30 May 2017

North-American road trip contd.

Continuing my American road trip I headed north from sad Natchez to Vicksburg another former major river port and the scene of a major battle of the American Civil War.
My view of Vicksburg maybe slightly tainted by the fact that I had booked us into the casino hotel for two nights because it looked good value against the alternatives. It was just dreary and characterless and I always find casinos sad. I should have known better. The town itself has obviously seen better days but it does have two good museums-one on old Vicksurg in the Old Court House and the other the excellent government museum on the Mississippi River-well worth a visit.
I did the drive around the Civil War battlefield -a National Historic site -and found it rather odd. You drive slowly on this one way narrow road through a beautiful large wooded park and every so often there is a statue with an inscription describing the action that took place there. One obviously needs to be 'into' the Civil War to fully appreciate it. Nice park though-pity that it was once the scene of such carnage.

On the way up to Vicksurg I went to Port Gibson-called the town "too beautiful to burn" after being spared being torched in the Civil War. There would be no such hesitation today. Port Gibson is sad and very run down. There's no way you could describe it as beautiful now.
 I was there on a sunday morning and I saw one of those photo opportunities I did not take and have since regretted. An old Afro-American-most people in Port Gibson are Afro-American-or a man of colour as  you say now-was waiting beside the road outside the church holding his bible. He had snowy white hair and was wearing a bright mauve suit and had big gold rings on his fingers. I am pretty good nowadays about asking people if I can take their photo but I lost my nerve that time.

Places like Port Gibson really brings home the extent of poverty,deprivation and lack of hope in rural USA particularly in the south. It's actually worse than Africa. There you can see even worse poverty but usually there is still a sense of life and enthusiasm for life. In these areas of the USA it sometimes feels as if you are among the walking dead. A well dressed white man in a car-not a pickup truck-stopping to take photos-stands out like the proverbial.
Of course so much could be done with a real community commitment to fix the problem and with a massive injection of funds to improve housing,healthcare,education and access to services and to create jobs.
 But the injection is never going to happen whilst the military-industrial mindset pervades America and trillions of dollars are spent on ever more sophisticated weapons and in fighting wars in countries where America has no right to be. It's all a ghastly mess although there are good news stories with communities pulling themselves up but there are so many more in dire straits.
Mural in Port Gibson.

Explanatory plaque on the mural.Rascism was deep seated in towns such as this.

Port Gibson's (former) cinema. Typical of most of the buildings in the town.
I came across this happy group in a backstreet in Vicksburg. They were more than happy to have their photo taken.
This oddity was next door to the childen above.Perhaps he started with a few garden gnomes and just got carried away.

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