ANXIETY AND FIERCENESS JUST BELOW THE SURFACE
From John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley: In Search of America, 1962. A salute to those who want to see "constant improvement," a salute to those to who want "action now," and of course, a salute and a happy birthday to Dr. King.
- •I picked up one more passenger between Jackson and Montgomery, a young Negro student with a sharp face and the look and feel of impatient fierceness.
- •He carried three fountain pens in his breast pocket, and his inner pocket bulged with papers. I knew he was a student because I asked him.
- •He was alert. License plate and speech relaxed him as much as he is ever likely to relax.
- •We discussed the sit-ins. He had taken part in them, and in the bus boycott. I told him what I had seen in New Orleans. He had been there. He had expected what I was shocked at.
- •Finally we spoke of Martin Luther King and his teaching of passive but unrelenting resistance.
- •"It's too slow," he said. "It will take too long."
- •"There's improvement, there's constant improvement. Gandhi proved it's the only weapon that can win against violence."
- •"I know all that. I've studied it. The gains are drops of water and time is passing. I want it faster, I want action—action now."
- •"That might defeat the whole thing."
- •"I might be an old man before I'm a man at all. I might be dead before."
- •"That's true. And Gandhi's dead. Are there many like you who want action?"
- •"Yes. I mean, some—I mean, I don't know how many."
- •We talked of many things then. He was a passionate and articulate young man with anxiety and fierceness just below the surface. But when I dropped him in Montgomery he leaned through the window of the cab and he laughed.
- •"I'm ashamed," he said. "It's just selfishness. But I want to see it—me—not dead. Here! Me! I want to see it—soon."
- •And then he swung around and wiped his eyes with his hand and he walked quickly away.