Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Someday the Mountain Might Get'em, but the Law Never Will

Being Southern in New York City is exhausting.

Being gay in Alabama, doubly so.

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The thing about Alabama is that the state name is so full of A. Every other letter is an A. If you removed the A, the name of the state would wreck Vanna White. A contestant asking for a vowel, and choosing 'E', would leave poor White stuck beside the board hoping for one tile--one solitary tile--to light up.

Elebeme, btw, is too Hebrew-sounding for Alabama. And I say that as a Elebemian who grew up across from a synagogue.

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What I learned in high school, in Alabama history, was that the Civil War was less about civility and more about States Rights. Not human rights. Humans were beside the point, in my Alabama history class. What we were taught was this: The reason there was a Civil War was because the North tried to tell Southern States what to do. The war was not over slavery, but over the broken promise set forth by the Founding Fathers that all states would govern themselves.

Obviously, when it came to setting up the 'federal' part of the Constitution, the Southerners were on a bathroom break.

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Elebeme. Heh.

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You know why it is exhausting to be a Southerner in New York City? Here's why: You (or I) are constantly trying to assure concerned individuals that the South is not full of nuts.

It's true.

A Southerner in NYC spends most of the day repeating a phrase that becomes a mantra: "You don't understand: there are a lot of nice people down there." And again: "No, really: There are a lot of kind people down there."

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What I was not taught in Alabama History classes was this: George Wallace. I mean, of course, we covered George Wallace when I was in school, taking 5 fucking years of Alabama History classes. But we didn't go into the George Wallace thing. What we discussed was his heroic stance against federal law, his martyrdom, and his eventual absolution. Not kidding. When asked about George Wallace, I was taught to say the following:

George Wallace was a brave man who stood up for his beliefs. He stood in a schoolhouse door, and he stood until he was shot nearly dead. He believed Alabama was better when segregation was in place. And they shot him for his beliefs.

I was taught this while setting in an integrated classroom!

And I met George Wallace once. He was in a wheel chair, and unable to stand for anything. He patted me on the head, let me set in his lap, and years later I realized what a sad, sad man he truly was.

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So, it's exhausting being Southern here. True story: when the RNC had their rally at Madison Square Garden in 2004, I marched against it, and had to shut down a group of marchers using a Hitler poster to imply George W. Bush was a new Hitler.

The march itself was nice. I went alone. A sunny day--sharp edges along the route were etched in yellows and marchers were mostly washed in delightful highlights, reflections from buildings and direct sun from... the Sun.  A delegate from the RNC commented to me that standing down-wind from 'the hippies' might fry nose-hair, but negativity was mostly ignored.

Except for one pocket of protesters. They were well-meaning, I'm sure, but they were jabbing Bush-as-Hitler posters into the sky as if they wanted the sky to bleed. FOX News used these protesters, later, as evidence that the Left had become unhinged. What FOX didn't show you was that a lot of others attempted to intervene, attempted to explain the demonstration wasn't helping. Nazi is a specific thing. Godwinning is not, in fact, winning.

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All these years later, and people are still defending racist iconography. People still forget what Nazis were like, and what the South was like, and what George Wallace, standing in a school door, was like. You can use the iconography in an ironic way, a genuine way, or a rebellious way: in the end, that shit is just an insult to unity and peace. If a symbol means so much to you that you're angry about its removal, then you clearly do not have the stomach to understand most of history.

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Today, a State senator from South Carolina, during a debate over the removal of the stupid flag at the State Capital, tried to turn the discussion to marriage equality. The Senator bemoaned the fact that just a few weeks prior, the White House was draped in "the abomination colors".

Flags. What gets me about the discussion right now--the discussion about Confederacy, about homosexuality, about legitimacy--is that most people really, truly feel George Wallace, for all his faults and regardless of his regionalism, was correct: Right or wrong, he took a stand. He stood up for what he believed, and was shot down, and we should celebrate that.

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George Wallace, and the Confederacy, did not take an actual stand. You know what's difficult to do?

Continue to explain there are good people in the South, when the evidence keeps creeping in the other direction.  Southerners: For the love of god, let the flag go.

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