Lost in the past

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Selma’s history is a drawing card for many tourists.

The city has the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which is as famous as the North Bridge at Concord from which the “shot heard round the world” was fired at the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

The struggle for voting rights was another kind of revolution, which had its famous and infamous.

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Selma is right in the middle of the Black Belt of Alabama, which holds rich, black topsoil. The history of this area rests in lore of cotton plantations worked by African-American slaves that made the Black Belt Alabama’s most populated area and the state’s greatest source of wealth.

For the most part, the area’s distance from the front lines &8212; with a few exceptions, including the Battle of Selma &8212; kept the Black Belt from the ravages of war.

Cotton plantations continued to flourish until the boll weevil destroyed most of the cotton during the early 20th century.

Then came the struggle for voting rights and voter registration reform. The Selma to Montgomery marches took center stage.

It is proper for all of us to acknowledge the past. Only the ignorant would totally discard the events, times and people who created the environment in which we live &8212; an environment in constant flux.

In Selma, many have a tendency to hold to the past as though they lived it now. Old fights stand. Old grudges remain. Even those who died years ago are resurrected in old bitter ways.

It is this reliving of the past that holds us back and prevents us from unifying for the good of all.

It is ironic that a city on the cutting edge of seeing equality at the voting polls should find itself mired in pettiness over skin color or class.

We seem to have little forward looking leadership because our officials have their heads turned toward the past.

Perhaps we should remember the words of a poet of the civil rights struggle, who wrote more than a generation later, “The 60s are over, so set them free.”