Fifty years on …

The last 20 pages of Travels with Charley are downright painful.  Steinbeck ends his journey across America with a stop in the south.  It is 1960.  The ‘n’ word is The Word.  He watches a demonstration outside a school where a little girl is trying to go to school.  Hatred and fear infect everyone and everything.

Fifty years later, things have improved, right?  Maybe.  But not enough.  When I visit my childhood home in southern Missouri, people still use that word.  There is still this hatred and fear.  Fifty years later.  When I tell this to friends and neighbors in northern California they, like Steinbeck, can’t believe it’s possible.  They have never seen it or heard it. “That can’t be,” they say.

I promise you.  It can.  It is.  Fifty years on and there is still such a long way to go.

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One thought on “Fifty years on …

  1. Bonnie Middlebrooks

    I am one of those No. Cal. neighbors. Though it is hard to believe, I am sad to say I know some things never seem to change (improve). Yes, I liked Travels with Charley until I got to the reason for Steinbeck terminating his travels. I could not have left that place fast enough. The truck/camper is on display in the Salinas museum. Seeing it there is what made me want to read that little book of his. I am glad I did, because he had such a direct way of saying what he saw and how it made him feel.

    My California friend, who is now living in Ohio, and I talk of the prejudice she sees in her small town. And of the many differences in attitudes she encounters there. I am surprised by so many things she tells me. For instance, she must ask if a friend or neighbor recycles before tossing an aluminum can. One response blew me way, “I’ll do it when the government makes me.” Well, the government made schools integrate, but it didn’t change some attitudes.

    Wow.

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