A myth widely told is that a frog in tepid water that slowly is heated to boiling will stay in the pot and boil to death. It is fiction meant to convey the idea that one can normalize and passively accept being in an untenable or life-threatening situation because it happens gradually. However, the myth is as inaccurate for humans as it is for frogs. People resist, escape, survive, and thrive in the face of confinement in horrendous situations: battlefield horrors and war atrocities, genocide, abuse, addiction, poverty, natural and man-made disaster, discrimination, and more. Passivity is a myth.
During the escalating brutality of slavery in the Americas, people risked everything to plot overthrow or escape or sacrificed everything to buy freedom for themselves and loved ones. With bowed heads enslaved people sang secret songs of resistance. The Haitian Revolution is a prime example of that resistance. During the Great Migration, in a period of several decades, many escaped the worsening brutality of the Jim Crow South to less violently hostile northern cities and sent for their family-members when they could. But some refused to leave the South. Instead, they asserted their right to live in the places they knew as home and resisted the heat of racism in small and large ways. The Greensboro Four, who started the national sit-in movement at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960 exemplify that spirit.
I am a descendant of the Great Migration who has “returned” to the South. Some have the arrogance to consider those who live here “country” in a way that implies that their drawls and cultural peculiarities make them less intelligent or sophisticated than Northerners. Nothing is further from the truth. Sadly, political leaders in the South have engineered some of the most sophisticated, long-lived, and successful efforts to divide us along racial, ethnic, religious, and gender lines ever concocted. Those leaders have had an outsized impact on our entire country.
I recently stumbled upon media hype touting Portugal’s welcoming climate for potential expats. I’m vulnerable to it. I stand at the edge of a 3-year pandemic, a racists-led attempted government coup, yet another hate-crime mass shooting, worsening sexual and gender oppression, and a world literally on fire.
Our country has erupted into a molten cauldron. So, I ask myself, “Stay or go?” Do I remain in this place I love and call home or is it time to jump?
Postscript: I wrote the words above this morning [8/28/2023], planning to review and send it to the NBU editor tomorrow. Then just after 1pm today, for the first time in the 24 years of my affiliation with my university we went on 3 hours of lockdown because of an armed and extremely dangerous person “on or near campus.” This can only happen in a society so enamored with guns and violence that having automatic weapons is claimed to be Constitutionally protected. Stay or go?
Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not those of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.