Two Worlds – Two Events – One City
There were two moving and inspiring events occurring almost simultaneously in Missoula on Sunday.
The first, which began at 3:00 p.m., brought hundreds to downtown Missoula at Caras Park for a Black Lives Matter protest gathering.
Several African American and Indigenous speakers brought the crowd to their feet with their impassioned words.
“I was at the courthouse on Friday,” said one woman who asked not to be identified. “I was there when they took away a young black man in handcuffs. I was there when they cheered on the cops. I was there when they cheered on those who were there to protect us. I was at the courthouse on Friday, so I ask you again, were you at the courthouse on Friday?”
This same young African American woman urged change on Missoula and American society.
“Now is the time,” she said. “Right now is the time, Missoula, to step up and be a progressive leader in this state and hold our community members, our police department and our public officials accountable for perpetuating violence against black and brown bodies. Bodies like mine. It is our opportunity to set our community on the path to justice. Right now. Right now.”
One speaker asked those attending to close their eyes and imagine Missoula in the year 2070, 50 years from now, and see a child and the community and world possible in the future.
On the other side of Missoula, in a field near the Western Montana Veterans Memorial Cemetery, another gathering got underway just a few minutes later.
The United Veteran’s Council’s annual Flag Day American flag retirement ceremony took place, with over 500 tattered and worn American flags placed reverently in the flames, as prescribed by tradition.
Dozens of people, including Boy Scouts in their uniforms, veterans and others drawn to solemnity of the ceremony helped to retire the flags into the flames, while President of the Council Susan Campbell Reneau and another volunteer read from historic documents out of America’s past. Documents like the Gettysburg Address by President Abraham Lincoln during a war that attempted to rid America of the scourge of slavery.
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we have increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”
Campbell Reneau read from another historic document; Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in World War II General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s message to the troops on the eve of D-Day in June of 1944.
“You will bring about the destruction of the German war machine,” said the orders. “The elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed people of Europe and security for ourselves and a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. You will fight savagely, but this is the year 1944 and much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940 and 1941.”
Two purely American events just moments apart, both peaceful, one honoring America’s past and the other working to shape America’s future.