MONTGOMERY, Ala. — I watched President Obama’s town hall on ABC this evening. I think ABC kind of oversold what it ended up being, but all in all a good attempt at a conversation. I don’t know why they thought an hour would take care of this thing that has vexed us for centuries.

Anyway, there’s something especially troubling about the past weeks and months. It just feels different.

It has always seemed America has been able to tackle things and eventually move past them, even if not too far beyond the surface. Perhaps our short collective attention span eventually refocuses our gaze on the next shiny object. That’s not happening this time.

What will come of all of this bitter period is anyone’s guess, but it has made me think of a chat I had with a friend recently about what I consider the most amazing historical spot in this country.

If you’re ever in Alabama’s capital city of Montgomery, go downtown to Dexter Avenue. Make your way up Goat Hill to the stately, gleaming state Capitol building and climb the steps. When you reach the portico, look down and you’ll see a star embedded in the ground. It marks the spot where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederacy.

Then, turn around. You’ll see the full expanse of broad Dexter Avenue sweeping toward Court Square Fountain on the far end. 

Immediately below you is the spot where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King have his speech at the end of the Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights in 1965.

Look left. The beautiful red brick church is Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where King served as pastor for a few years in the 1950s. The basement window at the bottom was King’s office and the meeting room where he and others planned the city’s bus boycott that was in its waning months this time 60 years ago.

Keep looking left and you’ll see the Southern Poverty Law Center building, the base for famed civil rights attorney Morris Dees. Step down to the sidewalk, turn right and head to the north side of the capitol grounds. There’s the large, ornate obelisk of the Confederate war memorial.

In the space of a few steps, look at all those layers of history coexisting.

That’s America, y’all. Everything is intertwined. As different as all those important pieces are, they’re all connected and all part of who we are. Can we finally figure things out?

Advertisements