By G. Wayne Dowdy
Your correspondent shares with Colonel John McLeod Keating, managing editor of the Memphis Daily Appeal during the 1878 yellow fever epidemic, his views on the current state of democracy in the United States and the Bluff City.
Dear Colonel Keating;
I am sorry you haven’t received a letter from me in several weeks. To tell you the truth, the nightmares of 164,000 dead Americans from COVID-19, voter suppression, and the invasion of Portland, Oregon by out-of-control federal law enforcement, have given me much to think about. On the surface, it would be easy to conclude that we are in grave danger of losing our liberties.
I am well aware that there are powerful forces determined to destroy 21st century America – a tolerant country that is committed to economic justice, equality, and the social safety net. Playing on fear, these oligarchs would prefer us to be little more than wage slaves, surviving only by their whims. As I say, they are formidable. However, like gazing across the horizon at a large ship that turns out to be a small boat, they are not as strong as they appear.
Despite the distractions of endless entertainment and witless propaganda, our commitment to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights remains fiercely intact. Each time the courts uphold a law, a protester shakes their fist at arbitrary power, or a citizen speaks against injustice, the fine strands of our civil liberties are bound more tightly together. To be sure they are often stretched thin, but tyranny has never been able to puncture them.
When the current occupant of the White House threatened to send troops into several American cities, I was reminded of the scene in the film Casablanca where the American Richard Blaine warns a German officer “there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn’t advise you to try to invade.” That goes for Memphis, too. Not because of the threat of violence, although that is always a possibility in Memphis. Rather because many of our neighborhoods have fought crime, decay, financial instability, and government neglect to forge proud communities that refuse to knuckle under to anyone or anything. These tenacious neighborhoods are one of America’s greatest defenses against those who flirt with tyranny.
Meanwhile, the Memphis protests have mostly ended as our activism is redirected toward the upcoming presidential election. As the campaign intensifies, I will let you know what is happening in the city we both love.
Your Faithful Correspondent