Ignorance is Bliss

posted Apr 25, 2016, 8:22 AM by Bruce Gaughran   [ updated May 9, 2016, 12:53 PM ]

The subject proverb relates well to today’s topic. If I don’t know about something, I don’t worry about it.

I recently watched the movie, Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay. The film is well done and thought provoking. It sparked many questions afterward and was the motivation to write this post.

A synopsis of the movie follows:

“Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, discrimination was still rampant in certain areas, making it very difficult for blacks to register to vote. In 1965, an Alabama city became the battleground in the fight for suffrage. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his followers pressed forward on an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, and their efforts culminated in President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

When the events depicted in the movie were taking place, I was a senior in high school in a small town in Minnesota. I don’t remember hearing anything about this conflict in any of our classes. In the junior college I attended, this situation was never a topic discussed. When I joined the U.S. Navy in 1966, I was ignorant to racial issue. I first experienced the situation during boot camp. It was a minor event where a couple of good ole boys from the South were commenting about another member of our company. I let it pass because, to me, they were just being naive.

In late September of 1966, my ship, the Mauna Kea, was in San Francisco’s Hunters Point Naval Shipyard for outfitting. I was a sailor for four months now. I was on liberty when word came of the rioting near the shipyards. Shore Patrol instructed us to meet a Navy bus downtown. The bus, with armed National Guard troops, drove through the streets of Hunters Point that night. As we road through the streets, we were asked to duck down and not look around. Being inquisitive, I had to look. I saw cars and buildings on fire, people throwing rocks at our bus, looting of stores and many confrontations taking place. We learned later that a police officer shot a seventeen year old as he fled the scene of a stolen car. The entire incident was shocking to me, but soon we were on our way to Vietnam and the incident was soon forgotten.

After two Vietnam tours, one aboard a ship and one in-country, I returned to San Francisco and experienced my own form of discrimination. Walking through the airport, I was spit upon, shoved, called a baby-killer, and subjected to the rantings of ‘love-children’. These people didn’t have a clue as to what I experienced and what I did and didn’t do over there. They just knew we were wrong. It took me a little while to get over the feeling that some people hated me because of my uniform.   

Whether it is the color of my skin, the uniform I wear, my nationality, my beliefs, or whatever the reason, there will always be people who want to repress me. If it has been some time since you heard John Lennon’s song, Imagine, I encourage you to click on the link and read the lyrics. A “brotherhood of man living life in peace” sounds wonderful.