TODAY IN BLACK HISTORY: HENRY “HANK” AARON

Henry Aaron was born today, eighty-two years ago in Mobile, Alabama. Known forever as the man who broke Babe Ruth’s career homerun record, a record he held for thirty-three years and a record I believe he would still hold had baseball not entered a period of illegal steroid use. He was much more that a homerun hitter or a baseball player for that matter. In addition to his career seven hundred and fifty-five home runs, he finished his career with over three thousand hits, a career .305 batting average, and major league records in runs-batted-in, extra base hits and total bases. He is also very proud of three Gold Gloves earned playing right field. In 1963, Henry came within a “whisker” of winning a Triple Crown. He led the league in homeruns (44), runs-batted-in (130) but finished third in batting average, hitting .323. Henry also became only the third person to hit over thirty homeruns and steal thirty bases.

Henry was much more than a baseball player. He was a great ambassador for his sport, his race and “human-kind.” Quiet to the point of being stoic, Henry was only known as “Hank” or “Hammering Hank” to the media or “Bad Henry” to opposing pitchers. For a man squarely in the limelight, it was illumination that he did not want. He only wanted to play the game well, something he did for nearly a quarter of a century. In 1973 and early 1974 no one other than Jackie Robinson had come under more racial pressure in sports than Henry Aaron as he approached Babe Ruth’s career homerun record. Henry broke it early in 1974.

Henry received a plaque from the US Postal Service for receiving nearly one million pieces of mail in 1973. Unfortunately, much of it was hate mail as a black man neared a white man’s record. There were also verbal taunts and death threats. Outwardly, Henry was a rock, mostly calm and quiet. Internally I’m sure he seethed. Sometimes it is what you don’t say that tells a story. In a 1974 interview, a visibly tired Aaron said, “I can’t recall a day, this year or last, when I did not hear the name Babe Ruth.”

Late in his career, I went to Fulton County Stadium to take in a double header. The woefully bad Braves were playing the woefully bad Mets but I didn’t care. I would see “Hammering Hank” and another Hall of Famer to be, “Say Hey” Willie Mays. Except I didn’t. Both Aaron and Mays got the day off and the only homeruns were hit by pitchers. “Story of my life!” At least Mays got to pinch hit late in the game. Happy Birthday Henry.

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CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY: JACKIE AND PEE WEE

“I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a fuckin’ zebra. I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What’s more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded.” Short speech by Leo “the lip” Durocher, manager of the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers, letting his team know that Jackie Robinson was in the “Bigs” to stay…with or without them.

April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to break the major league baseball “color line” since 1880. Normally a middle infielder, he started at first base that day because of All Stars Eddie Stanky playing second and Pee Wee Reese playing shortstop. While not getting a hit he did walk and scored a run. Facing ALMOST universal racial prejudice, Jackie finished his initial season hitting .297 in one hundred and fifty-one games.

I was too young to care much about Jackie Robinson the player and his trials and tribulations. Much later, the old newsreel films I watched incessantly proved him worthy of six all-star appearances and a league MVP award. Today I celebrate the manner in which he revolutionized the game and the trail he blazed for the stars of my own youth and for those who followed. I cannot fathom what baseball might have been like without the likes of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Bob Gibson, Hank Aaron, Ozzie Smith…you get the idea. Today I am also aware of his many trials and tribulations.

When I said almost universal prejudice there were a few opposing players and teammates who came to Robinson’s defense. One who did became one of my all-time favorites as a broadcaster. He was Robinson’s former teammate and Dizzy Dean’s “Little Partner” Pee Wee Reese. Many of my youthful Saturdays were spent sitting with my father watching the CBS Game of the Week with Dizzy and Ree Wee bring the play-by-play. During the trailblazing 1947 season Reese was quoted as saying, “You can hate a man for many reasons. Color is not one of them.” Pretty profound for a white guy from Kentucky in 1947. During the Dodgers first road trip as Robinson was being heckled during pre-game infield, Reese, the captain of the team, went over to Robinson, engaged him in conversation, and put his arm around his shoulder in a gesture of support which silenced the crowd. An eight foot bronze statue located at the Brooklyn Cyclones’ stadium commemorates that moment. A plaque states:

“This monument honors Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese: teammates, friends, and men of courage and conviction. Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Reese supported him, and together they made history. In May 1947, on Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, Robinson endured racist taunts, jeers, and death threats that would have broken the spirit of a lesser man. Reese, captain of the Brooklyn Dodgers, walked over to his teammate Robinson and stood by his side, silencing the taunts of the crowd. This simple gesture challenged prejudice and created a powerful and enduring friendship.”

Sometimes a bit of kindness and understanding will overcome hate…a lesson we should all learn and attempt to apply.

WORK TO BE DONE

Harry Smith, the longtime NBC journalist, presented a report this past Sunday morning recognizing the impact of Dr. Martin Luther King as we celebrate his birthday. If Harry’s intent was to get people to think he was successful in at least one case. He asked, and this is not a direct quote but what I heard, “If Dr. King was still alive today what would he think about present condition of Civil Rights in the United States?”

I grew up “white” in the Fifties and Sixties in the South. Like most preteens or teenagers, I wasn’t a particularly socially aware person and believe I was somewhat sheltered from the realities of race relations by both my family and the area I grew up in…or it could have been my own form of “white privilege” rearing its head. I have very vivid memories of the stories that played out on our black and white RCA. School desegregation in Little Rock, Freedom Rider buses burning in Anniston and nonviolent marches and protest, turning violent in far off places like Selma. I remember wondering why were the white folk so angry? One outcome was to make me wonder if I should have been angry to.

Throughout these times, filling my TV screen, Martin Luther King was quite visible and the center of much of what was going on. I remember a man with a powerful, yet soft baritone voice and a slow Southern drawl to go with it. I would not fully comprehend the full power of his voice or his personage until I watched a History Channel presentation on his “I HAVE A DREAM” speech, too many years later, as I actually tried to explain the impact and power of his words to a “lily white” US History class more than twenty years after his death. Sometimes I truly find myself quite late to the dance.

As hard as he worked to promote positive social change, I also remember the furor created when John Conyers and Edward Brooke co-authored a bill to recognize King’s birthday as a holiday. It would be fiercely opposed not only in the South, as one might expect, but also in states like Arizona. Arguments against its recognition included King’s beliefs on “Marxism or Communism” and his stance against the Viet Nam War along with personal attacks that I won’t speak to. South Carolina, my home state, would be the last to recognize it in 2000. I really don’t have to wonder why?

As I finally return to Smith’s question, I would believe Dr. King would be disappointed. He would recognize there has been some improvement in “individual” race relations but would find we still have a framework in place that is systematically discriminatory toward large numbers of our population. I believe he would say that we have lost ground overall and become less willing to cause any type of meaningful change. I also believe Dr. King would point a finger directly at our government shenanigans starting with a President who should have done more for race relations and trailing down to a Congress that would not let him. Dr. King’s biggest disappointment, however, would be would be reserved for “We the People” because we are ALL still “judged by the color of (our) skin,” (rather than) “by the content of (our) character.” I would also add judged by our creed, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and lately our political orientation. Like Harry Smith, I believe Dr. King would say “There is much more work to be done.”

WHAT’S SO BAD ABOUT KWANZAA?

I guess it is because the “War on Christmas” was such a dismal failure. Television specials featured Christmas song both religious and secular, not one Islamic “carol” was sung, the “Muslim” president of the United States wished us all a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday, people of different religions and cultures wished me a Merry Christmas and a coffee cup is still…a…freeking…coffee cup. With such a ringing defeat it is inevitable that the internet trolls would move on to attack something else…Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa is racist. It is contrived. SOME PEOPLE are trying to replace Christmas. The founder was a 60’s black militant with ties to the Black Power Movement and not even African. Most of these arguments are made by very “hard right” publications like…well all of them.

Is St. Patrick’s Day racist? It’s no longer a religious celebration I would say. There are a lot of racist Black Irish I would think. Wait, even Irish Black Irish are white. Okay, is Cinco de Mayo racist. It celebrates a great victory over the French…in Mexico. There are dozens of other ethnocultural celebrations, mostly white celebrations, so why pick on Kwanzaa? Are our racist petticoats still showing?

Kwanzaa is contrived. All holidays are contrived. When Adam and Eve were created or our forefathers learned to walk on two feet, did they have a holiday to celebrate? I don’t think so. I don’t know when the celebration of Christmas first occurred. I do know there was no biblical mandate to celebrate the Birth of Christ at all. Does that detract from its importance? To learn about the origins of Christmas celebrations you might like to visit the following site: http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory.htm

Again, why are we picking on Kwanzaa? If you are going to pick on a contrived holiday pick on St. Valentine’s Day. A former religious celebration it has become an observance of guilt for the purpose of lining the pockets of candy makers, jewelers, and florist. Kwanzaa begins on December 26 and ends January 1 and is not a religious celebration at all. It is a celebration of family, community, nation and race that competes not only with Christmas but with dozens of other end of year or New Year celebrations. Why not pick on them?

I cannot deny that Kwanzaa’s founder, Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga (born Ronald McKinley Everett) was a Sixties Black Power militant, who at the time had never set foot in Africa. He even served time on what seemed to be trumped up and politically motivated charges. He is now Dr. Karenga and teaches African Studies which I guess makes him even worse…a liberal. The Sixties were a time of social strife. Civil Rights, the War in Viet Nam, gender inequality, the Native American movement, and the Chicano movement were just some of the social issues championed by people like Cassius Clay, known to us now as Muhammad Ali, or Tommie Smith’s and Juan Carlos’s Black Power Salute at the 1968 Olympics. Let’s not forget that this was just two years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and just two years before the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. African-Americans might be forgiven for wanting something positive to hang on to…and still might.

To say it is not African is absurd. There are over fifty countries in Africa and some three thousand tribal units. Many of the countries did not exist at the time Africans were being shipped to the New World. Each probably has a somewhat different culture. Kwanzaa is a blending of those cultures. Many African-Americans do not have the luxury of knowing the country or tribe of their origin, so Kwanzaa is not culture-specific. Whoopty doo dah! I would say celebrate to your heart’s content.

If you would wish to learn more about Kwanzaa, History.com, connected to the History Channel, has a link: http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/kwanzaa-history you might want to visit. I would say “Don’t let the facts confuse you.”

MAW-REESE an excerpt from Pathways

This EXCERPT is from the short story MAW-REESE and is a story that takes place in the Fifties. It is about how the issue of race raised its ugly head and got into the way of a friendship.

We had played together every Monday for the previous two years… every Monday when the sun was shining…regardless of temperature, since we had turned four. A lot of my memories have become muddled with the passage of time or the fact I was just four or five, but there are bits and pieces that I grab on to and, if I hold on tightly enough, they will turn into memories. My recollections of Maw are quite clear. Mondays were Nannie’s wash days and she still held on enough to the old ways that she did her wash outside even though a wringer washing machine had replaced her washboard and tin wash tub. There wasn’t enough room inside the house for the washer, especially after an indoor bathroom had been added to what was once a back porch. Water was boiled on the old gas range and carried outside to the washer. After the clothes were washed or sometimes “blued” in the old, claw foot style bathtub, they were hand cranked through two rolls called a wringer, an act that scared me to death. I was always fearful a body part might get caught up in it. The clothes were then hung out to air-dry or freeze if the temperature was too low. On days it was not in use, the washer became my personal spacecraft or tank and, despite my fear, they possessed a hand-cranked machine gun or pulsar cannon.

Miss Maggie Cureton was Nannie’s wash woman and friend even though during those days saying your friend was a “colored” wash woman was not something a white woman could admit. After Paw Paw died and Nannie moved in next door with us and our new-fangled washing machine and dryer, Miss Maggie became obsolete but was not replaced. Miss Maggie just became Nannie’s fishing buddy. I’m not sure a woman would like to be described as “thin and wiry” but it is the description I must use. Miss Maggie looked to be as tough as harness leather with strong muscles roping her thin arms. She was also as black as the end of a burned stick and always wore a kerchief around her head, unless she donned a huge straw hat given to her by my grandmother. While small, she could pull her weight and then some when lugging around baskets of water-soaked sheets or stringers loaded with fish. My fondest remembrance of her was the way she addressed me as “Honey Chile.” Her endearment was a little more loving than being referred to as one of the “you chaps” which was as close to an affectionate utterance every received from my grandmother.

One Monday morning Miss Maggie did not come alone but brought Maw and his two-year-old sister Bessy along with her. Maw’s mother, Maggie’s daughter, had found work at a church in Lancaster and would later marry a minister. Maw and Bessy were Miss Maggie’s grandchildren. While Maggie was ebony, Maw and Bessy were not. They were more the shade of the rich Luzianne coffee and cream that my grandmother drank. Their skin was shiny and seemed to glow in the morning light which accented their reddish hue. I heard them later referred to as “redbone” and was too young to understand the dynamics of someone who was bi-racial. The shine of their skin was due to the perspiration caused by their already hot and humid walk across the wide, sometimes cotton and sometimes hay field that separated their home from ours. Maw was my age, a few months older, and stood with his right foot planted firmly on the ground with his left nervously tucked, toes curled, under his instep. Both he and his sister were barefooted and dressed in hand-me-downs as was I, but I had not had to navigate the stubble and briars left behind from the last hay cutting. While only slightly older, Maw was already a half-head taller and several pounds heavier. Not intending to be stereotypical, Maw was the athlete I wished I could have been.

You may read the end of this story and others by downloading my book PATHWAYS on Kindle or purchase through Amazon at the following link: http://goo.gl/v7SdkH

TEACHING ISLAM?

Former students, help me out here. Not just my former students, any former student. Do you remember being taught anything about Islam during “World History before the Renaissance” or Comparative Religion courses? I keep seeing such an outcry against teaching anything about Islam. Do we not need to know our enemy? Wait, I do not want to be misunderstood…I don’t think Islam is our enemy any more than I believe Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism or Judaism are our enemies. I probably should have mentioned Animism and Jainism to because I mentioned them when I taught comparative religion. Okay Confucius taught a way of life based upon mutual respect and technically is not a religion, I guess, but I taught it just like I did the others. It would appear I might have failed with the concept of respect. I also did a unit on modern terrorism. Daesh or ISIS weren’t our enemies then but Al Qaida was, along with several dozen (or more) other terrorist groups running the gambit of all religions along with people who claim to be atheist.

All terrorist are not Muslim nor are all Muslims terrorist. According to multiple sources, all biased I am sure, Muslim terrorism caused less than ten percent of the deaths due to terrorism recorded on US soil since 9/11. One source, http://www.washingtonsblog.com, siting the START Global Terrorism Database, states that since 1970, only 2.5 percent of terrorist acts carried out on US soil were Muslim. But, I digress.

Why would we not teach comparative religions or for that matter comparative cultures? Do we just ignore what we don’t want to understand and refuse to recognize the contributions made by Africans, Asians, Muslims, Catholics, and Mormons…etc.? During the Middle Ages “Western Civilization” was somewhat stagnate and backward…until Christian knights went off to fight the barbarians who called them infidels. Despite losing the “Holy Land” and actually killing more Jews and Christians than Muslims, Crusading knights brought back more than they left with. In addition to unknown foods and spices, they brought back a real concept of medicine based upon science rather than superstition, algebra, clocks, water wheels, and the modern acoustic guitar. Okay I have digressed again but am sure thankful they brought home the guitar and got one into BB King’s hands. They could have left algebra behind.

I’m not a fan of the Common Core and certainly am against lesson plans trying to convert our children to Islam…or any religion which I doubt Common Core does. As a teacher of social studies, conversion was not my function and in my part of the world is not allowed in public schools. However, teaching all religions from a cultural or historical standpoint is…and should remain so. Not teaching Islam would be akin to Nazi’s burning Jewish books, ignoring Protestantism if one were a Catholic or maybe ignoring the contributions of Mormons in our own West. As I have been told repeatedly from certain flag wavers, its history and we can’t ignore it…nor should we. We should also practice what we preach.

BELIEVE….

BELIEVE IN MUSIC, BELIEVE IN BALTIMORE…AND BELIEVE IN OPPORTUNITIES

I recently watched Meredith Vieira. Ordinarily this is something I rarely do, much less admit to doing. I was not really paying attention until my wife forced me to watch a segment. I am an old, set-in-his-ways, white guy and am rarely moved by anything other than my bowels…AND young people doing well. It is likely to be the retired teacher in me. I was moved this morning as I watched a group of young people of color singing about their belief in Baltimore and their white teacher explaining how they had managed to rise above the fear and hatred derived from the riots which occurred in the Baltimore Protest this past April. Their manner of elevation? Music…and opportunity.

To quote from their web site, “’Believe in Music’ is a Living Classroom’s program that aims to uplift underprivileged Baltimore City students academically, culturally, and spiritually, while promoting self-expression and community awareness through music education. Through the program, students will foster a deep connection with music in their own lives, and gain the tools to be able express their culture, struggles, and triumphs through music. It is our hope that students will come away from the program seeing music as a way to uplift themselves as well as their community.” This program began with seven students in a closet and has grown to over seventy-five per day…no longer in a closet. Someone is doing something right.

These kids are the same “thugs, savages and killers” TO BE who are maligned by racist trolls on social media and quite possibly by certain presidential candidates. These particular children were simply looking for an “opportunity.” This is something that those of us with “white privilege” believe they, the students, already have.

The word “opportunity” continues to resonate in my mind. I had opportunities. Those opportunities were part of my “white privilege.” Before you attack me, my grandparents began their married lives as famers “on the lien” and my parents were textile mill workers. My father actually drew his last breath on a weave room floor. I had a very humble upbringing and had to work to help put myself through college. No one gave me anything other than an “opportunity.” Despite my lack of privilege, I do understand white privilege has nothing to do with wealth…and lack of wealth and hard work does not eradicate it. White privilege has more to do with “opportunity” than with poverty and hard work. I doubt seriously a black kid with my grades or upbringing would have been given the time of day…much less an “opportunity.” According to the Oxford on Line Dictionary: privilege is “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.” White people take their privilege of being white for granted. Being able to take it for granted IS white privilege. We take it SO for granted we ignore the fact our white privilege actually exists. Because of ignorance we believe that all children have the same opportunities when in fact, many don’t. We further invoke all types of aging stereotypes to explain it away instead of working together to provide “opportunities” for all.

Being an old, set-in-his-ways, white man, I also believe that you can’t solve problems by throwing money at something hoping it will go away or by ignoring that a problem exists. I have had plenty of practice ignoring problems and they do not go away, they only get worse. I would ask the question, “What opportunities are we providing?” What opportunities actually help people rise above whatever holds us back, whether it be social, economic, racial or cultural? If some program doesn’t provide for those opportunities maybe we should re-think it and quit throwing money at it in favor of something that does.

We can pay now or we can pay later. There is going to be a price tag on good or bad government, good choices or bad. Investing “good money” in our youth and providing opportunities now may make it possible to invest less “bad money” in the future. I would rather our government invest our tax monies in opportunities that programs such as “Believe in Music” provide rather than investing in new prisons to house those who fall through the cracks because they have no opportunities. But everyone has equal opportunities, our government says so. No that is just our white privilege showing its racist petticoats.

A CONVERSATION

The arrest of fifteen Georgia residents who SUPPOSIDLY crashed a black neighborhood birthday party while flying Confederate Battle Flags, brandishing weapons and shouting racial epitaphs has once again ignited discussion about our Southern heritage and hate.

During a conversation with a really good friend, one whose opinion I respect a great deal, it suddenly became apparent that I had misrepresented myself. Our conversation was about the Confederate Battle Flag that recently was removed from our State House dome. From some of my previous post, she mistakenly believed that I was of the opinion that the flag was one of the reasons Dylann Roof decided to pull the trigger that took nine lives earlier this summer. I don’t believe that any more than I believe the gun was at fault. What I do believe is that both of these inanimate objects were a part of the same environment that spawned him. Does he suffer from some type of insanity? Probably, and that insanity, cultivated by a fertile environment of racism and cultural division, was pointed at his targets just like his gun.

His environment was one that included a belief in white supremacy and the belief that Blacks, Jews and Orientals were taking over. It is a variant of the argument that, I believe, was used prior to the Civil War to create support from Southern non-slave owners. The belief that if we had not supported slavery we would be living with them, competing for jobs and marrying off our daughters to them.

My recent rants have not been so much about the flag itself as it was about the attempt to explain the flag in a light of love and heritage, and in doing so marginalizing the effect slavery had on the South and the Civil War. Non-apologist were spouting information that made me wonder if I had read the wrong research as an undergrad history major. It was “Lost Cause” propaganda that the war was only about state’s rights, independence and unfair tariffs, not slavery. There is a kernel of truth in that belief but these posters seemed to be forgetting that one of those state’s rights was the right to continue and expand slavery…and the independence to do so.

It is interesting that their defense of the flag rarely speaks to the events that occurred after the Civil War other than to say it was about heritage and not hate. I was born just after the Dixiecrats first hijacked the flag and grew up during the end of Jim Crow, Brown and the Civil Rights movement. I began my teaching career just two years after forced desegregation of schools. It wasn’t pretty but I thought we were past most of it. The aftermath of Charleston, Ferguson, North Charleston, the deaths of too many police officers and theater goers and a myriad other places and issues proved to me that we had simply covered it up and ignored it as many post I have read have proven to me. Black Lives Matter, White Lives Matter, Police Lives Matter, and All Lives Matter seemed to move toward no lives matter unless it is mine. The “us versus them” finger pointing continues today and has expanded to include gays, Christians, Muslims, police officers, white trash and any other group or person we disagree with or support. With plenty of fake news sites, anyone’s particular object of hatred could be fed.

I admit to having worked in an insulated environment all my adult life as a teacher. Teaching is not working in the real world, it’s MUCH MORE challenging than that. Ninety percent of my friends of African descent come from that sector as either former students, teachers or administrators. With few exceptions they are intelligent, hard-working and solid citizens in every way. They are also professionals who will tell you that Jim Crow and racism are still alive and well and located in many places other than just the South. The Jim Crow of today has become de facto instead of de jure but it’s there none the less. They will also tell you that, as white Americans, we owe them nothing more than the truth and an honest chance…the same as everyone else.

Even though I have descendants who fought and died under the Battle Flag, I could not support it. I even have some sympathy for the girl who climbed the pole and took it down because fifty-four years is a long time to wait. You might need to know I was in high school during the Civil Rights protests and in college during the height of the Viet Nam protest era. Those protests made a lasting imprint and the right to peaceful protest is ingrained in me no matter how reprehensible it might be. Should she have taken it down? No. Nor should flags be pulled down from private homes or monuments defaced but again I believe that it’s about white supremacy and I would add, the black racism that it has helped to create.

There is a fear and lack of trust that both races have for each other in South Carolina and other Southern states that has grown since the Civil War. It is well earned. Throughout the rest of the country our track record with Blacks, Native Americans, Asians and Hispanics has been just as bad and has been widened to include gays and lesbians, Muslims, the Pope and those of us who believe that being unconcerned about political correctness is just an excuse for middle school like name calling and bullying. It is time for the name calling to end but I fear it is just as ingrained as our racism and our cultural and political divide.

SOT IN OUR WAYS

SOT IN OUR WAYS
“Grace changes us and change is painful.”
-Flannery O’Connor

Grace aside, for Southerners change is not only painful it is damn near impossible. Southerners don’t like being told what to do, how to do it…or being told no you can’t do it. Statements like “I’ve done it this way for (fill in the blank) years” are the norm along with colorful expletives accompanying any attempts at change. We are known to dig in like mud turtles, even when faced with the fact that what we are being asked to change to is a hundred times better than what we have. Well, “Bless your heart!” With a new washing machine my grandmother still did part of her washing in a wash tub with a scrub board. Honestly, sometimes I’d like to have a phone with a rotor instead of the one that provides me with a hundred different functions including my wife being able to find me by pushing one button…and don’t get me started on my wife and her Missouri mule-like ideas about change. “And just what was so wrong about Windows98?” Southerners look at change with a jaundiced eye. Lord help us if the “Gubment” tries to get involved!

Saying the South is conservative used to be like saying that the Grand Canyon is a deep hole. Now it has gotten less so. I fear that any liberal shift is due to Carpetbaggers transplanting themselves into our homeland and “rooting” out a place for themselves the same way that a wild hog “roots” out an acorn. These days Southerners tend to vote Republican and support the party of the “status quo.” If you ask someone why they voted Republican you are likely to get an answer like, “Well, my family has voted Republican since 1964.” But, why do YOU vote Republican? “You dummy, didn’t you hear me? I told you my family has voted Republican since 1964!” Southerners do hate to repeat the obvious. This should explain how unusual it was for Strom Thurmond to successfully make the change from Democrat to Republican in 1964 due to a protest “that he said” was against “big gubment” and state’s rights. It worked and he was responsible for the flip-flop in the political spectrum that we follow today.

I consider myself a moderate simply because I will except some change in my life. You know, change in underwear type things. No, I try not to be held hostage to any party politics but it is hard. By saying that I am a moderate places me so far left of my friends that many of them think that I might as well be standing next to Karl Marx. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any southern liberals. It just means they have a tendency to be African-American or, if white, they tend to hide their liberalness and admit to it privately only to a voting machine. Please be aware that I am speaking of Southerners born and bred, not damn Yankees. If a Southern liberal’s friends or family were to find out that they voted for a Democrat, this revelation would likely be accompanied by looks that you would expect your Baptist minister to give you if he caught you coming out of a liquor store or “Hooters.” Never mind asking why he was there because we are also big on “Do as I say do not as I do.”

Before I go on with my tirade I should point out that our “set in our way-ness,” while a Southern white attribute, is not a trait limited to one race. My friend Butch, who is African-American, is as conservative as they come and it has rubbed off on other members of his family. Of my generation, his loooonnnng pontifications would make a Kentucky colonel or GOP politician proud! It surprises me how much our world view is comparable despite our differences in race. I attribute this to our rural upbringing that included chopping cotton and corn and working in textiles along with parents and grandparents who would “switch deem legs.” Despite this similar history, I imagine he has voted Democrat since 1964. Why? “You dummy, didn’t you hear me? I told you my family has voted Democrat since 1964!”

I don’t understand why people in other parts of the world consider us to be uneducated and backward just because we are conservative and as inflexible to change as a piece of rebar. I just thought that “tongue in cheek.” Despite improvements, our school systems still rank lower while obesity, poverty and numbers of unwed mothers still rank higher than the rest of the nation. The world view is of a fat, tobacco chewing redneck who is a high school dropout sporting “shit-caked” work boots and wearing a “South will rise again!” belt buckle. Usually this redneck could stand a bit of dental work on his four teeth and is much more concerned about the Second Amendment than any other aspect of “gubment.” His mate is barefooted and wearing a dress she made herself from a feed sack. “Sugah Pie” is pregnant and showing to be quite far along despite having a babe in arms and another, a year older, in a dirty diaper and tugging at the hem of her dress. They will not have to worry about having three in high school at the same time much less college. In front of their single-wide is a rusting pickup truck on blocks whose engine is leaking vital fluids as it sits on a sagging picnic table next to it. Yes, there is a redbone hound asleep under the truck. Is this an accurate portrayal? Hell no…and, unfortunately, hell yeah! The climate is changing but for those of us who are not “sot in our ways” the change is slow. Oh God, I may be a liberal! Please don’t tell anyone! I will try to do better.

I now live in an area of South Carolina that has become known as the “Dark Corner.” Once I thought it got its name because of our location in regard to the mountains to our west that block the sun as it slips beyond the horizon. To “sorta” quote Yogi Berra, it does “get darker here quicker” but that has nothing to do with the name. Oh no. One local historian suggested that the Dark Corner somehow got its name because Unionist and Confederate deserters invaded the area “here abouts” to defend themselves against a “gubment” that wanted them to uphold slavery that the deserters had decided was a “rich man’s” war to maintain the “status quo” or in the case of Unionists, a “gubment” that wanted them to rebel against the Union. In and around 1864 they decided to unite and began to fortify the nearby mountains and dare the Confederate Army or local constabulary to show up. By that time the CSA had its hands full elsewhere and there was no confrontation. I find it interesting that since the Flag issue in my state landed like a wet cow patty dropped from a B-52, there now seem to be way more Confederate Battle Flags around. I wonder if any of my tradition-laden friends realize the “checkered heritage” of where they live. “Nope, cause hit don’t matter ‘cept that the sumbitch ‘gubment is trin‘to take my flag!” Damn Right!

Another example of old traditions dying hard is the production of “tax-free” distilled spirits. Through the depression and into modern times, the Dark Corner was known for its production of moonshine. Not just any moonshine but what has been described as a particularly “fine moonshine.” That is not an oxymoron. The smoothness supposedly came from the water. In the late Seventies it was also known for producing a particularly high grade of “killer weed” known as “Glassy Mountain Gold.” Weed did not replace moonshining because moonshining was the traditional drug of choice and “them good old boys ain’t about to change.” During the depression poor families resorted to illegally distilling spirits to pay their taxes and to make a living that the “gubment” was attempting to take away, according to their “way ah thinking.” Well, this is 2015 and it is still being made. One morning in the late 2000’s, I stepped out to begin my morning run and was assaulted by the sharp smell of sour mash cookin’. Several years later I found a broken down still on a stream located on my land. They could have, at least, offered me a taste!

I was somewhat shocked to see the face of the father of one of my former players pasted across my TV on the Six O’ Clock News. He was, and is still, a respected “gentleman peach farmer” of high means. His offense? Making “shine.” His defense was that his daddy had made it and his daddy before him and…. He did not need the money to pay his taxes or even take the kids to Disneyworld, nor did he appear to be very apologetic. It was a time-honored tradition to make the “family recipe” free of “gubment” taxes and he was “sot in his ways.” My guess is that despite the hefty fine that he paid, he is still “sot in his ways.”

Most of the people I know don’t make shine and have more of their own teeth than I do. A few wave the flag and chew tobacco. Many of us own rusty old pickups. One even has the engine out of his. It’s in his double-bay garage, the one he built to work on his cars that includes a hydraulic lift rack and engine hoist. There is nothing but food on his picnic table and with it a German Shepard to guard it all. Despite his lack of a college degree, his home, garage and farm are a lot nicer than mine. Uneducated? Not where it counts, it would seem, because they don’t award degrees for common sense and work ethic. He doesn’t chew, dip or drink his spirits out of a Mason jar and is more likely to be in flip-flops than in “shit kickers.” I think of Jimmy Buffett meets Mr. Greenjeans. He also doesn’t wave the Battle Flag but he is as Southern as the day is long and, I think, more of what the New, New South is about, despite being set in his conservative ways. Yes, he does still vote Republican. “You dummy, didn’t you hear me? I told you my family has voted Republican since 1964!”

MATTHEW 5:43 AND 44

Verse 43″You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ Verse 44″But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,…”

I purposely stayed away from social media and television programs like Face the Nation before going to church this past Sunday. For the previous few weeks I did not avoid them and found it impossible to focus on my minister’s message because of the venom and hatred that I felt was being spewed by political figures on one venue and friends and acquaintances on another. I did pray for their eternal souls…and mine for what I was thinking about them. What was this week’s message? Matthew Chapter 5. Well, I am sure that Christians everywhere, dead and alive, are rejoicing over the fact that I paid attention…even if it was just a little.

It would seem that many of us who claim to be Christians, and being full of Christian generosity, have Matthew 5:43 down pat. “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy?” I would say that would be an Old Testament influence, the old “eye for an eye,” a notion that we have learned well. It is Verse 44 that seems to be problematic for me, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you….” I am also having trouble with my grandmother’s favorite, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Yes! I say and think bad things about those people who are out to persecute me – the guy who cuts me off or takes my gas pump when I am signaling…or not; conservatives who call liberals names and liberals who call conservatives names; Christians versus gays; and Christians who post disparaging pictures and untrue statements about our president. Though these disrespectful posts are not actually persecuting me, they really hurt because we react negatively and we are people who are supposed to be Christians! You know…”Turn the other cheek” and “Love thine enemy.”

Before I really start I want to dispel any preconceived notions. I AM NOT A DEMOCRAT OR A LIBERAL…and I AM NOT A REPUBLICAN OR A CONSERVATIVE! If you must put a tag on me I will admit to being a PEDESTRIAN on occasion. My voting record includes both Democrat and Republican, as well as, various third party candidates. I vote with what I consider to be a “knowledgeable heart.” I did not vote for President Obama the second time. Despite not voting for him, I STILL cannot believe how we are treating a sitting president…or a non-sitting one.

For example, a picture of President Obama and the First Lady showing them at what was probably an athletic contest was circulated. In this picture, they did not have the most flattering expressions on their faces which seems to be the norm in these types of pictures. An unknown person is holding a photo-shopped banana in front of them with the caption “Mouths ah waterin’” or some such garbage. Why didn’t you go ahead and go the extra yard with a piece of watermelon? In another, before he was President, movie star Ronnie Reagan is holding President Obama and feeding him a bottle in a “Breakfast with Bonzo” parody. Really? A biracial president portrayed as a monkey. I would say someone’s racist petticoats are showing. The worst, by far, is a nude, cracked-out woman portrayed as President Obama’s mother. Any pictures of Barbara Bush circulating? All were shared by people who claim to be Christians exercising their First Amendment rights. I’m trying not to judge you, according to the Bible that is not my right. Rest assured you will be judged and your sins will be found out! And while I’m at it, do you really think the President and First Lady are going to put the wrong hand over their heart during the National Anthem…on purpose? How stupid do people think we are? Stupid because we keep sharing! Is that judging?

The following is not a rant about whether or not homosexuality is a sin or not. That is not for me to judge. If it is a sin they will have to answer for that at a later date…just like I will have to answer for two divorces. I do not understand why, if another group of people are given their civil rights, we “moan and dress in sackcloth and ashes” claiming that we are losing our rights. I honestly do not understand how gays having a right to a civil union would have any effect on my religion, my marriage…or my rights. People have tried to play it off as the Supreme Court overstepping their bounds or attacks on Christian beliefs. I believe, however, that deep down in my heart there is hate, the same kind of hate expressed by people when the Supreme Court overturned Plessy for Brown and when interracial marriage first became legal. There are others who could care less, they just don’t like being told what they have to do. Yes, the far left is pushing and the far right is digging in.

While I am offending everyone, I don’t believe Mike Huckabee meant his Dred Scott comment the way it came out but then again I believe that extraterrestrials are out there and that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole. My point is that calling our enemies names is NOT an act of love, something repeatedly taught by Jesus Christ. It also doesn’t take much intelligence. Huckabee does have a right to his own opinion. Stating why his position is incorrect is one thing, but saying that “What do you expect? He is from Arkansas” or dismissing it as the babblings of the far right is a very different matter. It is disrespectful to a bunch of folks who do know what is going on. Back on point, if my church makes the decision to allow gay marriages, it is a problem between myself and my church. If my church decides not to allow them, then it’s no one else’s business. I have heard my gay friends called abominations, which is actually a misquote of what maybe a Biblical misquote. God makes no mistakes but Biblical translators may have misinterpreted a few passages. I heard Kim Davis referred to in the same way…and many more equally unflattering terms. Name calling is as wrong as the position she has taken! If you are a Christian, it is not very Christ-like to say your neighbor is an abomination…or your enemy according to Jesus. According to Jesus’s own words, we should be praying for them.

Did you know that the pictures of gays desecrating the Christian Flag took place at a festival over two years ago…in Buenos Aires? It circulated as though it was happening today in the good ole United States. Did you know that desecrating the flag of the United States is perfectly legal according to the oft-quoted First Amendment? I find both to be disgusting but that’s not the point. We should be praying for the people who create and post these and other vile pictures and hateful comments. These people are so extremely left or right that they are not only our enemies, but also, enemies of our country and our government. Some even want to start a revolution, and not a quiet one. I must say that at times the United States has been its own worst enemy and an evil one at that. Despite these downfalls, I for one, would rather deal with a known enemy than with an unknown enemy, especially if it is one I love. Therefore, I will pray for our neighbors and our enemies – both foreign and domestic. You might want to try praying for them, too. Ask to remind them that we are supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves. And who is our neighbor, anyone who walks upon the Earth.