If Ever You’re In My Arms Again

Thursday! It’s hard to believe Christmas is just next weekend. But I mailed my Christmas cards last night on the way home from work (I am very proud of myself; I generally don’t do cards. But this year I not only bought them, but addressed and stamped them and put them in the mail. Not sure how this all came about, but there you have it.), before stopping at the grocery store, and there it is. I’m a bit worn out this morning, tired despite sleeping well (one lovely thing about colder weather is that I sleep better), but I don’t have a lengthy day today and tomorrow is a short one. I hope to start revising stories today while also working on the book some. We shall see how that goes.

I”m still processing the election results in Alabama the other night. I pretty much saw the whole thing as a foregone conclusion; I am from Alabama and my family is from there, and outside of my immediate family, almost everyone on both sides still lives there. I am very well aware of what the Roy Moore supporters are like, how they think, etc. I didn’t need to red Hillbilly Elegy–I did try, but it’s Appalachian apologia was so smug and frankly, wrong I not only put it in the donation pile but I also donated the cover price I’d spent to the Southern Poverty Law Center. (For the record, I think that book is a falsehood designed not only to fool liberals but to lure them into a false state of understanding; one that will hoodwink them into being fooled again and again. There was nothing true or profound in that book.)

I love Alabama in spite of not only itself but myself. The Alabama values the entire country saw on display during the Roy Moore campaign (a pedophile is better than a Democrat; the entire country is out to get us in a liberal conspiracy; we had no race problems here until Obama; Roy Moore waving his pistol at a rally; everything about Kayla Moore–from her teen pregnancy to  her adulterous affair to her divorce to her gold, diamond encrusted earrings she wore on every occasion to prove to everyone just how much more Christian she is than everyone else) are something I am well-acquainted with; I’ve dealt with that mentality my entire life and have tried, unsuccessfully, to wrap my mind around it for fifty-six years: a Christianity that has nothing to do with the actual teachings of Jesus; an almost fanatical belief that their belief and values are the only right ones and anyone who disagrees is in the service of evil; that Satan is very real and working his evil on the country and the world through the Democratic party; and an absolute, unwavering faith that they are going to Heaven and anyone who disagrees in the slightest way with the way they think is going to straight to Hell unless they repent and change their ways and believe what they do and get on board with their version of not just religion but politics. Religion and politics are very much mixed in the South, and don’t ever believe otherwise; they are used interchangeably to validate the other.

It has always been thus; thus is may always be. And don’t mistake it–this election was far closer than it should have been.

Maybe my outlook is a bit bleak, but the county where my family is from in Alabama went 76% for Moore. So I know whereof I speak.

A while ago, I talked about rereading To Kill a Mockingbird and having a lot more issues with it than I did when I originally read the book, back when I was ten or eleven. Don’t get me wrong, the central message of the book–racism is terrible and wrong–still comes through just as strongly as it did when I originally read it, and it’s still incredibly beautifully written. The problems I saw with it, though, went way beyond the notion or concept of the white savior; which Atticus Finch certainly was. Probably the most false scene in the book to me, and the most problematic, was the scene where Tom is in jail and the sheriff comes to get Atticus because those trashy Ewells have gotten some of the other trashy rural people in the county riled up about Tom’s alleged rape of Mayella Ewell; and they want to lynch him. When I originally read the book the horror of those terrible racists coming to exact an unjust punishment on Tom terrified me, and I was thrilled that the upright citizens of the town came to stand off against them and save Tom. Rereading that as an adult–well, every bit of it read to me as not only false but a-historical. Anyone who knows anything about the Jim Crow south knows that the sheriff wouldn’t have gotten some “good men” together to protect a black man accused of raping a white girl; the sheriff would have been one of them. All one has to do is read accounts of what happened to Emmett Till…and so many others, to call bullshit on this part of the book.

Not every white person in Alabama is, or was, a racist; an active member of the KKK. But those who didn’t stand up to those who were? The word we’re looking for is complicit.

I still haven’t read Go Set a Watchman, but I will at some point. I’m still amused at all the people, mostly white, who were so upset and horrified that their beloved Atticus Finch turned out to be a racist and a segregationist after all. I never once got the sense when I was reading To Kill a Mockingbird, even when I was a child, that Atticus wasn’t a racist; he was appointed by the court to represent a black man accused of raping a white girl–and he did, as he was an ethical lawyer, bound to to defend him to the best of his ability. He did so. Did that make him a better man than a lawyer who might have refused to take the case? Yes, it did. It also made him a better man than a lawyer who would have taken the case and botched it. But what also strikes me as false about this book was the judge who appointed Atticus, knowing he would do the best job possible. Really? Again, all you have to do is read accounts of Jim Crow justice in Alabama to know this is also false. If Tom Robinson wasn’t lynched  he most certainly would have been railroaded. He was found guilty despite the great job Atticus did in his defense, despite proving that Mayella Ewing’s testimony couldn’t have been the truth. That, indeed, seemed real and true to me. But the system in 1930’s Alabama trying to be fair to Tom? Bullshit.

Don’t get me wrong: To Kill a Mockingbird is still a beautiful book, and its message is a good one. But it’s also a fairy tale; a fiction that would have never happened in the time period in which it was set. I also can see why Harper Lee’s editor persuaded her not to publish Go Set a Watchman, in which Scout deals with her father being a segregationist, and write To Kill a Mockingbird, in which her father is a hero fighting prejudice and racism, instead. That was the book that needed to be published at the time; and it was a very savvy move. The book was a huge bestseller, has never been out of print, won the Pulitzer Prize, and was made into an Academy Award winning film classic.

This election, in which a small majority of Alabama voters, led by people of color, chose not to elect the racist homophobic evangelic Christian child molester, was a wonderful outcome on every level. akin to the Louisiana electorate choosing the Democrat over adulterous whoremonger David Vitter for governor. But is this is a sea change for the two deep red Southern states, both of which have a proportionally large evangelical Christian population who seriously believe there were no racial issues in their state until Barack Obama was elected president? Only time will tell–and progressives and Democrats have a lot of work to do in the meantime. A lot. But the South can be won back. It won’t be easy, but it can happen.

And now back to the spice mines.

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