Charleston

My husband, James, and I spent a few days in Charleston, SC, last week. We stayed in a little cabin on Shem’s Creek, a salt marsh creek just outside the city of Charleston. The tide came and went and brought the water up the green sides of the banks; like a full cup, and then it was poured away and showed the mud beneath. The rhythm of the moon pulls at the waterways surrounding historic Charleston. We drank wine at night on the dock as we watched the moon slide behind the trailing clouds and the ripples of the creek awash with moonlight and reflections. We greeted the morning with our coffee on the same dock to the symphony of splashes, bird calls and squirrels scampering through the giant oaks whose roots sunk deep in the mud. The salt marsh is prolific with fish, birds, dragonflies, mosquitoes and a tranquil beauty. The architecture of Charleston is haunting and lovely. The food decadent and delicious. Yet I left the city sad. The history of slavery lies heavy in that land. We toured a plantation and city homes from the 1700’s. The slave quarters were starkly cramped and small against the large homes. We read ships logs with notations of how many died crossing the ocean. We saw the auction house which still stands downtown. Most of the affluent are still are a lighter shade than those in poverty. The songs of the enslaved, the crafts they made, the labor of their hands still inhabits every area of that city. Yet they left no writing and their history is only oral and visual; passed down in the places that they lived and the stories and songs they left. It was a crime to read or write. The wealth and decadence of the golden age of Charleston was made possible through enslaved hands; the ownership of other human beings. It made it hard for me to enjoy the architecture, the cobbled streets, the evidence of great wealth and trade knowing that it was created on the backs of others. I tried to think how I would feel touring the plantations if I was of African American descent. I think I would be angry. Standing in small rooms entire families slept in, seeing the call bells, the small back staircases leading to grand dining rooms, reading the laws of those times, knowing the suffering, the persecution, the injustice; it was hard to imagine how owners could dehumanize their fellow human beings such as it happened in our country. But on the other hand it is clear. The issues are different for us but the human motivation the same; economics, greed, fear, putting one’s interests above another persons, complacence, lack of self awareness. The sins of our fathers become accepted and a part of our culture. How could a child born into a system, set to profit from his parents’ economic interests woven in slavery feel compelled to reject it? It would take great moral clarity and courage for those born into the privileged class to put their own financial security at risk by taking a moral stand. Such is still the state of the human heart today. People lack compassion for immigrants when they see them as an economic and safety risk. It is hard to face truths about poverty and homelessness in a divided wealth system that promotes those who have things and makes it hard to climb out of poverty if you lack resources. It is easier to look after our own interests. There are many people fighting the good fight and leading with compassion. Many who blaze paths for others. But the same motivations that drove people then to disregard the plight of the less fortunate exist today. It literally took a war to shut slavery down. Nothing else would have compelled the south to give up the economic wealth that slavery brought. Families were financially ruined, great industries crippled. The plantation we toured had shut down their brick factory after slavery was made illegal. It was no longer profitable to make bricks by paying people for their labor. An entire financial system had to be overhauled, profit found in other places. The sin of slavery still bleeds in our country through the generations in the forms of racism, poverty, education. I could see droplets of red flung all over that beautiful city. The blood of the ancestors of Africans dropped on those shores is still there. At least now there is a recognition of the wrong that was done. Each place we visited honored the lives of the enslaved and recognized the great injustice that was done. I honor them. Their beautiful songs of hope are sung in churches across our land. Their blood runs now in free and proud Americans. May we always remember.
*Shem’s Creek, Charleston, SC*

5 thoughts on “Charleston

    1. Thank you for reading! It’s such an annoying trait sometimes… being a feeler as you described yourself. I can’t just enjoy the scenery and food; I’ve got to care (and write about) all the stuff that gets to my soul… I’d love to know if anyone else who’s been there feels that way too. My husband definitely did… and he’s a thinker not a feeler! So heck, who knows.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s