Worthy, Stone Mountain

Leah is drinking coffee at the counter in the kitchen one morning when Genevieve comes in, dressed in hiking clothes and carrying rope and carabiners.

“Are you going on a hike?”

“Not exactly.”

“Why all the climbing gear?”

“It’s this activist group I checked out at Tech. They’re planning some civil disobedience.”

“Elaborate, please.”

Genevieve sits on a barstool.

“They’re headed to Stone Mountain.” Genevieve says. “The plan is to rappel down the side with chisels and sledgehammers and go to work on the carving.”

Leah shakes her head. “You are not taking part in that”

“You’re not my mother,” Genevieve says. Leah raises an eyebrow. “Well, you know what I mean.”

“In addition to illegal, that sounds incredibly dangerous. You’re an incoming student at one of the best technical universities in the country. You should strive to live long enough to at least start classes there.”

“Some of the participants are experienced climbers.”

“But you’re not. It’s easy to talk about risks when you’re not the one taking them.”

“Something needs to be done. The carving serves no purpose other than as a reminder of our racist past.”

“Ah yes. We’ve been wrestling with these concerns for over a hundred and fifty years and you’re going to fix things after just two months living in Georgia. Got you.”

“I’m taking a stand. It’s not a symbol of anyone’s heritage.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s an incredible monument to the war in Virginia. My father had quite a bit to say about that, actually.”

“He did?”

“Yes. The original Leroy Paxton was a sergeant under Johnston and Hood when Atlanta fell. Dad always said the carving should honor those who fought here, not the Confederacy that got everyone into all that mess.”

“That would probably be easier to justify.”

“We never spent much time at Stone Mountain when I was a child. Mom refused to take me there but I didn’t really understand why until I was much older.”

“So, you agree it doesn’t represent you.”

“No. If any segment of the population opposes it, then it’s not a valid symbol for our state or region. If it was honoring the rank and file soldiers, I might require more reflection, but as it stands, no. It doesn’t represent my views.”

“At least that’s something.”

“Look, obviously, I can’t stop you from doing this if you’re hell bent on doing it. But here’s something to consider. Everyone has an agenda even your altruistic activist friends, and your value to them is in your willingness to expend effort accomplishing their goals.”

“That may be true. What do you suggest?”

“Figure out your own agenda and pursue that. You haven’t even chosen your first semester classes yet and you’re already hanging around with a radical group.”

“There’s nothing wrong with taking action.”

“I understand that, and I have no problem with the intent. I’m just suggesting that you should maybe ease into being a student first before trying to change the world.”

“I can handle the school work.”

“I’m sure you can. But I know a little something about having too much on my plate as well. It doesn’t hurt to take some time just to enjoy being a regular student. Trust me, the carving will still be there. It’s literally carved in granite and it’s humongous. A few hammers and chisels aren’t going to make much of a dent. It just serves as an excuse to get a lot of people arrested.”

“I see your point. Mom was always pretty focused on giving me whatever skills I needed to succeed, but Papa always told me to stop and appreciate the little things in life that make it worthwhile.”

“Jean-Claude probably knew what he was talking about. I recall from one of our discussions that his background was much different than I would have guessed.”

“He told me a little about his childhood. He grew up here, didn’t he?”

“Yes. Didn’t have a particularly high opinion of my father. Like a lot of preservationists in town, actually.”

“Is that why he was so down on wealthy people?”

“It’s probably related. An interesting contradiction, given where he ended up.”

Genevieve considers it and takes out her phone. She texts someone then says, “Okay. I let them know I’m not available.”

“Perfect. If you look online, you can find less radical groups that are also protesting the carving in more conventional ways. You might even make some valuable contacts who won’t leave you hanging when they move on to the next cause célèbre.”

“Good idea.” She starts researching on her phone.

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