Eclipse of Our Soul

Can we turn destruction of our democracy into a passing eclipse of our soul?

A musical extrovert and deaf woman of color think we can as they battle today's barbaric administration.

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Your characters taught lessons in courage, love, kindness, tenacity, stubbornness and continual learning.      Peggy

...moving, powerful and frightening.       Elizabeth

Eclipse of Our Soul

Part 1   Emerging Shadow


John McEwan watched from his wheelchair as his wife removed the stage make-up from their five-year-old son. Was I as musical as him at that age, he wondered once more? Perhaps close. I did teach myself to play that old piano parked in our elementary school corridor, enticing classmates to sing along with my enthusiasm. He chuckled. Miss Aimes said she was jealous of my success but couldn’t be angry since I supplied her with a boy tenor’s voice that would make any cathedral proud.

His attention shifted to his wife as he periodically strummed a chord on the guitar resting on his lap. He thought how his life had changed the day she walked into their seventh-grade class. She was pretty to him then though he correctly suspected she would become beautiful in the years ahead. She had a wonderful tan which he finally realized was permanent a few months later. But the thing that really captured his attention was the fact she was deaf.

Emma could lip-read proficiently and had a talent for getting her message across with gestures that could have made her a world-class charades champion. He had noticed her frustration when the teacher turned to speak to the board. To her it must be like hitting the mute button on a TV controller.

His natural empathetic urge to help underdogs, along with what he learned from his mother, led him to take on the challenge of sign language. It became a project like mastering the piano, only he kept it secret until he reached a respectable level of proficiency. The opportunity to spring it on Emma came at a time when she was clearly frustrated by an inability to get her message across.

He remembered vividly how he casually signed, “Is Princess Della wrong?”

Her jaw dropped. She stared at him.

After a moment to recover, she tentatively signed, “Yes, poem written by Robert Frost.”

He signed back, “Little princess is not as smart as she thinks.”

She laughed as he turned and told Tom Caldwell, their teacher, “Emma says the poem was written by Robert Frost.”

Della burst into the conversation, “No it wasn’t!”

Tom overrule her, “Actually, yes it was Frost. Did Emma tell you that John, or did you just answer for her?”

“She told me.”

From then on, class dynamics changed and so did my life. Yes, we lived at opposite ends of the sound spectrum and she was content to spend time alone while I needed company and conversation. Still there was a good side to our differences. I often drew her out of her silent world and she kept me grounded. If only she had reined me in when it really counted.

He thought fondly of how she took to computer programming in eleventh grade. She loved how it gave vent to her creativity, benefitted from her analytic attention to detail, all without the pressure of constant communication. I had no interest in programming but was blown away when she returned from a summer in Montana with that app that implemented sign language on a smart phone. When I asked if we could record the phrases associated with each icon, she hugged me like never before. Giving deaf people a way to talk to everyone was so important to her.

I had to tread lightly to convince her it could do much more than that. Once we proved on national TV “sign-talk”, as we called it, was faster than the fastest texter, the app went viral. Money poured in, we hired Annie to market it, Tommy to help Emma while she was in college and Charlie to handle the accounting chores. Our success made early marriage possible How I wish I could have let those good times roll on!

He remembered how it all started in an American History class when Roy Cameron commented, “As we all know, slavery was abolished when the North won the Civil War.”

I spoke up, “Actually, Confederates won.”

“John, we all know the Union won the Civil War.”

“No. They won battles, not the war.”

“You know better than all the history books?”

“I know what I see. The war is not entirely over yet, however, Confederates have essentially won.”

“John, we’re not going to waste class time pursuing your foolish argument. If you feel strongly about it, write a report to defend your position.”

“If I write it, will we all get to read it?”

Roy Cameron humored me by saying yes. He didn’t think I would try to prove such a ridiculous concept. A lot of my previous teachers might have claimed otherwise. Three days later, I presented my report.

Who Won The Civil War? By John McEwan

Faced with the United States’ call to abolish slavery, the southern states banded together to form the Confederate States of America with the intention of seceding from the Union. The North considered that an act of rebellion which then precipitated the Civil War in 1861.

By 1865, the southern army was defeated on the battlefield and its soldiers scattered when General Lee surrendered. President Jefferson Davis was captured and the Union army occupied the confederate states. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery. Victory was signed, sealed and delivered—in theory.

However, the defeated rebels reverted to guerrilla warfare using arson, assassination, lynching’s, even pitched battles to terrorize people loyal to the Union. Confederate leaders either maintained or regained control of state governments. Union forces were unable to rebuild or reshape the south and by 1877 were forced to withdraw from confederate states.

State constitutions were rewritten to undermine the effect of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments and restore upper class supremacy. Slavery was replaced by segregation and those theoretically freed were paid a pittance, barely enough to survive. Forced back into hard labor, thousands remained in shackles and whippings were as common as ever. Plantation aristocrats regained the same control they enjoyed before the war.

Hiding behind the Second Amendment, confederate state governments built strong militias to enforce segregation. Blacks were denied the vote and equal protection under the law as promised by the Constitution. Yes, the Union won on the battlefield, but the Confederate States of America preserved their way of life and won the war which actually lasted from 1861 to 1877.

When Roy Cameron passed out copies for the class to read, they asked if he agreed with it. He paused before responding, “Yes.”

“But it’s not what the textbook says.”

“The lesson here is to question everything you hear or read. History books are not gospel. Heck, gospel is not gospel. Books are written by people who are influenced by their times, associates, even those in power. You would likely find that Russian history written under Stalin bears no resemblance to that written fifty years earlier.”

I pointed out that there’s another lesson; namely, that the war is still going on and it has spread into northern states. I said, “It is really about those who control wealth fighting against change. In the south it was rich landowners holding down blacks and poor whites. They succeeded by disregarding laws and orders that were not in their best interest. If they couldn’t accomplish that by changing state laws, they claimed the laws didn’t apply to them. How’s the Tea Party resistance to change any different? Radical conservatives have certainly employed propaganda, character assassination and intimidation already. In simple terms, it’s a form of civil disobedience using the power of Congress to further goals of a very vocal minority. How does the majority that disagrees with what I call the Tea Puppets counter them? By voting? It’s more difficult now.”

“Sounds like a job for the John-meister,” Joey said. Everyone laughed except Emma. She told me she cringed, even back then.