Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Few

Apart from everything your eyes tell the story of an act of betrayal no one could fully know or comprehend. Yet beyond this is the vast emptiness that fills your mind, drowning and wallowing inside. Heart breaking, pain overflowing, tears pouring, no one understands. Cry for help, no ears to heed your plea, friends far away, as though they became strangers the day you became what you are, what you will forever more be. Prevention a possibility, trust never coming easily, mind bending, trying to grasp what has occurred, yet the hurt is unbearable and no one understands. Fighting to breathe, suffocating under the broken wreckage that has become your life, everyone so distant, eyes looking yet never truly seeing. Brokenness is all you know, pain so constant, heart breaking apart, numbness spreading, overwhelming like a disease, smothering and destroying all in it’s path. Just as they did, just as they came and wrecked and destroyed and murdered and mutilated without an afterthought of regret or sorrow. So sick of being ignored, of their arrogance and disdain for something they could never understand. Disappointment and hatred fill their eyes, can’t be what they want you to be, can’t prevent the irrevocable damage that has been wrought upon your soul. Black surrounds and shrouds, choking out all else, blinding and lying, crying and fighting, yet no one cares, no one understands. Clouds and wind, darkness and rain, hail and sleet, sun shines, yet light is overcome and the day becomes night once again. Eyes of sapphire stare, not daring to look up for fear of judgment and hate. They see, they ask, they talk, they assume, they judge… all but a few, those certain few, who take the time to truly understand and accept, to help and comprehend, to love and care, to respect and listen. Slowly the loneliness, the sorrow, the pain, the brokenness, the hatred is repressed, though it will always be there, cowering in the dark corners of you mind and soul. The few are overcoming all, boldly standing beside you all the day, enduring in order to understand. Thank God for the few, for without them I would be lost.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Beneath Rebel Skies

Ice cold rain pours through the musty train cars, packed with hundreds of men, as cattle brought to the slaughter. I shiver, the soldier standing beside me has a hacking cough, can’t stop. He sounds awful, like an old man, yet he cannot be over fourteen. I myself am but sixteen, though I have seen more in my short life than most have seen in fifty years of living. The air is rank with the scent of sweat and blood. My nostrils fill with the smell, though it is not half as bad as some, it makes my stomach swim. The train comes to and abrupt stop, lurching forward and sighs as an old farmer after a hard days work. Shouts and orders can be heard. A lowly Johnny Reb yanks the door open, revealing his bearded face. “Get outta the train, you filthy yankee dogs!” His young voice penetrates the thick air, arousing all prisoners, soon to be granted their fate. The great mass of bodies moves as one, making its way out of the train. Frozen hard ground gives way to a demonic black sky. Lightning strikes, not a mile away. Thunder gives his answer with a resounding crack, which penetrates the wind blown atmosphere. Rain drops hit my tanned skin, as rocks upon a valley floor. The formerly beautiful sound of pouring water fills the air, soaking all that inhabit South Carolina in its unforgiving vengeance. “All right, you maggots, form ranks and prepare to march!” It was the young soldier again, perhaps informing his prisoners that he intended to provide them with everything terrible and evil. The mass of bodies moves a second time, with me somewhere in the middle, smashed and forgotten amidst such numbers. The sky wreaks her havoc upon the war torn ground and its occupants as all stagger towards their God given fate.

Finally arrived at the prison; Johnny Rebs shove us through the gateway, and into the camp. I suppose I simply expected something more, perhaps tents or quarters; yet there was nothing of the sort. Instead, sparse weeds littered the ground, as bones upon and ancient battlefield. Pushing their prisoners through, the Rebels shout orders to each other and let us be for the time being. I, along with many other Yankees, fall to the mire in exhaustion.

I awake the next morning to yells and groans. Morning dew soaks the already muddy ground, making it virtually impossible to navigate, ensnaring many in its boggy grasp. Coughing and hacking prevail through all other sounds, so many of my fellow soldiers sick from wounds or disease, cursing them in battle. Still, no shelters have been erected, no nourishment provided, despite the drenching rain and howling wind. This storm is unceasing, as if God is displeased with all the liquid falls upon. I wrap my uniform closer about my body, hoping it will keep me warm from the elements. Some men attempt to start fires near the wall, despite the pigeons nests atop, with Rebs sticking their noses out, awaiting an excuse to shoot someone. Their attempts are hindered by the weather, yet they continue their effort. I, too deeply desire warmth. I spot three men huddled together, so I join their group, hoping for warmth and companionship. “Dang Johnny Rebs, they wouln’t stick thay own soldas in this God fersakin place.” Willy complained. He was in my regiment, though I never much liked him. “Ah, shut up Willy, I’m tryin ta git some shut eye.” This man I didn’t know, he was mighty tall, I could tell that from looking at him. The third soldier didn’t make a sound, just sat there shivering, his dark eyes observing their gloomy surroundings, as a hawk on the hunt.

“Git up, yank, no time fer sleep at this hea place.” “Ohhh.” I groaned, he had kicked me in the ribs, as if I was a dog that needed discipline. “I said git up!” The Reb made a second attempt to injure me, bringing his foot back; I managed to dodge it. He cursed at me and sauntered of as I tried to adjust my eyes to the bright light. It had stormed for three days straight, never letting up. Yet today it was surprisingly hot. The bright sun hung in the sky, her eyes full and watchful as those below made their way about the earth. I wonder what she thought of our circumstance, if she cared or thought about us at all. Her gaze pierced the cloudless sky and shone upon my darkened skin. I saw the three men I had met two days before near the wall, constructing a lean to out of spare wood for reprieve from the sweltering heat. I moseyed over to them, hoping again for conversation.

Against all odds

Despite what we have nearly all been told of the sudden relapse of Native Americans in the 17 and 1800’s, the reason for the events that led to it are still somewhat unclear. Unlike most historical events, this was not completely understood or recorded as such. Because of this, we have little or no understanding of the Native American people and their heritage. In order to overcome this, certain documents and authors have gone back in time to correct the errors in history, and eventually attempt to right the many wrongs that have been placed upon these people. Once Europeans began immigrating here from a across the Atlantic Ocean, different conflicts arose between the white man and the Indian. For instance, while the Indian lived off the land and used every bit and piece of everything they killed or destroyed, white man killed and destroyed many things, yet used only certain parts of whatever he had mutilated. Although Native Americans and Europeans seemed to get along during the era of Columbus and Squanto, trouble soon arose between the two races. Many of their conflicts are the result of the European’s disregard and disdain for the Native American’s culture and religion, yet the Indians had a hand in creating conflict as well. White man enslaved thousands of Indians, or attempted to, yet soon discovered that this tough race would stand for no such thing. Because the Indians had lived in the same areas of land for thousands of years, they were extremely familiar with the terrain and landmarks that surrounded them. This prevented the Europeans from keeping captive most Indians, thus creating more conflict and friction amongst these two very different races. Because of this, the Indians retaliated in vicious and violent ways. Attacking homesteads, murdering innocent women and children and burning whole towns are just a few examples of how the native people dealt with enslavement and racism. Yet only certain tribes came to such extreme measures. Some attempted to reason with the white men, only to be faced with false treatise and corrupt politicians. One such politician was President Stonewall Jackson, famous for moving the Indians across the country to unwanted bits of land, called reservations. The Trail of Tears is perhaps the most famous example of this. Forcing thousands upon thousands of native Americans in the south to migrate to the north and west, President Jackson in turn betrayed the trust of the Indians, all the while becoming famous among the ‘true’ Americans for this act of falseness and fear. Jackson craved control, as he clearly displayed through his blatant disregard to anything and everything this incredible race stood for. Though Jackson is revered in some places, I believe he will forever be remembered as the President who nearly single handedly destroyed the Native American people. However, this race held much promise and managed to endure throughout this horrible ordeal and continue to produce well grounded progeny, proud of their people and strong in heart. Today, many native Americans live on reservations, scratching together a living, much like the rest of this country. Yet something about these people is different, they hold their heads high, their shoulders upright, copper eyes boldly staring the future in the face, declaring their independence and freedom to all who look upon them.