Outside, the summer evening was cooling nicely, but not inside the movie house. It was unbearably hot.
No one should have to bear such discomfort for a two-hour movie. I don’t deserve it. The movie doesn’t deserve it. And I bet there were many people in the room with me who were more troubled by the heat than I was. Come to think of it, the folding chairs added to my fidgeting.
Granted, the film was being shown in a church, not in a commercial movie house with a long tradition of air conditioned comfort.
The documentary, “Freedom Riders,” deepened my understanding about discomfort. I watched people in 1961 being beaten bloody because Blacks and Whites sat together on a bus. I watched people not sure if they would be let off a bus after it was set on fire.
I watched Martin Luther King, Jr. calm more than a thousand people in a church that was surrounded by a White mob seething to set the building they were in on fire. He calmed the people trapped in a most uncomfortable situation, hinting that maybe they were supposed to die that night.
Fifty years after the Freedom Riders forced the hand of city, state, and federal governments, a film refers to young people who had written their last will and testament, knowing that death might be the price of a bus ticket.
I might have preferred watching this riveting history lesson in a cooler room, but maybe not. I learned a little better how very comfortable my life is.
Fortunately, the discomforts of racial inequality have receded into history lessons. Adjusting the air conditioning dial is all that’s needed to handle most references to Muslims and gays. Fortunately, the discomforts of violent hatred mostly flicker in cultured movie doses.
I extend warm thanks to the Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains and the Peace Center of Nevada County. They co-sponsored this showing of “Freedom Riders.”
Thanks especially to Mary Jorgensen. She co-founded the Peace Center and traveled 2000 miles in 1961 to get put in jail in Jackson, Mississippi. She spoke before the film. At 95 years of age, she’s still an activist for peace because peace still needs lots of activation.
Thanks to Steve Sanfield, who also spoke before the showing of “Freedom Riders.” He’s pretty well known hearabouts as a storyteller, poet, and author, but it was a history lesson of a local color to learn he was beaten up for two days in a Texas jail cell for being one of those Freedom Riders.
If you have the opportunity to see “Freedom Riders” you will learn some American History you do not know well enough. Seeing this film, you will be inspired by a discomfort that you do not feel enough. Peace be with us all.