received in a confused and racist society. Today, in social justice there is a new mantra being heard that would suggest we practice being anti-racist. The idea of being non-racist no longer being enough. I believe that was the central argument in ‘Just Mercy’ not only creating another intriguing and frightening appraisal of the horrific treatment of blacks in a white dominated region of our country. More important is the implication of not stepping forward, not feeling a need to speak, not recognizing our responsibility to be human beings rather than misguided classes of distinction.

Today on MLK day, I try to celebrate the truth, and the timing and message in ‘Just Mercy’ cannot be denied. For years I have had to work on this day, and always struggled with not being able to focus upon the spirited and remarkable nature of Martin Luther King Jr’s amazing legacy. In the background I’m listening to an MLK celebration at the Apollo Theater with responsible and outstanding voices, including moments ago, Brian Stevenson, speaking not to a movie made about his life, more specifically about his continued journey with EJI. I miss Maya Angelou today.

I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the message of MLK Jr.

Peace.

 


© Thom Amundsen 1/20/2020

Moments in a Blizzard

Windswept sky designs landmark,

the world is being blanketed by that force

greater than our own,

a magical parade of Nature’s wrath,

in the simplest manner of beauty.

 

Oh her strength apparent

inside the wonder of it all,

the winter storm,

a blizzard upon our discontent,

perhaps we might fly away.

 

Lost inside this forever cycle

our lives are equally drawn

by a static probability

of scant survival in the throes

of a woeful condition.

 

Step inside the winds,

that bury this frozen memory,

covering up our sorrows

so there might be a new desire,

a passion to understand.

 

A realization,

recognizing there is an after-life

to the sparkle – once

no longer remains

inside a youthful dream.

 

There inside the wealth of our

humanity

exists a welcome change,

that ever resilient testimony,

suggests we are all ready,

 

already walking again,

this might provocative winds allow.

 


© Thom Amundsen 1/2020

An Unraveling Life

It is supposed to be easy, this life.

They have written books about it,

again the suggestive nature of an unknown

entity.

Oh mother,

forgive my sweet ignorance,

while traveling some new unforgotten

passion.

The way that is our lives

were lost in the moment of reckoning

will become

a name.

Yet now is it likely we are to feel the

outlandish

nature of grief,

when miles before

at the local saloon

we made jest of the easier road

we might easily choose.

Careful that the reality we live

is the only place

where we can ever find

solace

as it were naturally

meant to imply in our lives.

For it is in the mist of this pain,

await the luxury of time.


©️ Thom Amundsen 2019

Having A Cry

Just now,

in the quiet atmosphere,

where no one

might hear my sigh.

A silent recall

today a different time,

conversation and laughs,

and then a glance, a pause

when eyes purposely

met one another

again.

Quite evident is the changing focus,

something

exciting to us both.

 

I will remember you

a saying just out of the blue.

I will remember you

a vision, a different view.

 

Sometime we wonder,

what if,

when did,

no answers coming yet.

There will be those moments

when our lives

do recall the humor

held our lives together,

and then today in the sweet

reckoning of our reality,

we did glance,

we did look for

some solace

in a spectacular time.

 

I will remember you

a saying just out of the blue.

I will remember you

a vision, a different view.

 

Look at love said the obscure seer

who believed in harmony

look before a discord shook the enemy.

So it looks the way

we might imagine,

some purpose,

a reliance

on know

we will live upon our dreams,

share our fortunes

without any monetary

illusion.

 

I will remember you

a saying just out of the blue.

I will remember you

a vision, a different view.


© Thom Amundsen 2019

Fearing The Worst

I remember the dreams, the constant reminders

a continual tease, a surreal world of sidewinders

 

Each one with a story, a parallel universe

would try to shake me, send me in reverse.

 

I could never tell if a person real or imagined,

it was a nightmare the bottom was assigned.

 

Otherwise the lofty airs of fascination

always relied waking realization

 

Just a dream, perhaps a reminder

only the illusion of the constant sidewinder

 

drawing imagined color scheme on the surface,

so the internal player would always save face.

 

Walking slow inside a familiar nearby memory,

I might choose to leap, try to escape this quandary.


© Thom Amundsen 2019