Diremption Redemption, Part 1

The Twenty-fifth anniversary of the internet happened in March. Although it started in 1989, I didn't hear about it for another four years. Do you remember those pre-internet days and the arguments -- or wonderings -- that used to go on for months before somebody could locate an authority and settle the matter? Remember when we looked things up in physical encyclopedias – and if it was some detail not covered in the encyclopedia, it just went unsettled until we could stumble upon a source. It’s hard to remember or imagine the days when we’d just be stuck there. Today we instantly look it up.

When Pete Rose retired from baseball, he had the record for most number of seasons played in the National League. Who was the previous record-holder? Just look it up on the internet. You get a list of search results and simply “click here” to get whatever information you want. (It was Rabbit Maranville of the old Boston Braves).

It was back in those pre-internet days, way back when I was in fourth grade, that I learned in school one day that the Earth is not a sphere. It is slightly flattened at the poles into a shape called an oblate spheroid. Somehow, this very topic came up during our family’s next visit with my grandparents. My parents and grandparents were saying it’s oblong, or ovalish, or ellipsoidal.

“No,” I said. “It’s an oblate spheroid.” I was so obnoxious. I was scolded and told not to contradict my betters. A month later, back home, I got a letter from my grandmother. (I don’t know what’s stranger now: the idea that elders are “betters,” – or that people wrote pen-and-paper letters!) In the letter, my grandmother remonstrated me on the importance of respecting grown-ups before eventually acknowledging that, yes, she had ascertained that the Earth is indeed an oblate spheroid.

I was redeemed! Wait. Is that what redemption is? Well, no. I was vindicated, maybe – and that’s not really the same thing as redeemed.

Here’s a story that much better illustrates redemption – from NPR a few years ago:
“In 1961, [Elwin] Wilson was angry and waiting when a civil rights activist named John Lewis — then 21 years old — got off a bus in [Rock Hill, SC]. . . The former Klan member, who is [now 77 and] in poor health, says he started beating Lewis as he opened the door to a ‘whites only’ waiting room.

‘I remember him laying there, and it was blood on the ground and somebody done called the police,’ Wilson says. Years later, Wilson realized the protester he had attacked was John Lewis, who had become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. [In 2009], Wilson finally apologized in person.

Here's how Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, described the meeting: ‘I said to him, “I forgive you.” I don't have any ill feelings, any bitterness, any malice. He gave me a hug. I hugged him back. He cried a little, and I cried.’ The Congressman says it was a powerful meeting that shows racial attitudes can change . . . .

‘Well, it was a moment of grace, a moment of forgiveness and a moment of reconciliation, and that's what the movement, that's what the struggle was all about,’ Lewis says . . . .

‘If I can just get one person not to hate, it's worth it,’ Wilson says.” (Full NPR story HERE.)
That’s a path of redemption – more than apology, but also a commitment to address the systemic issue of hatred.

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This is part 1 of 4 of "Diremption Redemption"
Next: Part 2.

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