Showing posts with label Earl Long. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Earl Long. Show all posts

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The truth will set us free

I’ll be honest with you. It chaps my a** to read the smug comments of some of you Northerners, so certain of your rectitude. But it also breaks my heart to read the smug comments of some of you Southerners, so certain that this is only a matter of fighting back the forces of political correctness, because no American could possibly take genuine offense at a symbol second only to a burning cross in standing for white supremacy and racial terror.

I am glad to see the Confederate flag go. Yes, there are about a billion more important things on the racial front than the fate of this flag. The disappearance of the Confederate flag from public places will not educate one more black child in a failing school, or help a single black child growing up without a father in the home, or do a damn thing for black families trapped in their homes after dark because of gun violence. That’s all true. You can re-name a city thoroughfare after Dr. King, but that won’t keep it from being, as it is in too many places, one of the worst streets in town. Same deal with the flag.

But taking it down is still the right thing to do. There is no getting around the fact that the armies that went to battle under that flag fought for a nation and a political and social order built on enslaving Africans. And there is no getting around the fact that the same flag was resurrected in the 1950s by Klansmen and other white supremacists, and wielded as a symbol of resistance to equality for black Americans.

The Confederate flag is largely invisible to me, in a way that it is not invisible to black Americans. I can, and do, ignore it as an example of badly dated nostalgia, but Dylann Roof made it very, very clear that for some white people, the flag remains a potent expression of racial hatred. He forced many of us whites who aren’t particularly fond of the Confederate flag, but who don’t think about it much, to pay attention to that symbol, and to see it through the eyes of black Americans.

And so did the amazing grace of the people of Mother Emanuel AME church.
My friend Rod Dreher speaks for me here, as does New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.

Many of the folks who are now jerking their knees so hard in defense of their "heritage" and the flag they say represents it, are jerking them so hard they're hitting themselves square in the chin. They are liable to knock themselves plumb out.

Lots of these folks fancy themselves to be fine Christian people and, no doubt, not just a few of them are finer Christians than I. But you cannot be a good Christian without acknowledging you're a damnable sinner in need of the cross . . . and in need of sincere repentance and a firm purpose of amendment. You can't get there without being acquainted not only with the sins of your own volition but also those in which you've been implicated.

We Southerners cannot escape the plain fact that the flag with which we were raised is the banner of the South's -- and America's -- original sin. Hatred and subjugation of blacks is the original cause for which that flag flew, and it again represented that same cause when it was resurrected in the 1950s and '60s.

The Rebel flag was and is the banner of rebellion -- rebellion against the United States, rebellion against the "self-evident" truth that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It matters not a whit whether we're speaking of the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Stars and Bars, the Stainless Banner or the Blood Stained Banner. They, and the cause they represent, are the standards of rebellion, rebellion against our fellow man and against the Creator Himself.

In bowing down before this idol, this golden calf of moonlight and magnolias, of grits and mustard greens, "heritage" loving Southerners also bow down before the Father of All Lies, the devil who hated both slave and slave master as much as he loved the death and suffering inflicted by the overseer's whip . . . and the foot soldiers' rifle fire and artillerymen's cannon balls.

SATAN WAS the lord of Montgomery, and he was the lord of Richmond. Finally, for eight days, he was the lord of Danville, Va. He cheered on the Grim Reaper at First Manassas, known by Yankees as the First Battle of Bull Run. He sharpened death's scythe at Antietam. He delighted in Pickett's charge up Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg but later rued the outcome of the Civil War's pivotal battle.

The devil's spirits lifted when his standard again ascended flag staffs across the South after Brown v. Board of Education. He egged on every lynching, cheered for the white rioters at Ole Miss and bought the bullets for the rifles that fired on Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr.

God's greatest creation, and Heaven's first fallen angel, looked on with demonic pride when the forefathers of Dylann Roof blew up four little African-American girls in a Birmingham church. And the treacherous banner, the gold standard of rebellion, flew over it all.

We Southerners can have our moonlight and magnolias, our fried chicken and cornbread. We can love our bourbon and mint juleps, best enjoyed in the shade of a live oak tree. We can have all the good things that were left to us as part of our Southern heritage. We, however, are not permitted to ignore that God-damnable evil that is equally our heritage.

In doubling down on their defense of the indefensible -- in doing so a week after a racist Southern punk who loved the Confederate flag walked into Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, sat through a Bible study and then gunned down nine black Christians who had opened their arms and hearts to him -- too many of my fellow Southerners insist upon proving the old adage "There are none so blind as those who will not see." They will not see the obscenity of the symbolism they defend, and they will not see the obscenity of doing so before the bodies of nine African-American saints, nine black Christian martyrs, have even been committed to the good earth of South Carolina.

PART OF my heritage as a native Louisianian is that the moment folks decided Gov. Earl Long had gone off his rocker came with an angry 1959 speech to a legislature hell bent on segregation and nullification, as recounted by A.J. Liebling in The Earl of Louisiana. His rant was directed at the arch segregationist, Sen. Willie Rainach:

"After all this is over, he'll probably go up there to Summerfield, get up on his front porch, take off his shoes, wash his feet, look at the moon and get close to God." This was gross comedy, a piece of miming that recalled Jimmy Savo impersonating the Mississippi River. Then the old man, changing pace, shouted in Rainach's direction, "And when you do, you got to recognize that n*****s is human beings!"

It was at this point that the legislators must have decided he'd gone off his crumpet. Old Earl, a Southern politician, was taking the Fourteenth Amendment's position that "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States . . . nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
AS MUCH as I hang my head in shame that part of my heritage looked upon being foursquare for the Fourteenth Amendment as a prepaid ticket to the funny farm, I also delight in the spectacle of a boozing, pill-popping politician -- who at the time was cavorting with a New Orleans stripper -- going waaaaay out on a limb to do the Lord's work, while "decent white Christians" were denying the humanity of those children of the Father whose skin happened to be of a darker hue.

No doubt, the Willie Rainachs of the Gret Stet of Louisiana were just trying to defend their heritage. That "heritage" denied Adam and Eve's original sin just as much as it celebrated the South's.

None of us has the right to deny our brothers' and sisters' history in order to celebrate a sanitized version of our own. Segregating the black children of God from the white children of God in a separate but unequal Southern heritage, where the latter get to whitewash the suffering of the former in the name of pride is a deal only Lucifer could love.

Truth will have none of it. Neither will history.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The constitutional right to bear nukes?

There seems to be a revolutionary fringe in this country -- one most recently animated by President Obama's modest proposals on gun control -- that is so far beyond being capable of engaging with reason in a reasonable manner that these folks probably couldn't even engage with Uncle Earl, Louisiana's late Gov. Earl K. Long.

Still, futile as it might ultimately prove with folks who have effectively careened into being anarchists, you've got to try.

Gun nuts and nullificationists and armchair revolutionaries, this is for you, taken from the biography of the arch-segregationist, anti-federal government Plaquemines Parish president, Leander Perez: Boss of the Delta:
But, because conservative principles were more important to him than party loyalty, he opposed every Democratic presidential nominee from Harry Truman in 1948 to Hubert Humphrey in 1968. The Judge was further frustrated by finding the Republican party too liberal for his taste, although he reluctantly supported Eisenhower for president in 1952 and 1956 and somewhat more enthusiastically backed Barry Goldwater in 1964. His political dogma was simple, unchanging and almost entirely negative: he opposed racial equality, federal ownership of tidelands oil resources, national welfare and public works programs, socialism in any form, and the mere existence of labor unions. Because the United States government, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, to some extent endorsed all of these, Leander became an indomitable foe of federal power in any form. Although he concentrated authority entirely in his own hands in Plaquemines, he denounced every vestige of centralized power in the national government. His antipathy toward Washington became so notorious that Earl Long once asked, "Whatcha gonna do now, Leander? The feds have got the atom bomb."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The ghost of Fred Preaus

Color Louisiana State University's chancellor, Mike Martin, the most surprised man in Baton Rouge -- at least until he got to Page 6A of his morning newspaper.

Provost Jack Hamilton -- the school's former dean of mass communications -- might be forgiven for fervently praying that The Advocate didn't employ as many LSU journalism grads as it used to. Having Lizzie Borden in the governor's mansion is bad enough without the Ol' War Skule getting blamed for the "Why try harder?" ethos of the state's No. 2 daily newspaper.

Or . . . as the late Gov. Earl K. Long once said of a rival in the 1956 gubernatorial election:
"Fred Preaus is an honest man. If I were buying a Ford car, I'd buy it from Fred Preaus. He would give me a good deal. If I had trouble with the car, he'd give me a loaner while he got it fixed — that's just the kind of man he is. But if I was buying two Fords — well, he's just not big enough to handle a deal that size."
"BUT DAT DON'T make no sense," you might say.

Sure it does.

Uncle Earl may have been crazy, but he wasn't dumb. Some things just don't change much, you know? And you can substitute a lot of names for that of ol' Fred Preaus.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

'Tell 'em I lied!'

At least Uncle Earl was honest about lying to voters.

OF COURSE, "Uncle Earl" is the late Gov. Earl Long, little brother of Huey and his heir to the Long dynasty in Louisiana politics.

Ol' Earl
was not a "reform governor," and he made no bones about that. Ask Blaze Starr.

That being what it was, doesn't
this sound pretty familiar still? From "I Remember Earl" in the late, lamented Baton Rouge "alternative" paper, Gris-Gris (June 15-21, 1976):
[Then-Attorney General Jack] Gremillion was walking by the governor's office when he recognized a contingent from Pearl River waiting to see Long.

He went into Long's office. "Governor, those people from Pearl River who you had me promise a road to are here."

"What the hell road are you talking about?" asked Earl.

Gremillion reminded Earl that he had specifically ordered him to promise the Pearl River folk a road during the recent campaign.

"Hell, I don't have time for them. Send them away."

Gremillion pleaded, "But Governor, what can I tell them?"

"Tell them I lied!"

NOW THAT my home state has "progressed" so much since the 1950s, and now that "reform" has taken hold, how shall we measure how far Louisiana has advanced?

Well, I certainly think we can say everything's bigger in the Bayou State now. The gub'na has reformed the whole game of lying to the voters, for one thing, introducing the idea of "economies of scale."

So instead of lying to a little group of piss-ant voters from a little piss-ant town about building them a little piss-ant road, the modern "reform" governor efficiently (and more effectively) tells great big lies to all the state's voters about how he would "prohibit Legislators from giving themselves pay raises that take effect before the subsequent election."

And then Gov. Bobby Jindal smartly leverages his "reform" image to deny that he's lied at all:
Asked if the campaign promise mirrors the governor’s current stance, press secretary Melissa Sellers responded in the affirmative, saying the governor still maintains the same position. “(Jindal) said this again at a press conference last week after the House's vote and continues to point out that not only is the Legislature's move to double their pay completely unreasonable, but it should not take effect until after the next election," Sellers says.
ADMITTING TO LIES can be counterproductive, the modern "reform" governor realizes, compromising his political capital and rendering him less effective in bringing honesty to state government.

Progress. You've got to love it . . . right, Louisiana?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Favogs don't come from nowhere . . .
or, 'People are just different down there'

I like to think of this blog, and the Revolution 21 podcast, as an ongoing conversation betwixt you and me. And I like to think -- like most great conversations -- it's about a lot of stuff.

SOMETIMES, I wonder whether y'all know what the hell to make of me. That's been happening to me a lot ever since I moved to Yankeeland with my Yankee bride.

So maybe it's time you know a little more about where I'm coming from, which has a bunch to do with where I come from -- the Gret Stet of Loosiana. Perhaps the best little story that tells the big story of the DNA of us folks hailing from the Gret Stet is one that happened a couple of years before I was born, the story of when the governor went nuts.

FOR WHATEVER REASON, I've been poring through old newspapers and newsweeklies I've saved over the last few decades. I guess, if nothing else, they've ended up as occasional fodder for the blog.

Tonight, I've been going through old issues of
Gris Gris, a long defunct Baton Rouge "alternative weekly," while enjoying Eddie Stubbs' tribute to the late Porter Wagoner on WSM out of Nashville. Anyway, I ran across the issue of June 15-21, 1976, which featured "I Remember Earl" as the cover story.

"Earl," of course, is the late Gov. Earl Long. And note that in Louisiana, the four major industries are petrochemicals, tourism, seafood and Uncle Earl stories.

THIS ONE -- Uncle Earl goes nuts -- will tell yo
u a lot of what you need to know about where I come from, and the . . . uh . . . eccentric milieu I stewed in for my first couple of decades or so. The fine story, which I love to reread every so often, is by Bruce Macmurdo:

Probably the most incredible saga of Earl's life occurred in his last years, when the irreconcilable pressures of integration, his own insatiable ambition and his crazy living pace finally took their toll. His famous nervous breakdown of 1959 made nationwide headlines and brought the Eastern press scurrying.

But the actual story of his commitment has never been published. We put together this story from some of the people who were there.

Earl had hit upon the fatal combination of pills and booze. He would take four or five Benzedrine, wash it down with whiskey, and then to calm himself down, he would take a few Milltowns, a barbiturate. By the time this was discovered, a family doctor said the blood vessels in his brain were bursting.

The family, including his nephew U.S. Senator Russell Long, gathered at the mansion to see what could be done. Earl was sitting up in his bed upstairs, screaming for something to drink. Besides whiskey, his favorite drink was grape juice, but when a nurse would bring him that, he'd pour it over his head. He believed that Russell was trying to murder him, so he refused to sleep. He had literally pinched his arms black and blue staying awake for 72 hours.

It was essential to get him to an institution out of state so that the lieutenant governor could take over. The state constitution had no provision for governors going crazy. But no institution anywhere in the country wanted anything to do with the Governor of Louisiana.

Finally the family called on labor leader Victor Bussie for his assistance. When Bussie arrived at the mansion, they called J0hn Seely Hospital in Galveston and told the doctors that they had this sick man, a labor leader named Victor Bussie, who was suffering from such delusions as thinking he was the Governor of Louisiana.

The hospital said bring him over, so the family, Bussie and some state troopers loaded the Governor into a car, much against his will, and drove him to Texas. They brough Earl into the hospital, naked to the waist, covered with grape juice stains and presented him as Victor Bussie, labor leader gone mad.

"G**damit to hell," raged Earl. "I'm not that sonofabitch Bussie. I'm Earl Long, Governor of Louisiana."

The doctors and nurses nodded as if to humor him and filled out the admission papers.

Once that was done and before they left, Bussie felt it only fair to tell them the truth: "You know that is the Governor of Louisiana."

The shocked doctors refused to admit him.

"Sorry about that, but you've got him," said Victor and walked out the door

"You WERE Dr. Belcher"

Earl managed to get a habeas corpus hearing in Galveston. Brooks Read, former WBRZ news director, recalls that the legendary sheriff from St. Landry, "Cat" Doucette, was at the hearing with the thickest roll of bills Read had ever seen.

"I come to bring my gubner home," said Doucette.

Long was released after agreeing to voluntarily enter Ochsner's [Ochsner Foundation Hospital in New Orleans -- R21] Less than 24 hours in Ochsner's and Earl was off heading toward Baton Rouge. Earl was committed again by his family, to Mandeville [Southeast Louisiana State Hospital, located in Mandeville -- R21] this time.

Even in these traumatic conditions Earl's wit didn't leave him. When he was greeted by an administrator at Mandeville, "Hello, I'm Dr. Belcher," Earl shot back, "You were Dr. Belcher."

He observed that most psychiatrists were nuttier than the people they treat. "Mostly self-anointed. It's not unusual in their profession for a man to lose all sense of equilibrium."

David Bell managed to crawl to Earl's window and tap $100 bills wrapped around toothpicks through a screen to the Governor to bribe the guards. Earl didn't have to use the money, as it turned out. He fired the Director of Hospitals, Jesse Bankston, and hired a new man who certified that he wasn't nuts.

Earl was released but he was never the same man. Those around him say he was much more bitter toward his enemies and much more suspicious of others than he had ever been before.
SO, YOU SEE, we folks from Louisiana don't know so much about good government, good schools or good roads, but in such situations, life does offer its tender mercies. We have a lifetime of great stories, a pot full of good coffee and -- usually -- a gut full of tasty vittles.

We're just different. But that's not necessarily all bad, once you get used to it. I am hopeful that, someday, my Omaha-born wife of 24 years will make the adjustment.

And since I did mention the importance of a pot of good coffee, here's another Uncle Earl story to close with -- again, as told by Bruce Macmurdo in Gris Gris:
"Best Coffee in D.C."

A former aide of a U.S. Senator recalled that he was awakened in the middle of the night by Earl, who insisted he come over to his hotel room and have some coffee. "Best coffee in D.C."

When he arrived, he was treated to the sight of a U.S. Congressman and two state legislators using whiskey bottles to pound pillowcases full of the unground coffee beans Earl had bought.