dear confederate

Dear Confederate, Neighbor,

You might wonder why I'm writing, Bear with me. I'll try my best to explain.

In the span of ten days my son Calvin has had nine seizures. He has endured thousands of these attacks since before the age of two. He's now sixteen. Constant assault comes not only from the seizures but from the drugs meant to suppress them. The root of his epilepsy, a brain anomaly, also renders him speechless. He still wears diapers, and can't walk without some assistance, especially near traffic or on rough terrain. He is legally blind, negotiating the world much like someone who can't see a few feet in front of their face. He can't really use a spoon and must have his food doled out in small pieces or he's liable to choke. He can't bathe or dress himself, or adequately express himself. He enjoys no independence. Days are endless, both of us largely confined by his condition.

I often wonder how long a brain and body can withstand such pummeling. Do the seizures torture his organs, his muscles, his joints, his bones? No doubt they make him struggle to breathe; I see it every time he seizes. How must he feel when his heart pounds so feverishly? Is he fearful when the seizures take aim? I gravely dread a future captive in this agony.

Dear Confederate,

On a recent escape, I took Calvin on our usual car ride—Pleasant Hill Road, Flying Point, Bunganuc, Woodside, Maquoit—except this time we drove the opposite way. At one point, on a hillside clearing next to a modest house, I spotted a strange and unsettling sight: a confederate flag. It was hoisted on a pole so tall as to belie any humble claim of it's intent. I wonder if you put it there to provoke.

As if doubting my eyes, I turned around in a gravel lot near the bay where at low tide folks break their backs digging for clams in the muck. Driving by for a second look, I craned my neck catching sight of your flag in my blind spot. In the absence of a mailbox, I tried to guess your address. I meant to send you a postcard or letter relating my dismay of the emblem which reveres traitors who defended a sinful and hideous institution. I want to describe its hurtful symbolism honoring those who fought to preserve the purchase, sale, exploitation and enslavement of human beings for profit.

Dear Confederate,

Do you know the enslavers' victims—innocent African men, women, and children—were kidnapped, stripped, shackled, and crammed into the bowels of ships like animals, with no room to move, little foul air, water or food to intake, steeping in each other's urine, vomit and feces for weeks? Do you understand entire families were torn apart? Infants and toddlers, tweens and teens were ripped from their mothers' embrace. Husbands and fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers were sold downriver. Children and adults were forced into grueling labor sunrise to sunset. The enslaved were terrorized, tortured, beaten, whipped, raped and lynched for the smallest infraction, if any. Do you know that these innocents endured this hell at the hands of White people for 400 years only to be set free without a penny for their labor? And it didn't end there; slavery's legacy morphed into other forms of atrocities and oppression such as massacres, lynchings, Jim Crow laws, segregation, bombings, disenfranchisement, redlining, the war on drugs, police violence, and today's mass incarceration. Did you consider that these injustices indelibly scarred, marginalized and financially crippled generations of virtuous, hard-working Americans? Are you unaware? Led astray? In denial? Fine with it?

Dear Confederate,

Again, I think about my son, Calvin, one of the sweetest beings you'd ever meet. I want to tell you, Confederate, how difficult life is for him. I want to chronicle for you the eternal beating on Calvin's brain and body, his suffering, his aches and pains, his constraints. I want to describe the relentlessness of it all, my son's regrettable inability to understand why this should be happening to him, why he is seizing and hurting and can't speak—this dutiful boy of mine, this pure and innocent soul who is deserving of none of this torture. I want you, Confederate, to understand how woeful it is to know that my son can't escape his tormenter, and that no matter what I do, I can't liberate him from his misery. I want you to imagine, know and feel my son's pain. I want you to witness our wretched situation. 

More so, Confederate, I want you to imagine yourself and your family shackled and enslaved—for that particular fate was infinitely worse than any suffering my son or I will ever have to face. I want you to understand what the rebel flag might mean to Americans who are descendants of the enslaved who live in its miserable wake, and for we who bear witness to the injustices they still face. 

Dear Confederate, let fall your flag and surrender 
for the sake of all America.

Calvin resting and eye-pressing after a spate of seizures.

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