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

The Edge of Reason

What stake have we in righteous turbulence,

perhaps is reason to submit, suggest,

offer and consider, compassion

might allow a progressive response

yet allowance of circumstance,

that told responsibility

a valuable lesson.

 

In night air came a perpetual fire

taunted by winds, a breeze

so is a prevalent sky,

leading our lives into the storm

central to our being.

We spoke upon the a rail rise,

the L train, C, the longest nights

where time is not allowed

a sleeping giant

long after the last stop.

 

Yet further on

in the return home

spoke an entanglement,

on the threshold of a dream,

this reality

knock incessant patterns,

this discord

reveal a fantasy

rather beyond the norm.

 

When all else does bury logic

this value will settle cryptic.


© Thom Amundsen 2019

Impeached

Trying to wrap my head around meaning,

listening to the pundits,

saying the same thing,

the same thing

same, again,

the words are reimagined,

and yet,

this really did happen,

the talk became the action,

yet,

wait for it,

I don’t see the moving trucks

lining the White House rotunda

with Mara Lago plates

aligning their next destination.

 

The only thing I see tonight,

is a blowhard repudiation,

suggesting,

everything we are listening to is,

certainly will,

sell a newspaper,

get a channel change,

allow some office banter,

about the events of the day.

 

What does it mean today,

any different from over two decades ago,

the person in office,

on both accounts,

stayed in the oval office,

didn’t hide away,

people with varying views

began their own analysis,

and the news went on and on and on …

 

and the beat goes on.


© Thom Amundsen 2019

A Distant Child

In a quiet state I would recognize the distance

Between the now of experience toward childhood

We might wish to have a redo on pain if we could

Seems a simple prospect to imagine all is chance.

 

When returning to some original memory in life

Oh to know the patterns that drove our own fight

Or flight, the summer weather such intrigue in light

Of finding ourselves amongst the massive strife

 

Inside a dream we could walk for miles in the sand

Feeling only the beauty of the sea carrying away our

Imagination, our intrigue with stepping beyond power

That illusion of knowing we could withstand demand

 

Live your life she said, he said the world in silent release

Would rather only our sanity to discover our own peace.


© Thom Amundsen 2019

Thinking the Essence of Man

Who are we

he said

over a beer with a friend,

troubled by the circumstance

of a gender bending

authority

in his mind,

yet

in another’s

an opportunity

perhaps to find Grace

between man and woman,

to know some

spiritual guidance

will take our lives much further

then simple rejection.

 

Oh, but simple is not truth,

this analogy

seems a convenient

escape beyond our

self-described realism.

 

Man is not alone,

in a sweet testament

could if found

embark upon a journey

perhaps a sojourn

of forgiveness

to know only that

she

might, may, could, will be

a savior

in the fault

of human pride

the human condition

as it plays out

ego.

Pieces of Me

Wish I could find

smallish memory

wrap them in twine

drop them in the sea

Then might my eyes

witness some effort

now questioning why

an absorbent support

Will their history

rather sink than float

farewell this century

shadowed life he wrote

Above water may I not abhor

Pain left living on the ocean floor

Once

There was this young man,

he didn’t understand,

lived his life

by some societal demand.

Each day,

from morning he began

to try to find answers

inside his own head.

 

The throbbing

always until night’s end,

wanting resolve,

wishing solution,

medicating blues

begging forgiveness

for strange ideals

he would never

readily realize.

 

Watching people

walk the same streets

always vigilant,

a constant

recognition,

perhaps a look in our eyes

that would tell

anyone nearby

we all feel

the same

anxiety

who, wanting

to know.

 

We live life

always

wishing redemption

once.