I was in Atlanta for a long weekend, but it felt like so much more. I wandered around the city with the Council, saw an old mill, a park with a covered bridge, old civil war fortifications, and more. I had some of the best Italian food I’ve ever eaten, and I need to move to Naples one day. Chino owns the Italian restaurant, and that’s where he is from. I could see learning Italian one day, if I don’t decide to go to Eastern Europe instead.
The city isn’t what I expected after my last trip over there. I was out so quickly, and it’s hard to know anything after driving across the country in four days. Woodstock still doesn’t suit me, too organized and pasteurized, but the city is amazing.
It was cold, more because of the wind than the temperature itself. There weren’t many people out and about, but the few who were happened to be friendly. Maybe I just got used to living in San Francisco where people keep a distance from everyone else. Maybe it was just the cold keeping the desperate and fearful looking for shelter.
The cities are similar, especially when it comes to black culture, but that may be because the people I work with in San Francisco all have family in Atlanta. There seems to be a tie between the cultures of the two cities, at least for that segment of the population. It’s interesting to see how things are connected, especially when I’m used to cultures being so separated. My culture, white culture, doesn’t seem to connect over distance. While there might be a few people from another place in the US, we quickly assimilate into wherever we are. It doesn’t even take a generational change, we just have to live in a place for a few years and we change to match the culture.
There are always people who never adapt, but we seem to change accents, personalities, and preferences based on where we are more than where we’re from. Someone at work asked me what my heritage was, and I don’t really know. I’ve been told there is some German, French, and Scottish in there. I also heard rumors of some Cherokee blood, but it seems to be that every other white person claims native blood at some point. Truth be told, I’m just a white American, and we don’t care where we came from for the most part.
I wonder if that affects the cultural appropriation that fills our culture. It may not be that we intentionally copy and steal from other cultures, but with no strong cultural tradition or pride we take on what we find around us. I remember discussions throughout my life of why there is no white culture group, or white culture month. Part of it is what we have done, our history, is that of power, so all history is written by us. The other part is that every time we get together as a group of white people, we seem to quickly degenerate into hate and segregation.
I find these questions fascinating, the how and why of human nature. The animal that we are fighting with our better nature. How some people lose that fight constantly without ever realizing that they are fighting it. The people that give in and become animals, and those who descend to become monsters. I wonder if I will ever really understand why people always think they are right, why even monsters believe they are justified in their actions.
In Atlanta, the history of the Civil War is around every corner, memories of a lost battle for independence, and a victory for the people seeking freedom from slavery. The dehumanization continues in some places, and it is challenged in others. The war was not even originally fought for slavery alone, but that is often what is taught and remembered.
In the end, it was a lie that people told themselves, that they could own and control other people, that some people are not capable of rebellion or self-government. The truth is, control never lasts, whether it’s on an individual or cultural level. You cannot even really live your own life if you spend your energy trying to control others. You can never control someone who doesn’t surrender.