Showing posts with label Mississippi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mississippi. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

This ever-changing world in which we're livin'


For those with eyes to see, it has become rather clear that intolerance in the name of tolerance is no vice.

One circuit clerk in Mississippi is learning the hard way that acting like an adult in the face of a court ruling one finds intolerable -- and, in the process, respecting the rule of law and acknowledging the legal duties of public officials -- is no defense against accusations of thought crime.

Amid Southern governors seeking to obstruct the Supreme Court ruling mandating gay marriage in all 50 states by asserting that public officials' religious rights trump their duty to uphold laws with which they disagree, Grenada County Circuit Clerk Linda Barnette did an intellectually honest thing -- and in the process gave the rule of law its proper due -- when she determined she could not in good conscience as a Christian issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples. She resigned.

In a letter to the board of supervisors, Grenada County Circuit Clerk Linda Barnette announced her resignation on Tuesday, citing the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

Barnette has been the circuit clerk for 24 years, and announced that her resignation is effective immediately.

"The Supreme Court's decision violates my core values as a Christian," she wrote. "My final authority is the Bible. I cannot in all good conscience issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples under my name because the Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality is contrary to God's plan and purpose for marriage and family."

Barnette has not yet been available to take phone calls.

"I want to thank the citizens of Grenada County for giving me the honor of serving as their circuit clerk," she wrote.

Aquaintances said Barnette's husband is a pastor who worked with Billy Graham Ministries for many years.

"I choose to obey God rather than man," Barnette wrote.

Grenada County voter Lue Harbin said she is disappointed in Barnette's decision. She said she has voted for Barnette in every election since she got out of the Army in 2001.

"I was kind of shocked, I don't know her personally but I never thought she was that way," Harbin said. "She's given marriage licenses to people who have committed adultery and stolen and lied, and when their parents haven't approved... it's just crazy the way she's thinking. That's her job and she's not there to judge people."
OUT OF RESPECT for both the law and her God, this wife of a pastor willingly sacrificed a post she'd held for 24 years. She now is unemployed.

But that's not enough for the forces of tolerance, who see Barnette's crime as having thought the wrong things in the first place. From the Facebook  blog Drop of Blue in a Sea of Red:
It's so funny. They only want separation of church and state when someone does anything involving the church, but when it's purely governmental (IE THE CONSTITUTION AND ITS AMENDMENTS) they lose their fucking minds and cannot separate the two. "Oh my stars and garters, this here goes against my religion!" Fuck you. You're functioning as a state employee, not as a church employee.

When I say funny, I really mean it's sad. But, it's also kind of amusing. All these bigoted, hateful people are going to die alone, as bigoted, hateful people. They will forever be known as bigoted, hateful people. I can only hope that if there is a God, that upon their arrival to those pearly gates, St. Peter points to a sign that says 'No Homophobes Allowed'.

Now look, I'm all for standing up for your beliefs, no matter how outdated or misplaced I think they are. That's really not my business. But your beliefs have no place interfering with your ability to function at your job, especially as a state employee.

So, goodbye, Linda Barnette, former Mississippi Circuit Clerk. I hope you wallow in your misery as the rest of the world comes together and works towards true equality.

"TRUE EQUALITY." Heh. Translate that as "Truly, some are more equal than others, and why don't traditional Christians just die already?"

"Live and let die." Maybe that, in the name of truth in advertising, should be the new inscription on the Great Seal of the United States. Obviously, the day of "E pluribus unum" has come and gone . . . in a puff of rainbow smoke.

And the unceremonious demise of "In God we trust" as our national motto goes without saying.


***
 
UPDATE: I forgot this one going around Facebook. Just what we all need, to take our moral guidance from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Because wrestlers are so much more authoritative on these things than, you know, Jesus . . . or the Bible . . . or the pope . . . or catechisms . . . or the great philosophers and saints.

Because stupid.

Monday, October 27, 2014

SEC football, explained by YouTube

Rebel fans' tantrums are decidedly NSFW

There was no joy in Yoknapatawpha County on Saturday night; the mighty Rebels had flamed out.

Welcome, children, to the wild, wild world of Southeastern Conference football, where the men are men, the women are pissed -- whooooooooaaaah, NELLY! are they pissed --  and the rivalries are hate fests of Balkan proportions.

In case you missed it, the LSU Tigers took down then-No. 3 ranked Ole Miss 10-7,  handing the Rebels their first loss of the season and ruining the life of this poor woman, who obviously has no more reason to live.


Ain't it grand?

IF I WERE the guy who shot this epic video, I would have thrown in a few "GO TO HELL, OLE MISS! GO TO HELL!" chants. Because we Tigers love us some Ole Miss just as much as the Rebels love them some LSU . . . not.

Really, you should have been around Baton Rouge some late October in the 1960s. I recall that, back then, no car with Mississippi plates was safe from having its windows soaped with a message telling Ole Miss exactly where to go.

Did I mention that LSU and Ole Miss don't like one another?

Anyway, despite Ole Miss' high ranking in the football polls, the Rebels ought to have known how this was going to turn out.

Let me introduce you to the founding superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning, which we now know as Louisiana State University and A&M College:


William Tecumseh Sherman


HAT TIP: Deadspin.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Calling all Cajuns: Save Matthew Stevens!


The Mississippi State beat writer who unloaded on Lafayette, La., and Cajuns in general got his.

The Columbus (Miss.) Commercial Dispatch canned Matthew Stevens. It was well-deserved.

Stevens
It's one thing to say, in your opinion, that someplace stinks. It is quite another to say that, then lay it on, employing stereotype after stereotype, and then sticking a turd on top by making fun of an entire people -- Louisiana Cajuns -- and the way they speak.
"I'm not going to go as far as to say that they're not people," Stevens said during the show. "But I don't know what they are because they don't speak English - and it's not French - but I don't know what it is."
Co-host Brian Hadad responded with, "They're the missing link - if you believe in evolution - between apes and humans, there's Cajuns."
That, cher, is beyond the pale. And now Stevens knows how far beyond the pale it was. Would that Hadad of Bulldog Sports Radio suffered the same fate, being that what he said was worse. As in straight-up bigotry against an entire people, a people who in the mid-1700s were "ethnically cleansed" from Canada by its British rulers.

Both Stevens and Hadad apologized, apperently sincerely, for their toxic Internet-radio rant. That's appropriate, but neither repentance nor forgiveness obviates the need for temporal consequences for bad actions.

WHEN I POSTED on this Friday, I was (needless to say) mad as a hornet. Perhaps I ought to have counted to 4,000 before hitting the "publish" button. Well, dat's da Internets for you. And, basically, I stand by what I wrote -- I wish I had fleshed it out a little more, but I stand by what I said then.

That said, I think maybe now is the time for grace. I think maybe now is the time to make Stevens' "teachable moment" truly teachable. I think maybe it's time to make something good come out of something so publicly ugly.

Right now, I'm thinking of Rabbi Michael Weisser, who in 1991 was the cantor and spiritual head of a Reform synagogue in Lincoln, Neb. The New York Times picks up the story in an article from 2009:
One Sunday morning, a few days after they had moved into their new house, the phone rang.

The man on the other end of the line called Rabbi Weisser “Jew boy” and told him he would be sorry he had moved in. Two days later, a thick package of anti-black, anti-Semitic pamphlets arrived in the mail, including an unsigned card that read, “The KKK is watching you, scum.”

The messages, it turned out, were from Larry Trapp, the Grand Dragon of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Nebraska, who kept loaded weapons, pro-Hitler material and his Klan robe in his cramped Lincoln apartment. Then 42, Mr. Trapp was nearly blind and used a wheelchair to get around; both of his legs had been amputated because of diabetes.

In a 1992 interview with Time magazine, Mr. Trapp said he had wanted to scare Rabbi Weisser into moving out of Lincoln. “As the state leader, the Grand Dragon, I did more than my share of work because I wanted to build up the state of Nebraska into a state as hateful as North Carolina and Florida,” he said. “I spent a lot of money and went out of my way to instill fear.”

Rabbi Weisser, who suspected the person threatening him was Mr. Trapp, got his telephone number and started leaving messages on the answering machine. “I would say things like: ‘Larry, there’s a lot of love out there. You’re not getting any of it. Don’t you want some?’ And hang up,” he said. “And, ‘Larry, why do you love the Nazis so much? They’d have killed you first because you’re disabled.’ And hang up. I did it once a week.”

One day, Mr. Trapp answered. Ms. Michael, the rabbi’s wife, had told him to say something nice if he ever got Mr. Trapp on the line, and he followed her advice. “I said: ‘I heard you’re disabled. I thought you might need a ride to the grocery,’ ” Rabbi Weisser said.

Then, one night, Rabbi Weisser’s phone rang again. It was Mr. Trapp. “He said, quote-unquote — I’ll never forget it, it was like a chilling moment, in a good way — he said, ‘I want to get out of what I’m doing and I don’t know how,’ ” Rabbi Weisser said.

He and Ms. Michael drove to Mr. Trapp’s apartment that night. The three talked for hours, and a close friendship formed. The couple’s home became a kind of hospice for Mr. Trapp, who moved into one of their bedrooms as his health worsened, and Ms. Michael became Mr. Trapp’s caretaker and confidante.

Mr. Trapp eventually renounced the Klan, apologized to many of those he had threatened and converted to Judaism in Rabbi Weisser’s synagogue.
LOVE trumps hate. Every time. The man the Klan leader called a "Jew boy" and tried to run out of town saw the tortured human behind the contorted mask of hatred, then responded to the human being -- not the hate. And then a miracle happened.

It seems to me that Matthew Stevens is way ahead of where the late Larry Trapp was on that grace-filled day 23 years ago. I wonder what a little grace might accomplish in the heart of the 29-year-old sportswriter.

That's why I'm hoping some newspaper in south Louisiana needs a sportswriter. Actually, I'm hoping some daily in south Louisiana needs a University of Louisiana-Lafayette beat writer. And I'd like to see an editor at a south Louisiana paper who needs a sportswriter reach out to Stevens and offer him a job . . . and find him a nice place in a good neighborhood. (They do exist down there. Louisiana has its problems, but it's not a wasteland, after all.)

And I'm hoping that if a paper has a job, and if an editor reaches out to the Prodigal Sportswriter, that Stevens takes that outstretched hand and begins what might turn out to be the education of a lifetime. One in humanity . . . and in grace . . . and in the unexpected joys and tender mercies of a place on the map where he'd least expect to encounter them.

THAT'S WHAT
I'm hoping. Pray God that someone makes it so.


There might be a hell of a book in that, one to be written someday by a now-chastened, unemployed sportswriter. But first things first.

Friday, June 06, 2014

You have nerve, and then you have nerve


A sportswriter from Columbus, Miss., thinks Lafayette, La., is "the worst place in America."

You read me right.

Somebody from Columbus, Mississippi -- as in Burning -- thinks not only that Lafayette is the worst place in America but, indeed, that "it's not in America." And not to be outdone by his guest, Matthew Stevens of The Commercial Dispatch, sports-talk idiot Brian Hadad of Bulldog Sports Radio opined that Cajuns really aren't human at all.

Stevens
"They're the missing link -- if you believe in evolution -- between apes and humans, there's Cajuns," Hadad, the station's general manager, said on the Internet outlet. Well, now that Mississippians aren't allowed to openly define African-Americans out of the human race anymore. . . .

FROM THE story in the Advertiser in Lafayette:
From somebody who has spent his career working to right wrongs for the Cajun people, local attorney and cultural activist Warren Perrin says the words are spoken from "utter ignorance, prejudice and contempt."

"They did exactly what the British and Col. Charles Lawrence did to the Acadians three centuries ago: They judge all by the actions of a few. How sad we still find this in humanity, next door," Perrin said.

Stevens, 29, spent Thursday through Sunday in Lafayette to cover the NCAA Regional baseball tournament at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field, in which MSU fell to UL.

During his radio show, he said he drove around Lafayette for 90 minutes in search of a neighborhood where he might live and raise a family but found nothing.

He also said that the only thing Cajuns know how to do is cook and that America would be better off without Louisiana.

"I think what this should do," said City-Parish President Joey Durel, "is motivate us to open our arms and show how wrong he is rather than prove him to be right. This is just an opportunity for us to prove him wrong."

Stevens has since apologized through social media and media interviews.

"It's me saying it, not anybody else's voice, not a bad edit," Stevens said to The Advertiser. "But after proper reflection as to what kind of human being I want to be, that's not It. And I don't endorse what I said in that rant or the opinions I had in that rant."

Last weekend marked Stevens' first time in Lafayette, and he attributes most of his bad experience with the city to safety concerns from staying in a hotel on the north side of town.

"I did have a bad experience in Lafayette, but whatever kind of experience I had in Lafayette does not give me the right to say what was said in my radio program Wednesday," Stevens said. "I obviously hurt and offended and angered a lot of people, and I take full responsibility for that. That's on me, and I can't take it back."

Stevens is a native of east-central Illinois but has lived and worked in Mississippi for the past few years.
Hadad
ANSWER ME this: Do you think a couple of jokers who said such things -- one via Twitter and both on an Internet station -- about African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Mexican-Americans or Native Americans would still be employed, even after issuing non-apology "apologies" in the wake of such open bigotry?

Let me help you out. The answer is "no."

The managing editor of Stevens' newspaper said, basically, the whole thing was unfortunate. You think?
"I certainly hate that this has happened because it's not an accurate portrayal of the city or our paper," Slim Smith said. "What I was really disappointed in is his characterizing so many people in a city with such broad terms. It's not a fair assessment to make. This will be a teachable moment for Matt." 
No, a "teachable moment" would be firing his sorry ass. And that goes double for Hadad, who thinks Cajuns are "the missing link."

And did I mention the dud-namic sports duo reside in Mississippi, whose sordid history (not to mention census data) leave its residents no damn room to talk . . . about anything or anybody?

That, my friends, not only is outright bigotry but also stunning gall. Absolutely amazing nerve.

As a south Louisiana native, I will admit that in many ways, no, Louisiana is not of the United States. Louisiana is more the northernmost Caribbean nation than it is American. After all, it was a French possession, then a Spanish possession, then a French possession again before it ever was part of this country.


MISSISSIPPI, on the other hand, has no such excuse. [Yes, what now is Mississippi, too, was variously French, Spanish or British -- the earliest French settlement on the Gulf Coast was where Biloxi is now -- but Louisiana was more heavily populated, under European rule for longer, for the most part, and New Orleans was a center of colonial government. -- R21] And as exemplified by Bulldog Sports Radio -- and the clowns it chooses to put "on the air" -- it still seems to be in the business of trashing anybody and everybody else in an effort to make itself feel better about its own shortcomings.

“If Obama wants to cut Louisiana from the union tomorrow, we are better off as people,” Stevens said. If excising states from the union will make us "better off as a people," perhaps the president should look a little bit more eastward than the Gret Stet.


HAT TIP: Romenesko.


https://twitter.com/matthewcstevens?original_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fjimromenesko.com%2F2014%2F06%2F06%2Fmississippi-sportswriter-regrets-calling-lafayette-the-worst-place-in-america%2F&tw_i=474609339828039681&tw_p=tweetembed 

UPDATE: Everyone's in full non-faux apology mode now. Well, that's something, though I wish experience hadn't led me to tend toward cynicism when it comes to things like this. It's easy to apologize if you think you might be facing a firing squad if you don't.

Me, I'd prefer to watch what young Mr. Stevens (and Hadad, too) does rather than immediately believe what he says. Louisiana-Lafayette broadcaster Jay Walker, however, is a more forgiving and generous soul than I am.
 

Such is the nature of so many who these two were so quick to trash in an attempt to look way cooler than they are.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Elvis has left the cellblock

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Spider Murphy's still playin' the tenor saxophone, and Little Joe's still blowin' on the slide trombone. 

Except now, the jailhouse is rockin' to an instrumental.

Elvis has left maximum security. Rather, a reasonable facsimile of the king of rock 'n' roll has been sprung from the Lafayette County Jail in Mississippi.

The lawyer for Paul Kevin Curtis says he was caught in a trap -- framed amid a slew of suspicious minds. But now he can walk out after the feds dropped charges against him, because there's no proof Curtis gave any poison-pen letters to the postman, or that he put them in his sack, says Reuters:

Prosecutors dropped charges on Tuesday against a Mississippi man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama, a senator and a state judge, according to court documents.

The surprise decision came hours after Paul Kevin Curtis was released from a Mississippi jail on bond.
Prosecutors said the "ongoing investigation has revealed new information," but provided no additional details, according to the court order dismissing the charges.

Curtis told reporters he respected Obama. "I would never do anything to pose a threat to him or any other U.S. official," he said. "I love this country."

He said he had no idea what ricin was. "I thought they said 'rice,' I told them I don't eat rice," he said.

Curtis, who is 45 and known in Mississippi as an Elvis impersonator, had been released from jail on bond earlier on Tuesday after a judge indefinitely postponed a court hearing on his detention. The case was later dismissed "without prejudice," meaning the charges could be potentially reinstated if warranted.

Later on Tuesday federal law enforcement officials searched the house of a second Mississippi man, Everett Dutschke, Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson told Reuters.

It was not clear if the search was related to the ricin case.

A representative for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Oxford, Mississippi, did not return calls for comment.

Dutschke is "cooperating fully" with the FBI, his attorney Lori Nail Basham told the Northeastern Mississippi Daily Journal. Dutschke has not been charged in the ricin case, she said.

(snip) 
Christi McCoy, Curtis's attorney, told CNN she believed her client had been framed.

"I do believe that someone who was familiar and is familiar with Kevin just simply took his personal information and did this to him," McCoy told CNN. "It is absolutely horrific that someone would do this."

Curtis was arrested on April 17 at his home in Corinth, Mississippi. He was charged with mailing letters to Obama, Republican U.S. Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Sadie Holland containing a substance that preliminarily tested positive for ricin, a highly lethal poison made from castor beans.
BACK at the jailhouse, Nos. 47 and 3 couldn't be reached for comment on the Man Who Would Be the King's sudden release. According to fellow inmates Shifty Henry and Bugs, they were otherwise occupied.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

The South that raised me

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When I was a child, all of the South was like the Mississippi of this 1966 NBC News documentary, Mississippi: A Self-Portrait.

The only thing was that Mississippi was just a little bit more.

If we all waived Confederate battle flags -- we called them "Rebel flags" -- Mississippians waived them a little bit more. Especially during football season, for the University of Mississippi was (and is) home of the Ole Miss Rebels. Today, the name remains, though the flag and "Colonel Rebel" do not, and that transition was not an easy one for Mississippians.

If we all celebrated "moonlight and magnolias" and venerated "the Lost Cause," Mississippi celebrated and venerated a little bit more.

And if there was ugliness toward blacks -- we called them "Negroes" or "nigras" or "colored," and that's when we were trying to be nice -- or racial strife to be unleashed, Mississippians did what Southerners did back then. Just a little bit more fervently.

I was born in 1961.
Mississippi: A Self-Portrait aired on NBC in 1966, when I was in kindergarten in Baton Rouge. Until 1970, I attended legally segregated elementary schools.

Welcome to my world.

WELCOME to my upbringing as the child of racist parents in a racist, racially segregated society, which represented the only way they knew how to live. Which represented, for a long time, the only world I ever knew.

If you know anything about the South today, watching this film will show you how far it's come in 46 years. If you know anything about the South today, you know how far it still has to go. You also know this:
It gets complicated.

I was raised by white folk just like the white folk in this documentary.

You want to know the dirty little secret of that? The part that makes one both a victim and a perpetrator, brings one to the line where the difference between conscious and unconscious -- willfulness and reflexiveness -- gets . . .
complicated?

It's this: Ivan Pavlov, of "Pavlov's dog" fame, was right.

Pavlov started ringing a bell whenever he fed his dogs. Soon enough, the dogs began to slobber at the ringing of a bell. We white Southerners of a certain age --
a great many of us -- were conditioned to slobber at the ringing of any number of bells, most of them cracked.

AND THAT'S what the Yankees can't take away -- what maybe even Jesus can't completely take away. We can learn morality. We can accept "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" in our minds and, indeed, even in our hearts.


We can do this. God Almighty compels us to do so; I know this. The force of our will enables us to at least attempt this.

But none of this takes away that goddamned --
God-damned, to be precise -- and devilishly cracked bell that a sick society started to ring in our ears the minute we popped out of our mamas' wombs. If we white Southerners of a certain age are honest, those of us who were neither born saints nor raised by them, we recognize that God-damned, subconscious half a second between some stimulus right out of 1966 (or 1956, for that matter) and the moral conscience that imperfectly informs our conscious mind in 2012.

Most white Southerners won't tell you that; I just did. Because that damning 1966 documentary about Mississippi -- about how old times there were not forgotten -- is pretty much how I was reared in south Louisiana back then. Hell, I remember when my eldest uncle died when I was a junior in high school (and I'm talking 1977 here), it was real important for my old man to find out whether the funeral home in Ponchatoula was "all-white."

The mortician eagerly assured him that, yes, it was. Another place in town was the "colored funeral home."

Because race mixing was
(is?) an issue, even when you're dead as a doornail, sealed in a coffin and 6 feet deep in the good Southern soil.

WELCOME to my world, the one I cannot escape no matter how far afield of the South I might wander. The world that made my mind and haunts my heart. The world that gave so many of us that God-damned subconscious half second.

Meantime,
make sure you go here (and that you watch the segments in order) to see how we're trying -- black and white alike -- to make sense of what made no damn sense at all, God help us.

Monday, March 19, 2012

HBO and the 'New York n*ggers'


Pardon my French, but this happened, and I just need to tell it the way it was.

When my father died in May 2001, my most desperate wish was that Flannery O'Connor had been alive -- and there -- to help me (and, most especially, my Yankee bride) process the Southern Gothic fun house that once again surrounded us after many years in the Midwest.

There were many scenes Miss O'Connor could have offered her commentary on, but I'll just tell you about this particular one. It was a late spring evening in Baton Rouge, and we had gathered at Rabenhorst Funeral Home East -- my wife, my elderly mother and me -- for my dad's wake. Once again, for the first time in many years, the missus and I were engulfed in the barely controlled chaos that is my very large, very south Louisiana, very blue collar and very loud family.

We were standing in the front of the chapel, Daddy behind us in the casket. It was a wake, but it also was a family reunion, a potluck and a competition. If you're from where I'm from, you understand.

Anyway, we were there, and some cousins were there, and my Uncle (Deleted) had arrived a little while before. He is (Deleted) for a reason -- to protect the guilty. I owe family at least that much.

Uncle (Deleted) has a hang-up, you understand -- a not-uncommon one, which you'll see in a second. It's one my old uncle has held onto rather fiercely through the years.


After a short while, in came Uncle D., my mother's baby brother. And, no, I'm not naming him either. Always the, uh . . . eccentric, Uncle D. walked into the chapel -- down the middle aisle of the chapel -- looking like a white man's take on Huggy Bear, the black "street character" from the '70s cop show, Starsky and Hutch.

Uncle (Deleted), Mama's older brother, took one look at this spectacle -- and, remember, we were standing in the funeral-home chapel with my dead father six feet behind us -- and bellowed, "Boy, you look like a New York nigger!"

It was not a compliment.

Again, pardon my French. More importantly, pardon Uncle (Deleted)'s.

THE ABOVE video -- from "filmmaker" Alexandra Pelosi's journey to a Manhattan welfare line, as screened Friday on Real Time with Bill Maher -- is what Uncle (Deleted) was talking about. And just as Pelosi and Maher pointed out the previous week about "typical" Mississippi Republican voters, Pelosi made clear she "didn't have to go too far" in New York to find a critical mass of idiot, reprobate welfare mooches foursquare for President Obama in the coming election.

All but one were African-American.

Once again, I am not sure what Maher's or Pelosi's point is -- apart from "look at the freaks." Racists, idiots and welfare mooches exist. I'll alert the media.

And once again, I am not sure what they hoped to accomplish, apart from confirming coastal liberals' condescension toward white Southerners (Maher: "You didn't pick out these people, and they're not a microcosm of what was there.This is what everyone said to you") and, now -- despite the "context" -- white bigots' stereotypical convictions about the average black American.


I think the real message is from America's cultural elite -- via its compensated spokespeople, Bill Maher and Alexandra Pelosi -- to the country's
obviously unenlightened hoi polloi. What they want us to know, I think, is that we should be grateful they allow the likes of us to intrude upon their country, and that they allow us to do so is a sign of their intellectual and moral superiority.

Or, to quote Ferris Bueller, “It's understanding that makes it possible for people like us to tolerate a person like yourself.”

YOU KNOW what, though? People like Maher and Pelosi are intolerable. What they're doing -- branding people as The Other and holding them up to ridicule -- is intolerable. Furthermore, it's dangerous. We've seen that throughout history.

It's intolerable that, after the dirty deed was done, Maher made vague excuses for the dysfunction of the black Other ("The black guy, his legacy is real, and the white guy in the South, his legacy is a chip on his shoulder") while offering none for the Mississippi Other. Fair is fair -- everybody has a story. Everybody has his reasons for doing what he does and believing what he believes, no matter how wrongheaded the behavior or belief.

What's most intolerable, however, is what people like Maher and Pelosi have done to television . . . and us. Again. I'll give you an example.

What seems a lifetime ago, as a kid in the Deep South, the only culture I knew was a profoundly racist, segregated one. There was no "N-word" euphemism in the working-class universe of Baton Rouge -- there was the universal "nigger." If my people were being polite, "colored" or "nigra."

In the world of journalism or in the polite, for-public-consumption conversation of the cultured classes, it was "Negro."

What made "nigger" possible was the widespread (white) acceptance that the kind of thing we saw on the Maher show Friday was the normal state of blackness in America. What made it possible was the cultural conviction that any evidence to the contrary was the exception, not the rule.

What also made it possible was the belief, constantly reinforced, that maybe you couldn't be completely sure about the exceptions.

That many black folks might, in most ways, be just like you was unthinkable. Just unthinkable.

But. . . .

In the 1960s and '70s, television began to challenge the segregated party line, expanding the narrow horizons of kids like me. It's no exaggeration, I think, to say that the network TV broadcasts of that era were to the South what
Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America were to people behind the Iron Curtain.

We got to see Diahann Carroll in Julia, a black professional in an integrated world up North. We got to see Bill Cosby in I Spy. And Sidney Poitier on the movie of the week.

White kids like me were hooked on Room 222, this California vision of an integrated high school where coexistence was possible and a black man was a universally admired "cool" teacher -- a role model. It was no small thing that Room 222 prepared young minds for encounters with the real thing as integration slowly eroded the once-impermeable monolith of "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

AND WHAT television can help bring together, it also can begin to tear asunder.

That's the business Maher and Pelosi are in. In it, they join much of the rest of our culture, for which "the Other" is the next big thing.


There is a Them, we all seem to agree, and they are out to take away your money, rights, security, culture . . . whatever, and everybody is somebody's Them. Maher's and Pelosi's particular Them -- as I said earlier -- seems to be anyone not as smart, well off or "enlightened" as people like themselves.

Next stop for America 2012 is Bosnia 1993.

No doubt Alexandra Pelosi will be there with her camera.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The world according to our cultural betters



When I was growing up in Louisiana, we had this saying -- "Thank God for Mississippi."

It wasn't because we were so in love with the Magnolia State next door. It's just that Mississippi saved us from being at the bottom of a lot of rankings.

Besides, cultivating dark humor is a hell of a lot easier than improving your state's sorry state of affairs.

Like I said, I grew up in the Deep South. I am of a certain age. And I know a lot of those folks in the snotty Alexandra Pelosi video above, aired last week on Bill Maher's
HBO program.

No, I don't actually
know those particular Mississippians, but I know 'em. You know?

WHAT I want to know, however, is how the well-known misogynist Maher and the lesser-known daughter of Nancy Pelosi think that video much differs from finding the biggest pieces of ignorant, obnoxious trash the ghetto has to offer and presenting them as a portrait of black America? Maybe we'll get to see -- that is, if Maher keeps his word, such as it is -- whether the 'hood does indeed get the Mississippi treatment.

What I'd also like to know is why anyone would want to pay for HBO when they can get Maury Povich, the Jerry Springer Show and The Steve Wilkos Show for free? Because the only purpose Pelosi and Maher had in mind was a jolly game of "Look at the freaks!"

Pelosi's ode to Mississippi was no more than that, except for the pretension and the fact that her "film" ridiculed an entire state by design, as opposed to just the individual "freaks" on display for their betters' amusement. Pelosi and Maher weren't exposing social ills with the aim of reform; theirs was holding Mississippi's social ills up to ridicule for the amusement of America's elites.

Right, Andrew Sullivan?

Listen, I have no illusions about the lingering ills of the South. Neither do I have any illusions about the culture in which these folk were raised -- I was raised in the same one. By quite racist parents.

Still, that culture -- and, by extension, the entire state of Mississippi -- cannot be reduced to the singular, ridiculous stereotype that so amuses our cultural "betters" . . .
like Maher and Pelosi. Even though a couple of staggeringly ridiculous people gave it their best shot.

And I'd rather live a lifetime in deepest, darkest Yoknapatawpha County than spend a minute in Hollywood with Maher and the "cultural elite."



HAT TIP: Rod Dreher.

Friday, January 13, 2012

You mean there's a difference?


The journalists of the PBS Newshour can find one-armed gay yak herders in Tibet for long-winded features on the homoerotic qualities of thin air and missing limbs.

What they can't find is Mississippi on a map.

Thursday evening, during a story on the Haley Barbour pardon scandal in the Magnolia State, a full-screen infographic presented the eye-raising tale of the tape, while underneath the litany of statistics was a map of . . .
Louisiana. I can't speak for Mississippians, but I think I can speak for those born and raised in the Bayou State.

They ain't happy.

The visual error probably came down to something as mundane as public television's image bank of state outlines stopping short of "M," thanks to the cheapskate ways of pledge-dodgers like yourself. I must confess, however, that my first jaded thoughts turned to East Coast parochialism and the perils of being stuck in "flyover country."

All those states where people talk funny and live in trailer parks are pretty much all the same, right?
Am I right? Louisiana . . . Mississippi . . . it's all like In the Heat of the Night, right? Who'll notice?

The first thing I saw in my mind's eye (after I had made sure my eyes' eye had seen what I thought it saw) was that iconic cover of
The New Yorker. This one:


I REALIZE the Newshour is produced at WETA in Washington, but the general thesis holds up. Both Louisiana and Mississippi are in front of the lump called Texas. Somewhere.

I think you can get there by exiting the Beltway -- someplace -- but it's harder if you get in the HOV lane.

As a native of one corner of flyover country and a resident of another, that -- like I said -- was my first aggrieved thought. I was probably being a little paranoid and conspiratorially minded.

I'm sure the error, which I'm sure the Newshour staff regrets, was due to something as simple as the nearsighted arts editor of the Economist, fresh in from London, sitting in for the WETA graphics guy, who had a few too many cups of chai and had to make a trip down the hall. Hell, it's not like I could find Stratford-Upon-Avon on a map of England.

Or . . . it might've just been that the JPEG clip-art folder only went up to the letter "L."

Thanks to viewers like you.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Here's to the state of Mississippi


Some things never change . . . or change exceedingly slowly.

In other words, "Here's to the state of Mississippi!"

And a recent poll of the state of Mississippi by Public Policy Polling reveals that the song by the late Phil Ochs, released in 1965, still hits way too close to the mark:

-Earlier this year we found that only 40% of Republican voters in Mississippi thought inter racial marriage should be legal but we asked it again on this poll and found 52% support for it with GOP voters- still a surprisingly low number but progress. Overall 60% of voters in the state support inter racial marriage to 23% who think it should be illegal.

-We've been asking about secession in a series of states recently: only 10% of Mississippi voters would like to leave the union. That's a lower level of support than the 14% we've found on Texas and Hawaii polls lately for their states striking out on their own.

-And finally we found that in a hypothetical match up between Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, Lincoln would win out 55-28. That's largely because of Lincoln's overwhelming support from Democrats, 76-10. He only narrowly edges Davis with Republicans, 45-36, and the match up is actually a tie with independents at 44%. This question was a suggestion someone left on our blog.
MAYBE there was a reason the unofficial Confederate national anthem was "God Save the South." It just wasn't the reason folks had in mind at the time.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Unction Junction, what's your function?

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The Good Book says there is a time for everything:

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. . . ."

When Rachel Maddow was laying into Birther Nation, a doctor in Tuscaloosa, Ala., rightly had other things on his mind.

Dr. David Hinson was working at the hospital when the tornado hit. He and his wife had to walk several blocks to get to their house, which was destroyed. Several houses down, he helped pull three students from the rubble. One was dead and two were badly injured. He and others used pieces of debris as makeshift stretchers to carry them to an ambulance.

"We just did the best we could to get them out and get them stabilized and get them to help," he said. "I don't know what happened to them."

WHEN the Rachel Maddow Show took to the air Wednesday night, scenes like this were playing out all over Alabama and Mississippi. They would be playing out shortly in Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky.

None of this registers, however, in a special place where politicos and ideologues can rage against the machine unmolested by real life or real people. I call it Unction Junction.

Yes, we need to speak out against the birthers, not that anyone's mind will be changed at this point. But "there is a season and a time unto every purpose under the heaven," and last night wasn't the time for that.

Another thing we need to worry about --
and this might be as good a time as any to do it -- is an ideologically obsessed and hyperventilating media culture that doesn't know its Ecclesiastes.

While we were otherwise occupied. . . .


Wednesday evening, all the cable-news chatterers were chattering away about President Obama, birthers, evil Republicans and evil Democrats.

They were losing their minds over Donald Trump losing his mind.

Well, not Piers Morgan, it must be said.
Cable News Network's resident Brit was giddy over the someday-heir to the throne's impending marriage to a commoner way too good looking for Himself.

As far as we know (and the ranks are growing by the minute), 269 would-be viewers in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky were otherwise occupied. They were dying -- being bludgeoned, sliced, impaled or crushed as massive tornadoes turned the world around them into rubble.

Of course, you would have been hard pressed to notice if you were watching CNN, MSNBC or the Fox News Channel. Lawrence, Rachel, Eliot, Ed, Bill and Sean had bigger fish to fry, better "Others" to hate on than to focus on a bunch of Bubbas being ground up in the worst tornado outbreak since 1974.

SEE, to the media elite -- and to Washington . . . and to the think tanks . . . and to the entertainment industry . . . and to the eternally outraged activists whose continued existence depends upon staying eternally outraged (and making sure Lawrence, Rachel, Eliot, Ed, Bill and Sean do, too) -- we're all The Other, pretty much.

We don't matter, just our money or our votes. And if we're dead, there's no percentage in noticing that 269 of us just got bludgeoned, sliced, impaled or crushed to Kingdom Come.


ON THE other hand, video like this is da bomb. Pretty dramatic stuff here. Stuff's getting blowed up good, and you can cut the dramatic tension with a knife as the meteorologists' voices grow ever more urgent as the milewide Swirling Wall of Death (TM) approaches.

Yeah, with video like this, and with daylight views of all this rubble, 269 dead Bubbas might be worth a second look. Cable "news" might have an opening between the more urgent political contretemps Wednesday and the more pressing royal wedding Friday. Let's see whether CNN, MSNBC and Fox can shoehorn it in.

Rachel can blame it on global warming and the GOP. Sean can blame it on an angry God who's had it with the godless Democrats.

And Anderson can keep the tornadic supercells honest. Might work.


Videotape at 5:30, analysis at 8.