Sunday, April 11, 2010

Thomas Sims and Learning from Big Mistakes

Visited Charleston South Carolina, March 17-22, in search of sun and warm weather, bloom, inspiration and R&R. Always a welcome place, they have a Garden Festival in March-April.

It's hard to visit Charleston and not think about history. It's everywhere, well promoted and supported. It's also hard not to feel remorseful and more, reflecting on slavery in our country's history. I learned and relearned much from reading "A Short History of Charleston" by Robert Rosen. Also some great exhibits at The National Parks Service exhibit at the Fort Sumter Visitor Center. At the Visitor Center I read quotes from Abraham Lincoln, shocking, but exhibiting an acute pragmatism, along with a reminder of how we are shaped by our surroundings. Full text of the Visitor Center Exhibit is available online, another example of the treasure of our NPS. See pg 15 for the Lincoln quote that shocked me.

Today's Boston Globe ran a story on the Thomas Sims Fugitive Slave incident. Despite being a progressive town, in 1851 Boston city government complied with the new Fugitive Slave Law, and dramatically escorted Thomas Sims back to slavery in Georgia. An idealogical hotbed for abolitionism and human rights, Boston citizens did not find a way to stop this. The Caning of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner in 1856 in the US Senate chamber is also mentioned. I had to look it up because I'd never heard of such an outrageous action, comparable in some ways to Joe Wilson's "You Lie" not a physical threat, but delivered publicly.

The very well-written article by Steve Puleo, also makes a "take home" point: great big mistakes can teach us the error in our ways, and then, foster actual ACTION. I would add, the power of pragmatism being stronger than we acknowledge, uncomfortable or inconvenient consequences are usually required. Sometimes however, just realizing the horror is enough. And it made me wonder, what are the mistakes we are making now, in our personal and collective (political) lives, that should be shocking and energizing????

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