It’s hard to change yourself. Trust me I know. Leaving the past behind makes absolutely no sense. The past is always there, lingering under the dark haze of the present.
Take, for example the cicada. After hanging out underground for some 17 years or so, it decides to root up out of the soil and slowly but surely climb up the nearest tree trunk and scream and holler as loud as possible through it’s reed like abdomen in the hopes of finding a mate. If it’s scheme works, it will likely end up having like a billion babies.
The afternoon was hot and sultry when we heard our first cicada. We were just starting to understand what people meant by Southern humidity. We thought the sound was some sort of generator, but there were no metal boxes nearby, only trees. The humming was all we could hear, and it seemed like it was amplifying the heat, but of course I know that is physically impossible. We couldn’t move because we were all stuck together with our own sweat. The best we could do was sit still and listen. It was as if we were in some sort of hot and sticky trance.
The cicadas scream and holler because they know their life above ground is short. If they fail, they have to wait another 17 years to try again. No wonder they seem to sound so desperate. I had this funny idea that their existence is like a pyramid scheme working in reverse. I mean, who’s crazy idea was this for a species to thrive? If they mess up too many times well, the cicada will recede into a sort of underground historical artifact.
Actually, I do remember learning about cicadas about 20 years ago when I was working at an Chinese jade art gallery, at a time when Neolithic works of art were having a little heyday amongst prominent art collectors. At the gallery, we had about a half dozen of these crudely carved jade cicadas dating back to about 4000 b.c. I remember being intrigued with how these jade cicadas were placed in the mouths of the dead before they were buried, and how they became a symbol for the afterlife. But I also remember thinking it was a little bit dubious that archaeologists and potentially grave robbers unearthed these bodies and separated them from their jade talismans, never to return to the ground from which they came, perhaps never having a chance to even be reborn.
Oh, and by the way, cicadas don’t just live in the South. We heard them in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Vermont.
But they sure are noisy, these little cricket like critters. Luckily they only bother us every 17 years or so, so it isn’t all that bad. In some ways, I think it’s good to have a little reminder that things aren’t always coming up daisies.
Which, funny thing, reminds me of the Dukes of Hazard. I also never thought much about the Confederate flag, but I remember the flag sat proudly on the roof of the Duke’s orange Dodge, “the General Lee”. And then I remembered that a few years back, a young kid got sent home from school because of his Confederate flag T-shirt. I was confused at first because it seemed like he was being sent home because he had Southern pride. I thought that pride would be good because sometimes Northerners make fun of people with southern accents, acting like Southerners are dumb and uneducated. Hoisting up the Confederate flag seemed like a good thing for the South. And then oops! I remembered what it stood for.
All told, I do think that the use of the Confederate flag in the Dukes of Hazard was in jest. It made the show that much more realistic. And honestly, I do not believe Bo and Luke Duke had the slightest idea what it meant, which is something interesting to think about.
There’s a lot of things about the South I really never thought about. For example, the Civil War. Sure, I knew it happened, but it didn’t happen out West so it never seemed 100% real. I remember going to New Orleans once and seeing a building that was used to hold slaves and then suddenly thinking to myself, “this really happened. It wasn’t just in a book.” And here the South memories of the dark past are memorialized with monuments in public and private parks. It’s hard not to think about it.
But if you look the past right square in the eye, you can sometimes give it a forceful glare so it doesn’t hurt you anymore.
We arrived in Charlottesville, VA just one week after the brutal murder of Heather Herrer who was simply hollering out for equality. Desperate, perhaps that if she did not speak, that we would dig up the sins of our past. When she was run down by a Swastika toting hate filled human being, we unfortunately caught a glimpse of that not too distant past. However, because like the cicada we only want to live, the struggle will only make love stronger.
Swastikas are supposed to be a symbol for good luck. In Buddhism it represented the auspicious footprints of the Buddha. Buddha struggled, but he was basically a nice guy. Native Americans used it as a symbol for abundance and healing.
It’s funny, but when I look at a Swastika I see four equal arms that imply balance. Balance doesn’t exist without eventually surrendering to equality. Curious, I suppose, because that ignorant jerk Hitler re-appropriated the once peaceful Swastika as a symbol for the Aryan race. He flipped the script. The Swastika doesn’t mean anything nice at all anymore. It basically says “we’re better than you,” or “we wish you didn’t exist.” Ever since the war, toting a Swastika means you wanted people to be as scared as fuck of you.
And so I’m pretty sure we’re not going to be able change the meaning of the Swastika as much as we’re not going to lift away the pain that monuments of so called heroes fighting to keep people enslaved. If we do want transition, it’s not going to be pretty.
I know our “President” Trump isn’t going to lead the change. I mean, just a short while after a woman was killed in Charlottesville, our President decides to pardon a law officer who had been racially profiling Mexican Americans. If there ever was a time to crack down on racist people, now would be the time, but our President dropped the ball. It’s like the cicada that waited 17 years underground only to rise up and fail miserably.
The South does need something to be proud of besides good biscuits and friendly people. The statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, VA now sits shrouded in black plastic, hidden from view, ready to be properly placed in the context of our history instead of taunting us to go back in time. Step by step, change is indeed on the horizon. The sounds of the cicadas are becoming softer, waning as summer winds down for the season. It will be a nice break from the noise. Love always wins.