Niagara Gazette

Columns

April 11, 2014

HAMILTON: The mirrors of my grandfather's fingernails

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — In casual conversation with my aunt, I once told her that I had been elected as my union’s secretary-treasurer; she then told me how my grandfather had been one of the leaders of his community and a go-between for them and the law and government officials of 1932 Harlan County, Ky., where he had moved the family for work. But being a go-between didn’t much help him when a neighbor found him alongside the road, beaten and left for dead. It was not that Harlan County’s white coal miners were well-treated, because they were not; but black coal miners were treated even worse. Grandfather was in the process of forming a coal miners union for those black coal miners. It was a time when coal mine companies even had sheriffs shot.

I don’t know if fingerprints are genetic; but I do know that many of the loops and hoops of life through which my grandfather went are all so common to me. In a sense, his life’s fingerprints have touched my life. His hands, polished by the handles of pick-axes and shovels, have helped to shape me into me, though with less extreme consequences. Could it have been that he imprinted them on me when he held my tiny hand?

I say that because, in a sense, though gone, our ancestors never really die. They are, in part, a living part of us. We must understand that those who follow us will feel and be likewise, and shaped by calloused ancestral hands of which they may have never softly touched.

So, if we truly want to divert the flow of our children’s futures from the poor society that we have made for them, then we must change our own presents by what we now do right.

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