Saturday, June 06, 2020

Black Lives Matter in Goshen, NY

When I moved back to my home town of Goshen, NY in the nineties after living away for almost twenty years, my original plan was to be gone in four months. Yesterday I was reminded why I don't regret sticking around for a whole lot longer than that.
The day after Martin Luther King was murdered in April of 1968, I took part in a rally and march that commenced at the iconic Presbyterian church park in the center of the village. I was only nine-years-old at the time but I had a strong feeling that, by being there, somehow, I was taking part in history.
Exactly fifty-two years and two months later the people from Goshen and the surrounding community came together again to express their solidarity and dismay for the murder of George Floyd by some sadistic police officer in Minneapolis a week and a half earlier. For over an hour the people marched and cheered and talked and sang. Like the overwhelming majority of the rallies across America in the last week, this one was peaceful and beautiful. To the best of my knowledge, the village police weren't there, but they didn't need to be. They know the character of the people of the Hudson Valley all too well. They probably figured we'd be well behaved, and we were - HONEST!

The only ugly moment of the event came at the very beginning. The first speaker was a senior from my old alma mater, Goshen High School. She graduated with honors. I dropped out at the start of my junior year. My hat is tipped to her. As she was beginning her talk on what it's like being a young black woman in America today, an angry white man with a smug look of privilege splattered across his kisser, barged onto the podium. Sticking an iPhone into her face he demanded, "Read that!" The poor kid was shocked and confused. When one of the organizers gently informed her that she didn't have to read it if she felt it wasn't appropriate. She went on with her talk, and the angry white man stormed off muttering, "So you won't read it, huh?"

There are oodles of angry white men out there, have you ever noticed that? I have to confess to you that I am one of them - but at least I'm angry for all the right reasons, dag nap it!

It was a perfectly beautiful day to hold such a beautiful event. What struck me was the crowd. Most of them were very young - and a lot of them were quite white. You've got to give a standing ovation to the millennials of all sizes and colors.  As I've written on this site before, I have nothing but awe and admiration for these kids. My generation was handed the strongest, economically sound nation in the history of the world. And what do we bequeath them? A socioeconomic and ideological cesspool. I have no doubt that it is the people who were born in the last decade of the twentieth and the first two decades of the twenty-first centuries who are going to turn this damaged planet around and shake it up in a way that it's never been shaken up before. I long ago stopped holding my breath waiting for my generation to get with the program. That ain't gonna happen, campers. I don't trust anyone over thirty. Sorry.

By mid-afternoon yesterday I was quite ready to hit the sack. I had been awake since before midnight the previous evening and, by the time I arrived for the festivities at just before 4 o'clock, I was having difficulty keeping my eyes open. That all changed the moment the event got under way. What happened yesterday charged me up in a way I haven't been charged in a very long time. Since I was old enough to form my own opinions on complicated matters, I've been a skeptic with regard to the future of the relation between the races in America. That defeatist attitude on my part is beginning to fade away. The cold-blooded-murder of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis on May 25 may very well prove to be the tipping point. People with dark skin (and most people whose skin is not-so-dark) are mad as hell and they're not gonna take it any more. So be it.

Yesterday, once again, I had the honor of being an eyewitness to history. Life is good.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


It's ironic. In the early years of the twentieth century, the newly formed NAACP conducted a survey on the best and worst places for "negroes" to live in New York State. My home town of Goshen placed at the dead-bottom of that list. The reason for this, I surmise, is due to the fact that, in those bad old days, Goshen was a seasonal trot racing town, many of whose residents were transplanted southerners who owned and raced trotting horses. If only the old bastards could have come back from the dead and gotten a good look at their beloved church park yesterday! Wouldn't that have been a hoot-and-a-half? In 1920, black lives didn't matter much in Goshen, NY. In 2020 they do matter - big time. You'd better believe it, Buster! 

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At 12:03 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

So beautifully written, Tom (as usual). I have been impressed here in Minneapolis and around the country, at the tremendous outpouring from white citizens. Downtown Mpls., after the first night of demonstrations, Christina (my daughter and a fan of yours)and I drove all around the streets looking at the destruction. What was impressive was that there were so many many white people with brooms and wheeling trash barrels cleaning up the streets. Many others had bought plywood sheets and were installing them over broken windows and also over store windows that could be broken with further demonstrations. I mean, the streets were filled with white helpers.
What people need to realize is the role of the servants of the government--the police--that they are being specifically trained with methods to be used against a misbehaving populace in general. (kneeling on the neck, etc.) Please look at the YouTube film: An Israeli Soldier. He gives an interesting warning. He tells that in our country, police are systematically being sent to Israel to train to quell the populace as they do in Palestine. I know this sounds crazy but I saw about 18 years ago, film; The Intifada. Then, the YouTube Israeli Soldier in recent times.
It is a long story, but when I see so much good will amongst so many white people, I see how things have gotten very different since 1963 and thereabouts--when I was in college. White people are not so unconscious as they were then. Meanwhile, The emerging intention of the government becomes visible in the training of and choice of tho type of person selected to be "police". Not that police were so good in early times...but people do not seem to realize how very intentional this militaristic attitude is in the police toward the populace--not only the black people. One last thing, if you care to look at YouTube. former FBI chief, Ted Gunderson, gave a few talks, one of which, tells of the fact that many police list their religion as "Satanism"...all a shock to him. Thank you if you read this far. You are a wonderful voice on the internet...creative, sensitive, informed, always interesting. I thank you.

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Thank YOU, Stephanie!

At 10:33 AM, Blogger rustcoal said...

Where the hell is Ronnie raygun, when you need him to bust up an union? Oh he is probably up in heaven (allegedly) looking down at the fascist police state he helped to create.

At 12:16 PM, Blogger Jude said...

Racism will cease to exist when the terms "black, brown, white" cease to be used. Those words, and their implied connotations need to be eliminated from the conversation.

At 7:15 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

You make a good point, Jude


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