Some Other News from Around the Deep South #8

Welcome to the eighth installment of “Some Other News from Around the Deep South!” This one’s a good’un, with lots to talk about, so stick around.

The first order of business is the support by Deep Southern legislatures in Alabama and Mississippi for medical marijuana oil— yes, that’s right, I just used the words support, Deep Southern, legislatures and marijuana all in the same sentence! To top it off, similar legislation in Georgia nearly passed as well. Supposedly, you can’t get high off the stuff they legalized, which is a medical treatment for some seizure disorders. But as soon as I heard about it, I was picturing a militant stoner, like Charles de Mar in Better Off Dead, trying to figure out how to score gallon jugs of the stuff. This is – for now – about as close as the ultra-conservative Deep South is going to get to legalizing pot.

Jackson, Mississippi’s Clarion-Ledger reported this about their state legislature’s bill:

Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune, told his colleagues his young son “had three seizures this morning; it’s not yet even noon.” Formby, a conservative lawmaker who has pushed for tougher laws and penalties for illegal drug use, said he supported the bill.

In a general similarity, Alabama’s bill, dubbed Carly’s Law, was passed for a three-year-old girl (the daughter of a police officer) with a seizure-causing condition, according to what the UPI reported. And an AP wire story about the February lead-in to the situation also explains Georgia’s near-miss bill; the state senate passed it, but it died as the session dwindled and ended.

But let’s not be too hasty about a Deep Southern trend toward anything remotely progressive. Story #2 this time: back in late March, a Biloxi, Mississippi TV news anchor was chided for a Facebook post (on his personal page, not the station’s) in which he discussed being tired of coverage of LGBT issues, suggesting they all take a “gaycation.” According to a report from The Advocate website in late March, anchor Dave Elliott reiterated his supported for gay rights in his post, but his TV station still “distanced itself from Elliott’s comments.” Yet another instance of how, when we post things to social media, they truly are there for the whole world to see.

In a similarly un-PC story, in late March, the University of Alabama’s Student Government Association voted down a measure that would have fully supported the racial integration of its fraternities and sororities. The university got national attention back in September 2013 for sorority-related racial issues, which were of particular interest because 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of George Wallace’s symbolic 1963 Stand in the Schoolhouse Door. The matter last fall sparked campus protests and (I’m sure) many, many informal discussions in Tuscaloosa. NBC’s The Grio reported:

According to the paper, Chisholm Allenlundy, one of the resolution’s sponsors, thinks it may have failed to pass due to some of the Greek senators, who may have felt the specific wording was too critical of the Greek system.

Now, now, we wouldn’t want to be critical of the fraternity/sorority system . . .

From Greeks to guns, while the Georgia legislature couldn’t all agree on the medical marijuana thing, they did agree that people should be allowed to bring guns almost anywhere— except for the state capitol or other government buildings, where they work. An op-ed in the New York Times from March 25 points out the dualistic thinking: the recent bill allows guns to be carried into more places, including bars and “unsecured areas of airports,” but they write, “Georgia lawmakers were careful to continue to ban the carrying of weapons in government buildings with security checkpoints, like the Capitol itself, though guns are welcomed in buildings without screening.” So they want to allow people in Georgia to carry guns into more places freely, but made sure not to allow the guns near themselves . . .

Continuing on the theme of political shenanigans, in early April, Charleston, South Carolina’s City Paper ran a story about a College of Charleston student named Ashley Sprouse who took on her legislator on Twitter over remarks that he made about a graphic novel, Fun Home, being used in a campus reading program. According to the article’s lead sentence, SC legislators Garry Smith and Tommy Stringer cut $52,000 in funding from College of Charleston over the book choice. I’m not even going to try to summarize the back-and-forth that occurred on Twitter – you can read the article for yourself – but Sprouse had this assessment in the City Paper article:

But it has become apparent that Smith and those who voted to pull $52,000 in funds to CofC because of Fun Home do not understand that nor do they understand the importance of academic freedom.

Personally, I can’t imagine a Deep Southern politician trying to squelch what he half-understood or using his office to maneuver a vindictive power-play, can you?

Finally on the political front, South Carolina’s former US senator Jim DeMint (now the head of the conservative Heritage Foundation) was chided by The New Yorker‘s Adam Gopnik in an April 11 blog for comments that he made about slavery and “big government.” (Gopnik wasn’t the only one who jumped in, but his summary of the opposition to DeMint’s remarks can be pretty good one-stop shopping for a browsing reader.) From TNY‘s blog, DeMint said:

“no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves,” since, in truth, it was achieved by Christians acting on their own, vibrating in mysterious harmony with the Constitution. “The move to free the slaves came from the people, it did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people.”

This argument-rebuttal scenario is another in a long line of debates over the cause of the Civil War. One side claims “states rights” and the other retorts “slavery.” The dismal truth is: since the Civil War, no credible Southerner has been willing to stand up and proclaim proudly, Hell yeah, we wanted to keep the slaves! Having slaves was awesome! It would be a morally repugnant public position, so we’ve been enduring a century-and-a-half of subterfuge instead. Apparently, for some people, even a 21st-century post-Civil Rights, post-PC, multicultural public consciousness will not quell the urge to continue denying the abundantly obvious truths of the causes of the American Civil War.

As always, I like to end on a fairly positive note (when there is one). In mid-April, Grammy Award winner and north Alabama native John Paul White (of The Civil Wars) taught a workshop called “Surviving the New World in the Music Business” at the University of North Alabama, which he attended. Local TV station WAFF ran a short piece on their website about the workshop. UNA has a Music Business program within its Department of Music and Theatre. It was very cool of the hometown-boy-made-good to share some insights with those students!

That’s all I’ve got for right now. Y’all take care!

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