I love the open road more than almost anything.  Just getting into my car and heading for nowhere in particular.  That to me is fun. The longer the journey the better.

I was in the mood for a road trip yesterday which is a good thing because I was scheduled to give a talk 2 1/2 hours away in Marion, Indiana.  Sometimes my wife accompanies me on such trips, but she was working and couldn’t.  I love the solitude of the open road, so I almost just went myself.  But it was the day after Mother’s Day and Mom is recently retired and she also likes  a good road trip so I invited her along to keep me company.  Wow.  Big-time back-seat driver.  I’ve logged probably enough accident-free miles in my adult life to drive to the moon and back several times, I’m close to 40 years old, and she STILL says “light is green” or “aren’t you tailgating a bit?”  SIGH.

Not a week or so before I was contacted by the library in Marion last year, coincidentally, I had finished a book about a dark chapter in the city’s history.  The book “Our Town” by Cynthia Carr details the events leading up to the last major lynching in the northern US which took place there in 1930.  The book is a riveting account of that warm August night and the aftermath and years of healing and attempts at reconciliation.  I approached the stately downtown courthouse with a slight sense of foreboding, the same courthouse outside of which the horrible events unfolded.  It was evening and the city center was empty which added to the air of unease.  But I shook off the shudders quickly. I told myself that it really is ridiculous to hold any sort of ill will towards a town in 2010 for something that happened in 1930 . Although I decided against bringing up the book at my presentation, I was there to talk about the Amish, not about history and I was pretty certain most people in Marion might be tired of the topic.    The courthouse really is a gorgeous structure as if plucked out of a Hollywood movie set of small-town America. But one can’t take the pulse of a city in such a brief breeze through.  I wish I had had more time to explore.  I do highly recommend the book Our Town for anyone interesting in exploring race relations in the post Civil War United States.  Another great book is Separate Pasts.   We’ve come a long way in race relations in this country and Marion is a microcosm of that I’m sure.

Now, if my Mother would just move beyond backseat driving……

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