I’m grateful we found ourselves here this weekend, in Memphis. Because while a Civil Rights Museum isn’t going to console or answer anything like Friday’s obscenity, it does give evidence that there is a great will among us, a will that won’t allow us to say: Fine. You got us. We’re done.
On a weekend of so much confusion and what I can only assume is hopelessness and cold for so many, the National Civil Rights Museum – centering on the death and politics and Dreams of Dr. King – reminded me that we can and will move on past so much, including gunmen.
With a small group of friends and family, we walked among the words and footage and the intense amount of detail covering King’s life. The place also leaves you with messages that linger like poetry, messages about how the man with the rifle didn’t stop anything except another man whose work, Dream and love continue. The gun and its carrier are black and white footnotes, forgotten but for the curators.
I can’t say it was comforting. But it was something. Hopeful, maybe. Like hopefully we’ll have the will to start talking seriously about how nobody needs these goddamned guns.
Before dinner on Sunday, we watched a blues band do its thing at an outdoor place on Beale, where blues bands are everywhere and tourists bounce from one place to the other for a song or two. We watched Cowboy Neal and the Real Deal. Great name and a solid band. Doing “Sweet Home Chicago,” “Thrill Is Gone,” and other standards along with some nice originals, too.
At one point, a skinny older guy who was strolling through the sparse afternoon audience hawking the band’s CDs took over at the mike. He sang a few, commented on the nice weather (overcast, a little mist in the air) appealed for some tips and then mentioned Connecticut.
He was about as eloquent and clumsy as anybody could be on such a topic, but he hung in there about what a strong country we are, the USA, and how we’ll keep everybody in our thoughts and prayers and how we will stand strong if we stand with each other.
He then told his band mates the next song, in G, was “Stand By Me.” The bass and drum started, and he came in and sang that song like I’ve heard it a million times and like I’ve never heard it before.
If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
And the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry
No I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand,
Stand by me.
Goodnight from Memphis, Tennessee.