Editor’s note: From time to time, just like any other parent, I brag on my son and his writing talent. Lately he has had some articles in the online national publication, The Daily Beast. He can spin a very good tale for sure. And I am always impressed as to how much better well read he is that I am. Here is his latest article in its entirety:
“Georgia legislators didn’t just summon Jim Crow from its shallow grave with a recent spate of vote-suppressing measures, they seeded dangerous ideas. So predictably, Florida and Alabama began incantations to bring their own black-feathered zombies to life. Oblivious to the April 9 anniversary of the Confederacy’s surrender—or maybe to defy it—Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas are poised to take a crack at disenfranchisement, too.
Southern progressives are humiliated, but we aren’t surprised. We bear the chagrin from Southern culture’s roots in white supremacy and feudalism. We shake our heads at shameful Lost Cause rhapsodies, a traitorous Old South too often romanticized for tourism’s allure.
We foretold that Shelby v. Holder—the 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act—would result in these unfolding changes. The only surprise was it took close to a decade to happen.
We’re sadly aware yoga remains outlawed in Alabama public schools because of its cited “religious ties” with Hinduism. We’re leery when an ostentatious Christianity gets poured over everything like ketchup.
We’re the ones most fearful of environmental danger from toxic industries lured here by public money giveaways from state and local governments. We’re wary of Alabama’s massive coal ash dumps, reservoirs of deadly radioactive waste threatening to poison swaths of wilderness and residential areas, or contaminated water seeping from reservoirs into central Florida and headed for Tampa Bay.
We were sheepish when our neighbors chanted “Drill, Baby, Drill” but more embarrassed after 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill befouled the Gulf Coast—yet didn’t change their oblivious attitudes.
The willful ignorance, the racism, the ecological disregard, it’s all maddening for us. Answers are difficult, especially when we’re caught in cultural crossfire. Yet despite feeling imperiled and besieged, we remain here. Some of us are shackled by family obligations, slim opportunities, economic limitations, or medical factors. Others remain for the balmy climate, slower pace, low cost of living, or comfortable familiarity.
So where’s the hope? How does the nation work with the intractable toward a “more perfect union”? Inspiration might be found in the best of us, in Southerners who dispense empathy and kindness in various hues and sizes.
Some are highly visible, like Georgia political dynamo Stacey Abrams. Her fight for wider empowerment drove an electoral success that frightened her state’s old guard into enacting the controversial new voting measures.
Or Bryan Stevenson, the Montgomery, Alabama, lawyer whose Equal Justice Initiative has advocated for those wrongfully funneled into America’s prison industrial complex. His life’s work has dragged into light the inhumanity of modern de facto slavery.
Far more folks are quieter, yet still effective. Like Chris and Karen Bullock, a married duo of Presbyterian pastors in Mobile, Alabama, who transformed their church into a community-oriented, multi-purpose facility. They provide artists with studios, meeting and event space for nonprofits, spark public discussion on social inequities and manage one of the area’s largest food banks.
Or my own father, who has spent the last few decades advocating for Alabama’s underserved schools, in conditions U.N. personnel have likened to Third World locales. He’s raised tens of thousands of dollars for school construction improvements, secured grants, sparked university programs for securing and training rural teachers and traveled the nation seeking assistance for those unable to do so themselves.
Southern progressives also warn how criticized Southerners will double down on stubbornness. The recalcitrance plays into paranoia about “outside agitators” set to “destroy their way of life.” Georgia politicians have shown it, rallying around the corporate and sports rejections.
Same as it did in the 20th century—before FDR’s New Deal brought better jobs and modern amenities; before the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act halted de jure discrimination—the South needs something beyond mere vilification. Concern beyond condescension and a generous spirit can be coercive. That’s what loosens fear-based politics’ grip on the incurious and insular.
Sure, the South feels like the concrete shoes on the nation’s feet; we get it. The Sisyphean tilt of Southern politics and culture are movement conservatism on methamphetamine. However, if we want to change the South and liberate the nation, we need to apply a chisel to those concrete shoes, not a bone saw to the shins.
Build bridges. Find ways to help. There are plenty of people down here worth saving.”
NO. That calendar is wrong. Dead wrong. Ain’t no way it’s now been six decades since the Theodore high school graduating class of 1961 picked up their diplomas and scattered to the wind.
I mean six decades is a long, long time. Something like 60 years. But then, I never was good at math and when you subtract 1961 from 2021 there is the possibly that the answer is 60.
But that doesn’t mean we have to believe it.
If true, then we started the 9th grade in 1957. Dwight Eisenhower was president and John Patterson was governor of Alabama. Few people had ever heard of George Wallace back then. That was the year the space race began when Russia sent Sputnik in orbit of the earth in October.. The Number One song of that year was “All shook up” by someone named Elvis Presley. Number Two was “Love letters in the sand” by the ageless Pat Boone.
The average price of a new home was $12,220 and a gallon of gas was 24 cents. Toyota started selling cars in this country that year. For most of us, anything made in Japan was considered “cheap.” And it was the first year American Bandstand came on our black and white TV sets. (For those who had one.)
And here we came, a gaggle of 14 and 15 year old kids. The age when some of the girls are still taller than the boys and we wondered what caused pimples. We were mostly clueless about all the important things in life–like cars and girls.
For certain, we were a homogenized crew. We were all white, most of our mothers were at home and our dads worked at Brookley Field, or International Paper or the shipyards.. If any of us had a parent who was a doctor or lawyer, I didn’t know about it.
At age 78, which most of are now, if you think of our lives as 4-year blocks, we’ve made it through 19.5 of them. But while most of those segments simply come and go, there is no doubt the four years we spent at Theodore were the most formative ones of our lives. We were trying to grow up. We did finally learn a little bit about girls (do you ever really understand them completely?), we got our first driver’s license. (I failed my first test because I ran a stop sign. When the guy told me that, I asked, What is a stop sign? You see back then, the dirt roads in Irvington, where our farm was, did not have stop signs.)
We were also supposed to learn about algebra and geometry and trigonometry. But if I did, I couldn’t prove it when I got to Auburn. But in a stroke of sheer genius, I took typing. A skill I have used nearly every day of my life. Why did I take typing when few boys did? My guess was that the room was full of those girls I was trying to figure out.
But what we did most of all–and best–was form a bond. One that remains until today. One that we have celebrated every five years since 1971 with class reunions. We made dear and fast friends who remain so. Unfortunately, Father Time had not spared the class of 1961 and many of our classmates have now passed away. The first being a member of the senior class in 1961. It was a jolt to come face-to-face with mortality at such a young age.
Since we walked the stage that night we have buried spouses and children, taken care of aged parents and agonized through divorce. We have lost jobs and lost sleep over bills coming due. We have been excited about grand kids, played with them and sent them back home while we tried to recover.
We have also learned that our bodies are as old as we are. I once thought we just got older, I did not realize that along the way some of our parts stopped working so well, while some even quit. We’ve lost our hair and the spring in our step. We no longer have flat tops and hair wax.
But I still remember the night some of us were coming back from a track meet at Semmes when we came across a dead polecat and left it in a school hallway. Bright and early the next morning, our janitor, Mr. Ott, had every door in the building wide open and was dousing chemicals up and down the halls. The smell was awful.
Our 50th reunion in 2011 was our last “official” one. We all got old and frankly, I think we just wore out the ladies who did such a wonderful job of organizing these over the years.
But we can still eat–and drive in the daylight. Which is what we’re doing on June 14 when we gather at Felix’s Fish Camp on the Mobile causeway. It will not be a big crowd. But some are coming from faraway like Michigan and California. We will hug and laugh and tell tales from long ago.
And even though such occasions are always bittersweet, for a couple of hours we will still be trying to figure what causes pimples and dancing to Elvis, Pat Boone, the Everly Brothers and Del Shannon..
About 8:30 Thursday night I went to the Family Dollar store around the corner to get some toilet paper. (Something none of wish to run out of.)
Found what I needed and paid my bill. Then stuck my hand in my overalls pocket for my car keys.
Oh no. They weren’t in the pocket. I was flabbergasted. How could they not be? I clearly recalled dropping them in there as I got out of the car.. I immediately retraced my steps through the store, looking up and down each aisle. I patted myself down, thinking they might be in another pocket. (You see, overalls have plenty of pockets, which is one reason I like them). But nothing.
All I have on my key chain is a car key and a house key. I thought I had another car key in the car’s console. Thankfully I had not locked the car when I got out. Also thankfully I had not locked the house because the only spare I knew of was in a kitchen cabinet.
Found the car key in the console and headed home–disgusted with myself.
The next afternoon, which was Good Friday, I dropped back by Family Dollar praying that my keys had turned up. The same clerk was at the register as she had been the night before.
“By chance, has anyone turned in some keys? I inquired. The young lady said she did not know of any, which was what I expected. So I headed for my car..
As I settled behind the wheel, another employee came running out dangling some keys. They were mine. She said a customer found them in the parking lot and turned them in.
I wanted to kiss her, but decided that would not really be appropriate in broad daylight. Still, I was elated and thanked her profusely.
And suddenly my Good Friday was just that.
Now history will never record what happened on April 2 in a Family Dollar parking lot in Montgomery But I will never forget and will always be grateful..
President Biden announced his plans for an infrastructure bill this week. The reaction from Republicans was immediate and expected. They decried both the cost and the content, claiming most of the bill does not deal with infrastructure.
I find it interesting that the GOP has suddenly found religion when it comes to spending money, especially in light of the fact that the national debt went up 37 percent under President Trump and they never said a word.
And secondly, what is NOT really infrastructure? If you spend money on education you are improving the education level of society. If you spend money on health care, again you are making this country’ better. Likewise with social programs and on and on. Infrastructure is much, much more than roads and bridges But if your only reason to be in Washington is to bitch and moan, why deal in reality?
And I wonder if those Alabama Republican congressmen who scream and holler about anything Biden proposes have ever driven from Montgomery to Birmingham on a Friday afternoon when what is normally a 90 minute drive may easily turn in three hours.
Where would this country be if President Franklin Roosevelt had not looked into the future and conceived the need for an interstate highway network and President Eisenhower had not decided to move ahead with this project. This was not smooth sailing for Ike as some in congress complained about the cost and groups like the truckers fought any plan to raise fuel taxes to cover the cost. But Ike and some forward-thinking leaders in Washington would not be denied and interstates now crisscross the nation.
But seems that “forward thinking” is a four letter word in Washington these days and the future does not extend beyond the next election cycle.
Editor’s note: Our last post discussed the Justice Department investigation of Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida. Gaetz is one of the more bombastic folks in Washington and seems to go out of his way to anger others. No doubt this is why reporters are working overtime on this story. For instance, The New York Times is now reporting that Gaetz and a political friend, Joel Greenberg, were apparently involved with multiple women who were recruited online for sex in exchange for cash. Greenberg has been indicted and is in jail awaiting trial in June.
The Times has reviewed financial records that show Gaetz made payments to a woman, who told her friends the money was for sex.
The following article from NBC does an outstanding job of outlining the entire satiation. Here is the entire story::.
“Matt Gaetz has always been open that he didn’t go to Washington to make friends.
But after news broke that the FBI is investigating the Florida Republican for potential sex trafficking, Gaetz found few people willing to defend him or lend credence to his claim that he’s done nothing wrong but instead is being extorted and smeared.
Instead of circling the wagons and reflexively declaring “fake news” about the investigation, first reported by The New York Times and confirmed by NBC News, Republican leaders and opinion-makers are mostly staying quiet or letting Gaetz, a strong ally of former President Donald Trump, flap in the breeze.
During an interview Tuesday night in which the congressman denied any relationship with a 17-year-old woman, Fox News host Tucker Carlson wore an incredulous expression.
“That was one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted,” Carlson later said. “I don’t think that clarified much.”
Trump has so far not spoken up and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who was traveling in Iowa on Wednesday, told NBC News that he was “surprised” he hadn’t been able to reach Gaetz yet and that the allegations were “serious.”
“If a member at my conference gets indicted, they will get removed from a committee,” McCarthy said. “He says this is not true. And we have a newspaper report that says something else. We’ll find out.”
The most vocal defense has come from the likes of Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a former wrestling coach who has faced his own allegations of ignoring sexual misconduct by a doctor who treated student-athletes, which Jordan has denied.
Despite his high profile among the conservative grassroots, Gaetz has few friends on Capitol Hill, according to multiple Republican aides and operatives.
His relentless self-promoting and near-daily appearance on Fox News stand out, even by the standards of Congress, where a generous ego and a hunger for the spotlight are practically job requirements.
He proudly criticized some of his own Republican colleagues, accusing them of weakness and selling out the conservative cause.
“When I first got to Washington, the party leaders said ‘Gaetz, it seems to us you’re not really a team player,’ and I said ‘I am, but you’re not my team,'” he told a crowd in his district this week, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News.
Gaetz’ relationship with his party’s leadership has been especially strained since he flew to Wyoming to lambast Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, in her home state over her vote to impeach Trump.
One former Trump campaign aide, who said Gaetz seems more interested in generating social media buzz than advancing conservative issues, said he frequently winced when the former president praised Gaetz.
Trump repeatedly lauded the “handsome” and “fantastic” Gaetz, who relished his role as Trump’s man on Capitol Hill and gatekeeper for people seeking favors. “I only regret that I have but one political career to give to my president,” Gaetz said last month.
Gaetz is the son of a wealthy Florida GOP powerbroker, former state Senate President Don Gaetz, who helped support and bankroll his son’s political career and is now corroborating his son’s claim that the elder Gaetz wore a wire at the behest of the FBI to foil the alleged extortion plot. The FBI has declined to comment.
“There was always that group of four or five male Republican members of Congress who would hang out late at the Capitol Hill Club and carouse and get into trouble. And I think everyone expected Matt would go in that trajectory,” said former Rep. David Jolly of Florida, who has since left the GOP and become a Trump critic.
The Capitol Hill Club, founded 70 years ago by a former Republican congressman, is the unofficial-official watering hole of Republican members of Congress, government officials and lobbyists.
“He kind of walked into that House seat. And that was just lighting a match to a personality that was looking for a fire,” Jolly added. “Anybody who knew Matt knew that eventually he would find controversy or controversy would find him.”
Gaetz has answered charges of impropriety before, including an accusation by a Florida legislator that he created a game in which young lawmakers scored points for sleeping with aides, interns, lobbyists and other legislators. He denied the accusation.
Gaetz has spoken publicly about several ex-girlfriends, including the sister of a young man whom he has come to see as his son.
The 38-year-old lawmaker got engaged in December to a 26-year-old food industry analyst at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s club in Florida where the former president now lives. “He’s giving up the single life!” exclaimed Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, who happened to be in attendance.
A skilled debater with an instinct for what enrages the left and delights the right, Gaetz has a knack for chasing viral news moments.
He wore a gas mask on the House floor in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. He barged into a secure room to disrupt the House Intelligence Committee’s work on Trump’s first impeachment. And he tried to get Britney Spears to testify before Congress on her conservatorship.
Controversy sells. Gaetz raised nearly $6 million in 2020, even though he faced only token opposition in re-election to his third term, and almost two-thirds of his haul came from small, grassroots contributions.
Gaetz was one of the few lawmakers in either party to defend former Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., after leaked nude photos showed her relationship with a campaign staffer.
Hill returned the favor when Gaetz faced questions about his adoptive “son,” saying on Twitter, “I can’t stand a lot of his beliefs but he’s been there for me when others haven’t.”
But the latest allegations were a bridge too far for Hill. “A 17 year old girl is a girl, not a woman. Statutory rape is rape, not anything else,” she tweeted.”
I, like many of you I’m sure, have always been a sucker for chidden. Their innocence is’ breath-taking, They can warm the coldest heart. I well remember when my son, Kevin, and daughter, Kim, were little more than toddlers and learning to talk.
Some of what they said was hilarious. Yet, they were so serious in trying to get through to you.
So when I came across this clip on Youtube of a little girl explaining to her father what weddings are all about, I had to share it with you.
As I write, it is a very rainy and stormy day in Montgomery. But when I saw this, all the rain disappeared. Clink on this link.
The pandemic has created chaos with students–and those responsible for them, be they parents or teachers. But as we know, some young people are resilient as heck and look for opportunity during even the most dire circumstances.
Add Charlotte Bowder, a student at Casco Bay High School in Maine, to this list. She had the idea of writing a song that would celebrate community amid social isolation. She recruited her friend Luthando Mngqibisa to sing co-lead, and with the help of the EL Education network, of which the school is part, recruited 34 other musicians–from high school string players to elementary schoolers on pots and pans–across 11 schools in seven states to play the song together virtually.
The resulting project, “Make the World Better” is one of the most uplifting, professionally done pieces created during the pandemic Give it a listen. It will be the best four minutes of your day.