Southern Legitimacy Statement: I’m from Fayetteville, in Northwest Arkansas. Geographically, we’re just barely in the South and are sometimes listed as being in the Southwest – that’s a joke. I was raised with the same stories and myths as everyone else and I am Southern to the bone. But these days I mostly work on telling our local history here – our true history, devoid of false myths, and one that includes everyone’s stories, told as honestly and realistically as possible.
I. Amboseli to Tsavo West Three hours by black ribbon of road Amboseli to Tsavo West, young women roadside showing their breasts, hoping for money, rest breaks among the scrub brush and a Masai village welcoming, friendly, ground three feet deep in animal dung flies swarming, in groups on mouths, around ears, in the corners of babies’ eyes, mothers selling trinkets, colorful scarves. Aggressive males, salesmen, thrust spears in a semi-circle by feet, excitement, enticement to sale. Beyond the road, large Baobab trees, tops chewed clean and symmetrical by hungry giraffe. Kilaguni Lodge, huge, empty, off season, playful, furry fat hyrax, scabrous Marabou storks by waterhole. Mzima Springs – nervous baboon colony, hippos swimming in water deep and clear. At dusk, Kilimanjaro, solid, powerful, unseen energy undiminished in the fading of the light. In the quiet of three a.m., water buffalo just below and elephants beyond the lodge gently touching long trunks, vocalizing softly through the stillness of the night. II. Impotent Tribal God From the vastness of space to ocean’s murky floor, macrocosm, microcosm, chance or immutable law, chaos, gravity, grand theory or no each gap filled, ignorance set aside, the real omnipotence laid bare for all to see, omniscience unclear, omnipresence staggering, capricious, crushing daily the need for superstition, uncritical faith, millennial-old allegory and fable, last death knell loud bell ringing the demise of your impotent tribal god. III. John Brown’s Body Lies a’moulderin’ in the grave all right, and well it should, that’s what happens when, like the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain eighty years later, you’re a “premature anti-fascist,” or, were too early, too powerful in opposition to this different brand of fascism, the one called slavery. John Brown was too early, too fierce for the laissez faire, molly-coddling masses of the just let nature run its course, it’s dead-slow course. And the irony is not lost that it was Colonel Robert E. Lee, still a loyal Union man, who was sent to pacify old bloody, fanatical John Brown. Wounded, defeated, they tried him for treason and hung him from the gallows like the strange fruit that would be dangling from southern trees for decades to come. Yes, John Brown lies a’moulderin’ in the grave all right, but his harsh courage echoes still through long wires of unbroken time. down to us.