Sunday in Selma not a battle
Published 9:31 am Wednesday, March 7, 2007
If you watched Sunday's television coverage of the commemoration of Selma's voting rights march, you would have thought the day was all about a head-to-head battle between Democratic presidential frontrunners Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
To be sure, there was much to write about when you consider they shared the national stage at one of the most important events in the history of the civil rights movement.
But if you were there, you would have seen that the day was about more than political speeches. It was a day to remember what happened, how far we have come, and how much we still have left to do.
Clinton, and even more Obama, illustrate what the Voting Rights Act has done for America. Brewton's H.K. Matthews - who was among those who tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge that day in 1965 - pointed out that without the Voting Rights Act, Obama would never have been in the running for the nation's highest office. Clinton, too, benefited from the doors opened by the civil rights movement.
Both candidates were respectful to each other throughout the day - sharing handshakes, smiles, even an embrace - but they would have been rightly criticized for anything less than a love-fest on such an anniversary.
Their presence was political - and both were upstaged by Clinton's husband, a certain former president whose star power has not diminished - but their words marked the gravity warranted by the day.
Obama, speaking outside Brown Chapel Church just before the crowd marched toward the bridge, spoke of the responsibility of what he called the “Joshua generation,” the younger people who have come after the “Moses generation” of the civil rights movement. The Joshua generation, Obama said, is charged with completing the journey toward equality, just as the Biblical Joshua led Moses' people after he died.
Matthews agreed with the sentiment.
But Matthews worries about that Joshua generation. “There is so much lack of commitment on the part of people today,” he said.
Perhaps that Joshua generation would have watched Sunday's events through the same eyes as CNN, which set up the day as a battle between candidates.
If they watched through the eyes of those who crossed the bridge on Sunday - especially if they looked past the politics - they would have seen that the journey is not over, but the end is in sight.
Kerry Whipple Bean is publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at 251-867-4876 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.