“These are sinful. They taste so good you feel you’re doing something wrong.” June Hardin, poet, daughter, sister, citizen, and pecan waffle lover savored every bite of her syrupy Waffle House breakfast while we talked.
Ms. June is a beautiful communicator, a woman of flowing hands, clear voice and precise vocabulary. Her words burrow into the personal deep and then soar to universal pronouncements. During our hour together Ms. June cried three times, but laughed even more often. She is simultaneously in touch with an expansive range of emotion and a profound capacity to express it.
“My daddy must have been there sometimes; there were 17 kids. But my parents hated each other more than they loved us. He was a preacher in Louisville. He had a small congregation; they were his true family. His real family didn’t even go to that church. He was a good man, an honest man, just not a good husband. When his church found out about us they drove him down. He died broken.
“I know what it is to be unloved, and it pains me. I forgave my mother when I realized she didn’t hate me; she hated him.
“I grew up in Lousiville during busing. I was in bus accidents three times; people cut the brake lines. Then I got to school and I was assigned to tutor a little white girl. Our hearts are all the same color.
“I don’t care what your great grandfather did to my great grandmother. This country has become so toxic I can’t get into this racist thing. If you want to talk that way, go away. Don’t go away angry, just go away. When I was sick a white woman came to my aid, drove me, cared for me, while people of my race did nothing. What’s important to me is not beating the past; it is the intangibles of today.
“Nothing is new. These lifestyles are not new. We’ve had gay people forever. So why is it so divisive now? My brother, a drag queen died at age 28. The gay community embraced him. My own family did not.
“The pain of the past is always present. You have to decide whether that can help you in the present. If you own the past in front of you, you own it. If you bury the past pain, it is still there. It owns you.
“I graduated with a degree in psychology in my 50’s. Psychology is everything. I learned it to take care of me. You have to find the balance – through education, or drugs, or talk. I love being in my 50’s because I’ve pistol-whipped my demons. I own them.
“Mountaintop thinking is how you gain perspective. You are getting a mountaintop view right now on your trip. When you follow your passion, you are at the mountaintop view. Altitude changes your attitude. When you get high above the fuss and muss you can see so much.
“America is a great nation and things get righted over time. But we will never right things by flames and stoking. Since when do we all have to agree anyway?”
How will we live tomorrow?
“The toxicity that has gripped this nation will have a long effect, but the roots of decency that underpin this country will win out. The folks making the noise are not the majority; the majority will win out in the end.
“We live in the age of dissension. If you only love whom you agree with, that’s not love. Love transcends dissension.
“The only way to change is to shut down certain communications. We are phonetical creatures. We learn what we hear repeated. But preserving decency and honor by stopping to listen to messages that are harmful, that’s not intolerant, it’s protecting certain truths. Sometimes you have to cut communication to rewire your thinking.
“Material desires are fleeting. My hope for tomorrow is that people will learn that material things cannot bring contentment. We are far form that understanding.
“How will we live tomorrow? A lot more guarded, a lot more uncertain.”