I just finished reading David Halberstam’s great 1999 book The Children for the first time. I’m not sure why it took me so long to read it since Halberstam is one of my heroes and I’m deeply interested in the history of the Civil Rights Movement but better late than never.
The timing is also somewhat fortuitous because the SNCC “children” of the title were responsible for the Nashville sit-ins, the Freedom Rides and the Selma March, a series of epic events that helped lead to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That is, in turn,a big story today because the Supremes took up an Alabama case that wants to rip out the heart of that act, Section 5. Discrimination? What discrimination? We have a black President, what more do *those* people want?Sorry, for channeling Justice Scalia but his “crazy wingnut uncle who watches Fox News all day” shtick is contagious, y’all.
Crazy Nino has stopped caring about his public image as a judge who believe in judicial restraint. If he were *actually* a true conservative, he’d defer to Congress instead of going off like Archie Bunker the first time he met George Jefferson, but Crazy Nino is too far gone for that. Here’s hoping that at least one of the conservative Justices can read the election results instead of trying to dictate them, and the Court upholds this vital provision.
Back to The Children. It’s a must read. For me, reading (and re-reading) Halberstam is like hanging out with an old friend who writes long sentences and is obsessed with semi-colons. That may be contagious since I write some rather epic sentences and tend to be at least semi-high colonic as well.<rim shot> Anyway, nobody writes narrative non-fiction prose quite as well as Halberstam and his biographical snap shots of his “characters” are unsurpassable.
Dr. A and I saw Halberstam speak at the Louisiana Book Festival in Red Stick one year. It took place in the state house chamber and I halfway expected someone to offer me a bribe or to shake me down for one. As I said before, Halberstam was one of my idols so Dr. A suggested that I chat him up. I couldn’t do it, I was afraid that I’d babble like an idiot a la Ralph Kramden going “humina humina.” I wish that I’d given it the old college try but I did not.
One more thing about The Children. John Lewis is one of the central figures in the book. I didn’t think it was possible for me to admire him more than I already did but it happened upon reading this book. I knew that he was a remarkable man but he is also genuinely humble as you may have noticed if you saw him with Rachel Maddow tonight. (When he told Rachel he was honored to be there, he meant it.) If I were him, I’d be a raging egomaniac but John Lewis remains the same modest kid who grew up in racist rural Alabama and became an American hero. Strike that. John Lewis is an American super hero.