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  • Writer's pictureerikaraskin

the bricks pretty much say it all

Updated: Nov 12, 2019

I was meeting an old friend for lunch in Lexington, Virginia. It's midway-ish between Charlottesville and Roanoke, our respective abodes. The plan was to finally use the Red Hen gift certificate sent to me by a much further-flung friend. My California chum had chosen the out-of-the-way eatery intentionally. She wanted to support the business after the owner took a moral stand last June against the Trump Administration's obscene family separation policy.

Following the news of Trump's soulless treatment of migrant kids, his obfuscating press secretary, Sarah (I'll-Get-Back-To-You-On-That) Sanders showed up at the restaurant for dinner. Her appearance created a moral dilemma for Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner.

The idea of offering even tacit approval to a woman involved in the whole-scale destruction of children's lives was a line the proprietor wasn't willing to cross. She politely, privately asked Sanders to go, comping her party's bill for what had already been eaten.

Which, to me, seemed really civilized.

Sanders tweeted about the incident the next day. She said that she was asked to leave the restaurant even though she herself always tries to treat people respectfully.


Then Trump piped up, tweeting about the Red Hen, too. And a shitstorm was released as bigots of all stripes threatened the restaurant and its people.

Arguments also took place among friends (trust me) about the appropriateness of calling out the president's minions while they are not officially on the clock. I was originally conflicted but came down on the side of Wilkinson. Fascism is not a 9-5 proposition. Why should accomplices get to pretend they haven't done anything wrong when they've help disappear children in some system-less system?

Anyway, back to my south-westerly road trip. I was excited to cash in the gift certificate. Also, I was hungry. Only it turned out the the Red Hen doesn't do lunch so we had to find someplace else to eat.


On our search for a sandwich I discovered something stunning under my feet -- a commemorative stone memorializing the martyrdom of Jonathan Daniels, a 26 year-old white seminarian and graduate of Lexington's Virginia Military Institute.

I did some research (when I got home) and learned that Daniels had answered Martin Luther King's call for decent people to go south and work for social justice.

Daniels went to Alabama where he met Ruby Sales, a black 17 year-old member of the Students Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. The two became friends. And were arrested together.

They'd just been released after spending six days in jail when they crossed the path of a bigot. One with a shotgun. The man threatened them and Daniels pushed the teenager out of the way. He was killed.

The racist was acquitted by an all-white jury.

After seeing the memorial I was filled with wonder about people with ties to little places like Lexington, people who have felt compelled to do the right things despite the cost. It made me hopeful.

And then I saw this other brick. It memorialized Stonewall Jackson's horse.

And I didn't feel quite as uplifted.

But to quote Stephanie Wilkinson, "Resistance isn't futile."

It's just hard.



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