When raising my daughter, and questioned by her as to why we seemed so often besieged by the de-evolved, the divergent, yea even the demented, I would respond that the trouble was that we had, for our sins, been sentenced to live in “the Alabama portion of California.”
For ours is not the California of popular imagination, of beatniks and hippies and free speech and libertines and mystics and tree-huggers and sixth-dimensional soft-ware engineers. Oh no. Ours instead a place settled by dour plodders, trailing Puritan chains, who’d sojourned to the Golden State from the South and the Midwest, their “California Dreamin'” a place of no blacks and no Jews and no homos and no Weird White Kids, with just Mexicans enough to work the fields, so long as they keep their mouths shut. Wedded to “Gods, Guts, and Guns,” as one officeseeker here once put it, painting said slogan—in red, white, and blue, natch—on good-sized rocks, which he distributed to would-be constituents, urging them to hurl the things through the windows of his home, should he be selected to serve, and then fail in his Duty. “Guts” and “guns” self-explanatory, “God” defined as a more or less eternally pissed-off fellow who hates fucking but indulges killing, and who created the whole shootin’ match some 6000 or so years ago, at which time he set Adam and Eve to riding dinosaurs to church.
So when I read this morning that Alabama gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne had commenced the St. Vitus Dance, upon being accused by an opponent of believing in science, I felt an instant kinship—why, he sounds like the sort who’d be beloved by folks around here.
The first Europeans to settle in Alabama were apparently the French, but they got out in 1763, and it’s been pretty much downhill ever since. The state is known as “The Heart of Dixie,” which isn’t exactly something to be proud of, and is also nicknamed “The Yellowhammer State,” which sounds faintly menacing. The word “Alabama” itself is believed to have originated in the Choctaw language, but today nobody really knows what it means. Some think it denotes “Place of Rest,” which Mean People claim references a place where brains go to sleep.
Alabama did manage to start up a public-school system after the Civil War, although such a thing is still regarded with deep suspicion by many Albaamaha (plural of Albaamo, which is the proper way to reference an Alabama resident). As witness candidate Byrne’s avowal that, as a member of the Alabama Board of Education, he had doggedly, devoutly worked to scrub the curriculum of such godless Yankee nonsense as science.
As a Christian and as a public servant, I have never wavered in my belief that this world and everything in it is a masterpiece created by the hands of God. As a member of the Alabama Board of Education, the record clearly shows that I fought to ensure the teaching of creationism in our school textbooks. Those who attack me have distorted, twisted and misrepresented my comments and are spewing utter lies to the people of this state.
Byrne went on to stress that not only is he a God-fearin’ man who believes Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church, but that, in his considered godly opinion, absolutely every word in the bible is literally the God’s truth, and, furthermore, he don’t do shit unless the Lord tells him to.
I believe the Bible is the Word of God and that every single word of it is true. From the earliest parts of this campaign, a paraphrased and incomplete parsing of my words have been knowingly used to insinuate that I believe something different than that. My faith is at the center of my life and my belief in Jesus Christ as my personal savior and Lord guides my every action.
With flecks of foam appearing at the corners of his mouth, and shaking a snake in each fist, Byrne continued:
With the despicable lies launched today, the powerful government insiders and deceitful political operatives that run Montgomery stooped to a new low, and I believe the people of Alabama will repudiate them in no uncertain terms. Faith in God is at our core in Alabama. Our spiritual beliefs and dependence on our creator and savior make us who we are, and determine our collective character. This personal attack on my faith is an affront to all believers, not just me.
Byrne’s opponents include Tim James, who is appealing to voters with ads which decree “We Speak English. If You Want to Live Here, Learn It,” and Roy Moore, the unrepentant theocrat who as chief justice of the state high court hauled a massive rock bearing the Ten Commandments into the state judicial building, and then defied federal court orders to remove it; the rock was eventually removed, and so was Moore.
Why should any of us give two shits for this freakish froot loop out there in Alabama, hooting down science? Because over the past several decades the American people have shown a bottomless capacity to muck into office persons of the most profound ignorance. I never believed that anyone as dumb as Ronald Reagan would ever again be elected president: then lo, you all let there be George II. Slouching now across our land is Sarah Palin, who, in contrast to Reagan and George II, who at least tried to “pass,” makes a veritable fetish of her ignorance, and may very well be propelled into office by legions of knuckledraggers sick and tired of the smart black man, and seeking to represent them someone just as stone-stupid as they are. Maybe this Byrne fellow would make a fine veep.
There is also what John Donne wrote, back there in 1624, in “Meditation 17” of his Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. Many people think these words arrived as a poem, though they did not—prose all the way—but then many things many people think, are, as, to wit, Mr. Byrne of the Yellowhammer State . . . divergent.
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s ignorance diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the knuckles drag; they drag for thee.
Maybe some Randy Newman:
“Deacon Blues,” that mentions Alabama; excuse enough here to post it.