I live in the most divided town-city next to possibly Selma or some other town that was known for its segregation "issues."
This weekend marked The Southern Festival of Books, a four day festival that literally celebrates writing and the reading that accompanies said writing. I went every day bought books, marked others for checking out of the library said host of the festival and even found one left by the book fairy. I listened to amazing talks about Ali and the women who were code breakers in World War II who much like the hidden figures in NASA in the space race these women were critical to the war effort and the beginnings of what we know is the NSA. I listened to a reporter who covered the Trump Campaign, Jared Yates Sexton read his book, The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore; I had just finished Katy Tur's book on the subject and found his perceptions of the situation uniquely different and one that resonated in ways Ms. Tur's book failed to do so.
The most interesting part of that exchange was when a Black Man came up and shared that he went to Spellman College and in turn did it without the benefit of the civil rights movement and felt the minute he heard Martin Luther King speak that the man was wrong. He emphasized that it was the journey that many of his own people took to ensure that he could in fact sit in the very library we were in was something he wanted no part of. And he believed that that movement and the movie, Selma, (released two years ago) were the seeds that fueled the anger of Trump 50 years later.
I found that somewhat a stretch and in turn sad. Actually it began in the Civil War and has never left the region. Walk to the corner there is some marker or statue reminding you but....; However, the Author handled it brilliantly and in that same vein addressed how he often spoke to the individuals who threatened him, broke into his home and harassed them as legitimately angry people who had their belief system and in turn what did they have in common that they could at least reconcile the differences through shared beliefs versus different ones. This is something I have said repeatedly here since I relocated and I am a great advocate of trying to do that in a city-town that has so few readers and so few educated people that when I asked him my question about the distrust of the media, the way people are getting news and information, the Author responded that we have a problem with education and the ability to develop critical thinking and analytical skills. I cannot wait to read the bo
So over the course of four days hearing Al Gore and his issue regarding climate change, a Chef and a Writer discuss the values of food and heritage and family, a charming poet on motherhood, and other fascinating writers who bring to the craft a true dedication to informing and engaging readers at all levels. The irony again not lost on me that 1 out 3 kids here are illiterate and 1/4 of the population is. And true I wave the Southern Confederate flag over this as it is easy to condemn but the values about Education here I found highly amusing when I sat through a writer whose book Athens of the South was about the acclaimed Universities and Colleges that adorn the landscape of Nashville. I have little to say about that and will not be reading said book. I would have loved the writer of Unmaking the Great Metropolis to be the speaker right after to share her research about the collapse of the Nashville public education system.
And that is the two Nashville's. After the day's events I stopped for my requisite pumpkin latte at either of my favorite coffee shops and none of the Barista's knew of it. Well one did but only because someone else had gone to hear a rock star speak of his memoir. Well this is Music City as well as The Athens of the South and of course my personal favorite - City of Now. We have a nickname for this city-town for everyone!
I had a sleepless night as this also marked the end of my fall break. I am already dreading the days ahead and this is my birthday and I cannot think of a more tragic way to spend my birthday. The problem is that I am not sure if I mean in a school or here in Nashville or both. Then I realize as I see the people in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and now in California I could be in worse situations. But empathy becomes a challenge when you have way to many things in which to care about so perhaps I get the reality of why people remain stupid, it's easier.
Nashville is mentioned frequently in another book, The New Urban Crisis, and there are so many problems in this rapidly gentrifying city that has more flags thrown than a football field. The housing costs, the transit, the crime, the health care problems and the sheer lack of decent public education continues to amaze me at the depth and breadth of these problems that frankly will never be resolved as the incomes and educated work force needed to do so will have to come from outside the region and the region is just so un-hospitable to outsiders that I don't see it ever happening.
I hope to come back some day as both a visitor and writer to the festival and with it perhaps an understanding that my observations come from a place of good. There is much goodness and like the Author so beautifully reminded me - focus on the commonalities not the differences. And is on that note there are some and that will have to be enough - for now.