California be damned. Every rich moron and pathetic doofus in the Golden State may be running for governor these days, but a howling mob of good Christian people in Alabama is doing its level best to turn them all into yesterday’s news. Their leader, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court, has made it clear that the Heart of Dixie will brook no competition in the race to rock bottom.
Thanks to him, the Alabama Taliban thinks it can walk on water.
Wearing two-and-a-half-ton granite shoes.
In Rome they threw Christians to the lions. In Circus Maximus Mongomericus, they throw red meat to Christian fundamentalists.
A couple of years ago I went online and checked out an Alabama politics newsgroup. “Increase Your Child’s IQ by up to Eight Points!” screamed one poster. Another called for public executions of school kids who are violent.
Moore’s Monument may have been rolled away, but how long do you think it will stay in the closet before he rolls it out again? Pity the road crew if he takes the thing on tour.
When I was at Birmingham-Southern College, the SAEs had a couple of stone lions guarding the frat house. Another fraternity would cover them in paint from time to time. On one occasion the lions disappeared entirely, only to be recovered from the bottom of the Cahaba River. Rumor had it that the next stage in the fraternal escalation would involve dynamite.
It was fun to image the offending fraternity rival going to a job interview in later years: “Yes sir, well, I’ve had some experience dynamiting lions…”
The part of Montgomery where Alabama governs itself was originally known as Goat Hill. Long before George Corley Wallace (or Jefferson Davis) climbed it, politicians railed against “the Tariff of Abominations” and other betes-noires. On one memorable day they passed legislation making it a capital offense to put salt on a railroad track. (The law is still on the books.) This was before candidates discovered that campaigns are most successfully waged when they are about nothing, nothing at all.
Uncomfortable discussing taxes, NAFTA and the Tariff of Abominations? Relax, just talk about the Ten Commandments, flag burning, gay marriage, prayer in the schools.
The last anybody outside the South heard of Alabama state politics before Judge Moore came along was when Lt. Gov. Steve Windom, Republican, was caught relieving himself under the podium in a water-cooler jug so he wouldn’t have to relinquish the floor during a filibuster. The receptacle became known as the Confederate Battle Jug.
Then there was former Gov. “Fumblin’ Fob” James, who was overheard cursing in the legislature — in support of school prayer. “No one has a greater appreciation for a classical education as I do, ” declared Gov. James on one occasion. He also said, “I didn’t descend from an ape.”
Which was almost as good as the time Lester Maddox of Georgia said, “If elected, I will disintegrate the schools.”
Judge Moore reminds many people of that other little banty rooster from Alabama, George Corley Wallace, who stood famously in the schoolhouse door, founded the American Independent Party and ran for president with Gen. Curtis “Bomb ’em Back to the Stone Age” LeMay stalking at his side.
The similarities between Moore and Wallace, while striking, are superficial. The differences are profound.
True, both Moore and Wallace are products of Alabama, have defied federal law and led populist revolts. It is hard to imagine either of them smiling. But George Wallace’s appeal was never especially religious. He showed little interest in setting up a quasi-theocracy and did not routinely claim to be defending the Almighty.
Nor, at the same time, has anyone heard Roy Moore intimate, as Wallace daily did, that he sees “not a dime’s worth of difference” between Democrats and Republicans.
Judge Moore’s antics seem more closely related to the infamous Brooksville Experiment and the impetus behind it than to the Wallace movement.
In the northern part of the state, near Decatur, some people wanted to carve a new town out of Priceville a few years ago. The few houses and trailer homes scattered along a stretch of road were henceforth to be called Brooksville. According to stated plan, the only law would be the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus, as set forth in the Authorized King James Bible. The town would have a volunteer mayor and no other officials. Everybody would just get a gun and protect one another.
A Probate Judge shot down the idea on technicalities. Brooksville was quickly forgotten after an amusing paragraph or two in the New York Times. However, the impetus behind it did not simply fade away.
Brooksville is the nation in miniature in the eyes of religious fundamentalists, who have been trying to take over local, state, and national institutions for a long time — almost 400 years as a matter of fact, ever since Governor William Bradford and the Puritans of Plymouth Colony apoplectically objected to non-fundamentalists taking the day off from work to observe Christmas, an event Puritans regarded as a pagan if not popish holiday.
Among the abominations America’s founding fundamentalists couldn’t stand was, of course, the King James Bible (named in honor of the flaming homosexual monarch who “authorized” it — i.e., put up the money for the translation). Did the would-be founders of Brooksville know King James once fell in love with a page boy in the kitchen and created him Duke of Buckingham? Does Judge Moore?
Alas, if you think the idea of modern fundamentalists forming their own little town is funny, try laughing about this: they already control a great many school boards, giving them the power to decide what our children will and won1t be taught. They have elected hundreds of judges. Politicians everywhere must placate them daily. “Moderate” religious “leaders” are loathe to confront them in public. They are the loudest voice in many state legislatures, and no Republican presidential candidate would dare repudiate them. Instead, we get George W. Bush, who ran for office lecturing the poor on their responsibilities, proclaiming that the American people1s hearts aren1t right and campaigning at Bob Jones University.
The character Miles Brand (played by Lawrence Harvey) in the camp classic film “Darling” was said to be “impotent everywhere but in bed.” Judge Moore, who is articulate everywhere except when speaking or writing, evidently intends to make a public appearance or hold a press conference about every ten minutes for the rest of his life. The energy expended on setting up and tearing down his many-microphoned podium could have removed that granite monstrosity a dozen times by now.
This is all happening at a time when Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, another Republican, is trying to pass a $1.2 billion “tax and accountability package.” The bill, 594 pages long, will be voted up or down in a statewide referendum on Sept. 9. Meanwhile, the monument may be gone for now, but the Alabama Taliban is no more defeated than its Afghan counterpart.
DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, just released a scorching new CD, Way Down Here.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit his website at http://www.rebelangel.com