(Don't mind the pictures. I know they stink, but it's just a camera phone in a hallway with strange lighting, and I'm not a photographer.)
Then he pulled some cotton out of his pocket. Not cotton balls like you find in the store, but cotton that he had picked off of cotton plants. (He picks cotton and keeps it with him.) He then showed us how he could quickly spin the blob of cotton into a strong strand. It was hypnotic to watch his hands dextrously manipulating the cotton. He told us that he did this by moving his hands to a certain rhythm - a rhythm that was a part of the way his people worked and influenced the way they sang.
He spun that into a stout bracelet (like the one he always wears) and gave it to Dr. Countryman (whose elbow is visible on the right), one of our own well-respected professors. Most technicians don't get to hang out with luminaries on the job, so I'm pretty lucky.
But, then, something even more horrid occurred to me: I was giving myself way too much credit. In the old days, most people went along with slavery. Respectable men and women from the past that we study and admire were not opposed to tying people up and forcing them to work. Would I have protested slavery? Or would I have gone along with it? Unfortunately, almost no one protested slavery for most of man's history, so I'm sure I would have been no different. That pains me.
Is there anything that I should be protesting that I'm not? Am I overlooking anything like slavery in my life? I hope not. But how would I know?