If you ignore history, it will repeat itself. You’ve all heard a variation of this famous saying. I’ve written two books, “Mirth, Wind and Ire” and More Mirth, Wind and Ire.” Each was written when a review of the columns I’d written over thirty years repeatedly showed that things I was dealing with a decade, two, even three ago were issues that were back with us like little monsters released from melting icebergs.
An incident comes to mind from the 60’s, two actually. I had taken a group of high schoolers on a graduation tour that included Gettysburg, Pa, As we wondered the sacred grounds and read about heroes, the death, the bloodshed I decided to separate from the group and left them with their chaperons while I indulged in a favorite pastime–eves-dropping.
I like to mix with the locals wherever I am. Sometimes to talk, but mostly to listen. What was the common talk from the common folk? Were they worried about the weather, the crops, the real estate market, or the coming flu season? I guess they were but that’s not what a few knots of people were talking about. It turns out that Gettysburg was Wallace Country. The talk was of integration, anti-poverty programs, and as one succinct fellow said, “The n***** gettin’ every thing they want and us payin’ for it.” Their was widespread, vocal agreement. Right there on the grounds where the war against slavery was fought.
The other incident, within a year of the first, involved a mad crush on a blue-eyed, blond haired Mississippi girl with an accent that rolled off her tongue like honey rolls from a jar. She invited me to the Mississippi v Mississsippi State game. Big doin’s in Jackson. It was a long weekend in school so I hopped on a bus and headed south. Had I read about what I would see? Of course. But when I saw them, and occasionally inadvertently violated the code, and the law, it was unreal, like I had fallen down the hole into Wonderland. Water fountains that said, “Whites only.” Bathrooms that said, “Colored” and people drifting into and out of the props of what seemed a stage play.
I got to Jackson and we were soon reunited, my nymph and I, and of course, after dropping off my bags, headed to the big pre-game party at some gigantic, loud, and very Mississippi bar. She dragged me over to meet a childhood friend who since childhood had turned into Baby Huey wearing farmer’s coveralls. His greeting? “Oh you’re Suzy’s Jew-boy from up north. Well, welcome and let me know if anyone gives you any trouble.” Southern courtesy wrapped in anti-Semitism. Another time, I’ll tell you as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.”
For now let’s turn to the front pages. President-elect Biden has a massive agenda on his hands–the economy, the virus, and yes racism. Wallace is gone and probably so is Baby Huey but they’ve left behind their droppings. And like the broomlets in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice they’ve multiplied. We are awash in racism, we are awash in people thinking African American are getting it all and they are paying for it. Open carry state’s proliferate, black men and women are shot down in suspicious circumstances instead of hanged, many by cops, and the voting suppression of the Jim Crow era is being used today as a political tool for the same thing it was then–keeping Blacks from voting.
I fear my grandchildren will grow up in a different and dangerous America. Again for another episode of, “The Rotting of America’s Innards” we’ll discuss what to do about this. For now think with Pogo about this: “I have seen the enemy, and he is us.” True that–at least from my perspective.
This grumpy post-Thanksgiving offering comes not unmindful of all we do have thanks for which we give. It also comes with a side helping of worry.
Here comes the plug. If you wnat something to lift your spirits, or the spirits of your friends there’s always, “The War of the Itchy Balls and Other Tales From Brooklyn.” Amazon–kindle or paperback. Good for what ails ya.