A Frightful Night in Alabama

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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hi everyone! I hope you had a good first week of traveling that broadened your experiences. I know I did! I was able to visit so many different places and times through the pages of the short stories that were assigned for this past week. However, because of how busy those travels kept me, I have not yet been able to start my independent reading. So, instead, I wish to describe the events of a particular trip that stood out to me most vividly. These events took place in the short story entitled A Party Down at the Square.

When I first arrived in Alabama, it was dark, cold, and raining. Apparently, there was a party going down at the square. This announcement led me to at first think that my visit was going to be a happy one. But I was very wrong. At the square, a crowd of whites was taunting an African American man and was in the process of burning him alive. This trip showed me, in brutal detail, what it was like to be present at such an event. I had read about such things in my history books, but they had never before been described in a way where you could actually experience it, like I did in Alabama. The words of the short story were able to immerse me in such a way that I was able to feel the cold rain falling through the air that was also burning with unreasonable cruelty. I heard shouts of hatred and smelt burning flesh. I felt the terror of the individual being burned, and I felt immense pity and compassion for him. This experience also filled me with anger. It astounded me that human beings could really be capable of such horrendous acts.

I was able to experience these events through the eyes of the narrator of this story, and I also felt immense frustration with him. The narrator was not among the cruelest of the crowd; however, instead of trying to stop the murder from taking place, he merely stood and watched. When the crowd ran, he ran with the crowd. It seemed obvious that this man was a follower. While I understand that being surrounded by such people would be intimidating and scary, I can not imagine doing nothing to prevent such a cruel killing of an innocent man. I also know that I am fortunate enough to live in a time and place where I do not hear of such events occurring anymore, so it is hard for me to comprehend such actions. But I would like to think that the urge to save the man who was murdered would be much, much stronger than the fear of the crowd.

While this particular trip was not a happy one, it made me think and it gave me a better understanding of what it like to be someone like the narrator. It also made me curious about how each of us would react to such a situation. The picture I chose is symbolic of this; I think that there is a light and dark side to a lot of things, including us. However, we have the important choice of picking which side to act on. I still cannot fathom how human beings can be capable of such cruelty, but I also believe that we can be capable of great heroics as well. Hopefully, I will see that good side of humanity too as I continue my travels!
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