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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dixie Dispatch, or Deep in the Heart of "the Crazy"

As bad an election year as 2010 promises to be, that badness will have an epicenter, and that epicenter is likely to be here in what the Drive By Truckers dubbed "the dirty South." Judging from the campaign commercials we've been getting, the South will rise again, only this time as the "North." The North circa 1890, that is--the year when an activist right-wing Supreme Court filled with Commie-fearing, dollar-doting, states' rights-bloviating radicals began waging war against democracy on behalf of the "real" America. I.e., the rich, the corporate, and the racist. I don't see this as an enduring national trend, the way it was in 1890. But it is our new regional religion, and we will be lucky if this tent revival ends at dusk.

Tennessee may not be as bad as Alabama, where the treasonous Rick Barber dreams of piking the President and eating his entrails, but the climate here is toxic, at least on my TV. [An aside: someone should really explain to Barber that you shouldn't put Lincoln in your commercials equating federal taxes to "slavery" when it was Lincoln who invented the federal income tax and even made it progressive!!!!!] The governor's race features the most visible and risible of the villainous in Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. His call to "Give em' the boot!" (re: Obama, Washington, etc.) so closely evokes segregationists of old that even the Republicans seem a little creeped out. Ramsey is running a distant third in polls, well behind Congressman Zach Wamp (a charter member of the C Street "Family" who cries armed resistance on the stump while copping a vaguely inoffensive technocrat feel in his ads), and the front runner, Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam, whose ads give treacle a bad name. Ramsey gives them red meat, Haslam slays them with tar tare: red, but cool, superficially classy, and likely to impress the moderate businessman.

Our congressional race to replace the beloved Bart Gordon bodes more ominously. The GOP race is a three-way between my state senator, Jim Tracy, state senator Diane Black, and local GOP honcho Lou Ann Zelenik. Tracy, the early fave, may have come across as too lacking in crazy, so Black and the demagogic Zelenik have charged into the breach. The key issue seems to be who hates Obama, immigrants, and Muslims the most--although 'round here that's just one thing. Cause, you know, the grandchildren are our future. In particular, everyone seems to be going all pee-pants over the proposed building of an Islamic Center just outside the Boro. Read this for a little fear mongering--old school, yo.

I was hoping that a holiday jaunt to the SC would provide some relief. Because nothing makes TN crackpottery look mild like a trip back home. My folks' district recently sent the reliably conservative Bob Inglis to crushing primary defeat for having had the temerity to suggest that Glenn Beck might not be all that and a bag of chips. On the way, we had the pleasure of spotting this billboard on I-85 in Atlanta. Like breadcrumbs to my cottage!

The sandlapper state did not disappoint, either. Lots of nuttiness. But surprises too--what the Truckers call "the duality of the Southern thing." Turns out that the big issue in the Burg was a raging battle in the paper over whether gays were all going to burn in hell. Context: the mayor is now a guy named Junie White, who I remember as the good ol' boy owner of the Exxon station around the corner from my house growing up. Well, it seems ol' Junie proclaimed "Gay Day" and compared the gay rights cause to the Civil Rights movement--in a good way! Apparently, Junie spent much of his time at Exxon promoting racial solidarity and mentoring lost souls of many a shape and color. He also converted to his wife's Judaism at some point, and yet was none-too-impressed with local wingnut citations from Leviticus. Junie has taken a lot of heat, but I was shocked to see how much published support he was getting as well. "The Crazy" may have finally stirred the SC progressive minority from its lugubrious slumber.

Then there was church. Because what else should a good Carolina boy do first thing in the morning on July 4th? The sermon at the First Presbyterian--one of the largest congregations in town--was, not surprisingly, a classic case of politicized Christianity. Rev. Arthur had a few bones to pick. He started with the famous passage from Romans, beloved by fundies far and wide, about how government should be a "terror" to evildoers. Then he finished the section of scripture. Apparently, God wants us to respect the authorities and stop bitching about our taxes. See, Paul was in Rome, where they had "real tyrants," and he wasn't some whiny ass titty baby about it. Then, the good preacher segued into an attack on cul de sac narcissism and a celebration of sidewalks for building community, before ending with a story comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam and lamenting the human toll of war. I wonder how the rest of the flock reacted? Me? I was home at the epicenter of the Crazy.


At 3:07 PM, Blogger Gina said...

I could have sworn I saw a :30 TV spot with the Wamp family proclaiming how moral Zach is. Sure. Isn't everybody who shares an apartment with John Ensign moral? His latest ad is a tag-team lineup of C-list celebrities (C could stand for country or crazy--take your pick) extolling the virtues of Zach. They include Ricky Scaggs; John Rich of Big and Rich; the Goober Guru of the Financial World, Dave Ramsey; gospel singer Michael W. Smith; and Zach's wife and kids. At least he's good for animal husbandry. Every time he talks, goats mate.


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