General Commentary (May be military related) email: Kudzuacres1@juno.com
Thursday, December 12, 2002
I still run across people who truly believe that everyone was happy in the old South. My family was white and lower middle class at best. My Dad worked construction and drove trucks most of his life and Mom worked in small businesses such as laundries and cafes most of her life. They had a little land and we were fortunate to live near Huntsville, Alabama where in the 1950s and 60s, there seemed to always be construction work available. In 1963, Dad got me a job working as a laborer at the company he was working for at the time. I worked in a paving crew throwing shovels of asphalt into holes left by the paving machine. It was hot, dirty, physically demanding work. There were four laborers in the crew, another summer worker, two black guys and me. The black guys were the hardest working men in the crew. The younger was about thirty, married with five children. The older man was in his sixties and had raised a family working on the farm of one of the company owners and in the construction company. Over the summer, I learned that he had been the first employee of the construction company other than the two owners. I also noticed that he was a much better paving machine operator than the white guy who had the job. In fact, several times a day, he would climb up on the machine and adjust it so we did not have to throw so much asphalt by hand. Yet, he earned less than half what the "operator" did.
One afternoon toward the end of summer as we were driving home, I asked my Dad why my black friend wasn't the operator. He said "He is a Negro" as if that explained everything. We lived in a totally white area of Alabama. Marcus was the first black person I had ever talked to. I had never before seen the discrimination so common at the time. I decided right then that all the crap coming from George Wallace and others of his ilk was just that, crap.
My friend never got the job he deserved because he was black. He was good enough to work on the owner's farm and his wife was good enough to take care of the owner's kids and cook his meals, but they were not good enough to get the better paying jobs simply because they were black.
Whenever someone tries to tell me how good the Old South was, I tell them about Marcus and ask them to explain what happened to him. No one has ever tried. Even the most bigoted have no answer as to why a company would not put the best available person in each job.
Idiocy, I guess.
Wednesday, December 11, 2002
I see that Billy Joe Bob has some comments on Trent Lott.
Terry Oglesby has a post on the bollweevil monument in Enterprise, Alabama. I have always thought that the bollweevil monument was a great example of people in Alabama recognizing that the things of the past no longer worked and that it was time to move on. Reading the article, I see that not everyone was willing to give up on cotton even when alternatives were provided.In my little North Alabama neighborhood, farmers continued to plant cotton long after they ceased to have a chance of turning a profit. One man continued to plant into the '90s, but didn't pick his acre. When asked about it, he said that his daddy, granddaddy and great-granddaddy all planted cotton and so would he as long as he farmed.
Trent Lott's recent comments about Strom Thurman reminded me of the old farmer. It seems that some people are incapable of recognizing when something has outlived any usefulness it may have ever had. There was a time when Jim Crow was useful to the South's politicians in that it allowed them to play the different non-powerful peoples against each other for political gain. Never think that any of it was about anything but power. Lott dosesn't seem to have the intelligence to realize that the days are gone when the majority of Southern whites perk up at comments about how good the old days were. Pockets of ignorance remain, but on the whole, Southerners have realized that keeping a portion of the population down harms us all. We do not longingly look back at the days of George Wallace, Strom Thurman, Bull Connor and others of that ilk. We are happy with the new South and are ready for politicans such as Trent Lott to move on so that the rest of us can build a society where every person can reach for their potential without idiots imposing unnatural barriers.
Billy Joe Bob has the story of the great bank robbery. He insists that this actually happened. I wasn't around the old home town when then, but it sounds like something that would happen there. We definitely have our share of characters.