Welcome to the tenth installment of “Other News from Around the Deep South,” my quarterly look at regional news stories that may not have received so much attention.
To get things started we have al.com’s coverage of an Oklahoma man who was told by God to quit his job at TruGreen lawn service and carry a cross around the country. Marc Bounds, who prefers to be called Paul after the apostle whose letters appear in the New Testament, passed through the Birmingham area last summer with his homemade cross, which stands eight-feet-four-inches tall and weighs about 150 pounds. The image accompanying the article shows Bounds with this cross, which appears to have a bicycle-like apparatus attached to it. Not only is Bounds dedicated to his religion, he’s also pretty crafty:
The top compartment [of the cross] contains a tent that he sets up to sleep in most nights. The sides contain lanterns. The bottom part of the cross, a six-foot section, contains his clothes, a Bible, toiletries and food, such as Vienna sausages, vacuum-packed fruit salad and beef jerky.
Despite the hardships of being homeless, Bounds had been having trouble with fire ants and with “a stress fracture in his right leg.” We wish him the best!
In much darker news, a nineteen-year-old woman in Fosters, Alabama was arrested last summer for (allegedly) asking a man she met on Facebook to kill her aunt, who the teenager lived with, according to a story also from al.com. The young woman’s personal problems grew into something much worse, because she didn’t know that the would-be killer was actually her aunt (the one she wanted dead) who had created a fake profile – “Tre ‘Topdog’ Ellis” – to track her niece’s bad behavior.
According to the deposition, less than a day after Williams was contacted by ‘Tre,’ she had given the fake man the address of her aunt’s house, invited him to come get drunk and offered to have sex with him if he would pay her $50 cell phone bill.
Reading this, I was left wondering, Who is her carrier? My cell phone bill is way more than $50.
Leaving Alabama, and moving on to larger issues: on July 31, Slate.com ran an article titled “Mississippi’s Willful Neglect” about that state’s “refusal” to implement the reforms in the Affordable Healthcare Act. After Gov. Phil Bryant said no to such ideas as expanding Medicaid and setting up healthcare exchanges, writer Jamelle Bouie tell us: “As of this month, Mississippi has an uninsured rate of more than 21 percent, a 3.34 percentage-point increase over the previous year.” The long-form piece goes on to explain how, in some states, the Affordable care Act is “failing” because it was never put into action— how can it work if you won’t even try it? Bouie also carries us beyond Mississippi into Alabama and Louisiana, states with similar approaches to “Obamacare.”
But it’s not all gloom-and-doom in Mississippi these days. The Clarion-Ledger reported in August that the University of Mississippi – affectionately called “Ole Miss” – is the #16 “party school” in the nation, according to the Princeton Review! Woohoo! Yeah, well, that’s not all. According to the same report, they are also #2 in “students studying the least” and “#18 for Greek Life.” Woohoo! again. Ole Miss was given props for being “green” and for having a “beautiful campus.” Woohoo! a third time. But the school bears the dubious distinction of being “unfriendly” to the LGBTQ community. Wait— what? So, the takeaway might be: these rankings portray Ole Miss as a lovely haven for virulently heterosexual frat types who like to party and recycle but who don’t like studying . . .
Keeping one foot in Mississippi but traveling up to Tennessee, the Clarion-Ledger also reported in mid-August about new developments in the Southern Baptist agenda. The story begins:
NASHVILLE – Southern Baptist Convention leaders know they have lost the culture war on same-sex marriage, but now they’re turning their attention inside the church to get congregants to marry younger.
According to the article, the Southern Baptists used to encourage young people to get themselves established “financially” and then marry. The shift came in a realization of what they might be telling young people: that “finances are more important than sexual sin, and the Bible seems to say the exact opposite of that,” said one quoted source. So all you Southern Baptists out there need to quit that hanky-panky and put a ring on it!
Also from Tennessee, we’ve got an early August story whose Slate.com headline I couldn’t resist: “The End of a Click-Friendly, Anti-Gay, Holocaust-Trolling Republican State Legislator.” The writer, David Weigel, picked up news of Republican hopeful Stacey Campfield due to the candidate’s position on certain key issues. According to Weigel, Campfield even “compared Obamacare signups to willfull participation in the Holocaust.”
Moving eastward into South Carolina, in August the folks at Slate.com also gave a momentary spotlight to the Gullah and Geechee people. This article focuses mainly on a new book about these long-standing coastal people, but between the fairly brief text and the images included, people who knew nothing about the Gullah and Geechee people— well, they could get a decent sense of who they kind of are. (For somebody who wants to know more than this piece offers, I like the book God, Dr. Buzzard and the Bolito Man by Cornelia Walker Bailey.)
Also in coastal South Carolina, the Myrtle Beach columnist Issac Bailey shared his opinions in early October piece about the causes du jour in “South Carolina to continue fight it has lost, this time same-sex marriage, not the Civil War.” He wrote:
Oh yeah, that’s right we are. And Brian Lawson of al.com was writing about them in mid-September in “Alabama’s official reasoning for the state ban on same-sex marriage.” This article regards a lawsuit filed by a Montgomery man who is suing over spousal rights for his late partner, which effectively challenges Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban, and the state’s response to his suit. After summing up the state’s five points of objection to the plaintiff’s claim, Lawson explains:
The two sides filed a joint brief saying they’d held settlement talks in good faith. But, both sides also agreed that in a case challenging the constitutionality of state law, “settlement is not a possibility, and mediation is not likely to be helpful.”
So no middle ground. None.
And that seems to be an appropriate place to leave this (and any) discussion of what’s going on around the Deep South.