Flames Still Burning
What follows is something more of a personal essay than a blog post.
“You know, I think we really learned that we can’t trust the government for anything. And that’s why we started relying on each other, on our community.”
We were nursing drinks on a Monday night in a bar that used to be a funeral home, recently opened by a couple from Austin, TX. It was a last-minute event planned by our grassroots Pride organization, but the tiny bar adorned with mismatched furniture and (in some windows) pot plants quickly filled up. A line stretched out the door. The smell of fresh pizza from the other building wafted in to mix with the night breeze.
“You don’t call the cops when you’ve got a problem. You call your neighbor.”
“Can’t trust the cops for fucking shit. Remember when they harrassed that Black couple at the top of main street?”
Murmurs of assent, sips. I was almost done with my gin and tonic.
One of the folx sitting with us had started a cop watch, training community members how to film the police, hold them accountable for their actions. Some of these videos were posted to social media.
“It’s amazing,” someone said, looking around, “how many people showed up tonight.”
“Our community rallies. We are always here for each other.”
Of all the places I’ve lived, this has never been more apparent than in this small city. It was the first time I offered to drive a complete stranger - with all of their supplies - to an event. They even gave me their address without knowing a thing about me; only that I’d pick them up in the rain, no questions asked.
That “stranger” now had their arm draped over the back of my seat casually, their bright orange dress lighting up the growing darkness with a small fire, showing me pictures of their girlfriend.
“I can’t wait for her to come to the states and see this place,” they were saying, flipping through photos on their phone, while another conversation boiled passionately in the background.
“You know, we can talk all we want about how we support things, but unless we walk the walk, it’s just empty words. I’m prepared to be hated at my organization for pushing these progressive measures, but it’s time.”
As they discussed the shift of mentality in their non-profit, I thought about how many liberally minded folx fell into this category. Talking the talk, but not walking the walk.
Saying you supported things without actually putting the words into action.
Acta non verba.
I had a necklace that said this. It was a last-ditch attempt my parents made at getting me to wear jewelry. I remember how the raised words felt under my fingers.
It felt like this:
A warm summer night, not too hot with a storm hinting at the edges of the evening. The faces - both familiar and new - swimming together in the growing din. A sharp, fresh spot of life in a place that used to cater to the dead.
Rising from the flames still burning around us; we have each other.