Keep your eyes on the prize

There's not much to watch on TV these days that doesn't leave me with a guilty feeling. Guilty that I could be doing something more meaningful... like eating paint chips. But then there's PBS. On the past two Monday nights The American Experience has run portions of the intensely moving civil rights documentary, "Eyes on the Prize." Now that icons like Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King are no longer with us, their voices can only come from archival interviews and footage of the actual events. And on Monday nights they, and dozens of other leaders from peaceful battlefields like Selma, Nashville, Birmingham, and Albany, GA, are able to say their history aloud on PBS. Already it feels like ancient history, especially with the outdated suits with thin ties, frilly hats, and classic cars that roll through the footage. What isn't lost is the shock of the hatred and violence that occasionally spills across the screen. Would you kick someone hard in the spine just because they wanted to order food at a lunch counter in Nashville? Watch this show and you'll know that many people would, and did. You'll see their bodies snarled in hatred and stare disbelieving that this once happened. Not even "once, long ago," by "once, 45 years ago." Some day the civil rights era will get the "Greatest Generation" treatment - perhaps in a few more years when people realize that the soldiers in this third American revolution are vanishing into the grave. And even then, "Eyes in the Prize" will be just as powerful to watch and learn from.