BrightSide and I met in Charlottesville.
We were both twenty and living in that University bubble. Life being what it is I bumped into BrightSide with some baggage, but by some miracle he liked me in all my nuttiness anyway.
When we go back to visit I can still feel the thrill of being young, free, and accountable only to ourselves.
The summer after my third year I got a part time job as a camp counselor. I’d work with the kids in the morning, catch a couple of summer school classes in the afternoon, then work evenings in a copy shop. Hectic, but doable. Except I didn’t have a car. So I’d get up early to walk to the University hospital where I caught a bus that took me to the far side of campus. Then I walked the twelve or so blocks toward downtown.
I feel like that should have an “uphill, both ways, in the snow” at the end. And where the hell were Fitbits in those days, huh?
I spent that summer in downtown Charlottesville where two other girls and I taught kids camp songs and poked straws into juice boxes. Where we thought nothing of putting those kids on a city bus twice a week so they could go swimming. A downtown where no one questioned the spectacle of forty kids and two college students eating snack in the shade of an office building.
You can imagine my shock on Saturday when I heard white supremacists had carried torches through what had been my home for five years. That they stood side by side with other “far right” groups as they spread hate and fear through campus. Once they’d surrounded a small group of counter-protesters they attacked them with torches, pepper spray, and lighter fluid.
But that was only the beginning. Live coverage of Saturday morning’s rally/protest was horrifying – men carrying Confederate flags, Ku Klux Klan members, neo-Nazis, and armed militia members joined ranks to promote white power. Heated exchanges were no surprise; white supremacy and the equal rights movement can’t philosophically share the same space.
Then the world tilted.
Objects thrown. Pepper spray. Beatings with fists, feet, and sticks. Bodies flying as a car rammed through the group. Shouts, screams, threats, and white hot hate poured off the crowd as I stared at the tv.
Rioting and bone deep rage had flooded my streets in Charlottesville.
A boy told me last week that the bible says our world is getting more evil every day. The “people will just keep getting wickeder and wickeder” and that, as they say, is that.
I can’t claim to know what the world will do, but my call is as clear as the hawk’s on a quiet day. Show up and be the good. Carry it like the light it is, confident that good will always lead you home.