In this next installment of Studs’s journey to Montgomery, Alabama, he speaks with three women: a journalist, a German emigrée who has lived in the States for eighteen years, and a friend of his whose family has been in Montgomery since the early nineteenth century.

The journalist expresses her bewilderment over what has taken place in her city, and she and Studs have a fascinating conversation about the difference between abstract and specific experiences, and the difference between knowing and liking a single person and dealing with the demands of a group of thousands.  Studs and his friend cover a wide range of topics, (including an interesting few minutes on stereotypes that link sexual prowess and skin color); and her thoughts on media, globalization, the relationship between money, power, and race relations, and the future of a multi-racial world are as relevant today as they were fifty years ago.

But it was the German emigrée whose voice really stood out to me. She grew up in facist Germany and lost relatives in the war, including an uncle and cousin who were sent to a concentration camp; and it is with this perspective that she discusses American democracy, and the responsibility we all share as members of the human race.  Her wisdom and grace are inspirational, especially when she acknowledges the fact that she may lose friends, or even be the victim of violence, over a letter she wrote to the editor.

At one point she says to Studs, “To live with daily compromise, with your head turned away from your conscience, uninvolved, isolated, is the only death there is.  And otherwise there is nothing to be afraid of… Nothing from the outside can really hurt you, compared to what you do to yourself from the inside.”  I certainly have no better words with which to close this post – I’ll leave you with that.

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