Monday, November 17, 2008

The More Things Change...

The Huntsville (Alabama) Times ponders why Alabama overwhelmingly voted for John McCain in this past Presidential election. The conclusions drawn in this article are that race was a factor in voting patterns and that although racial dynamics came into play, racism played a much smaller part of the whole scheme of things. I point this out because I get very tired of self-righteous people stating with self-satisfied smugness that the South has a monopoly over racism. In my travels north, I've found racism in greater quantity in some places in the North.

Much of the south has remained insular and removed from the more cosmopolitan elements of Northern cities, meaning that in the case of Birmingham, where I live, everything becomes a black versus white issue. Black politicians have kept their power base by inflaming racial tensions to get themselves elected and white politicians have done the very same to their bloc of voters. Sadly, a state of mutual paranoia exists where we would be better served by forgetting the historical stalemate and substantial violence of the past by simply moving past it. Unlike many observers, I don't take sides in this Pyrrhic battle---I think everyone involved, regardless of skin color has proved themselves equally ridiculous in the proceedings.

I've had conversations with small town Alabama residents and recognized quite quickly in the discussion that their viewpoints have never been challenged. They hold fast to a few well-worn talking points and leitmotifs, but at no point has anyone given them reason doubt their time-honored positions. By contrast, since I've been up here in DC, which is a solidly Democratic, solidly liberal area with a tremendous amount of wealth, opportunity, and education I recognize all that the intersection of wealth, opportunity, and education in a concentrated area can produce. While the benefits are thrilling, I think at times people who have so very much forget, in their desire to point fingers and condemn those who do not think as they do, how much they have in comparison to so many others.

Even in times of economic recession, they have more than many other regions of the country (and certainly many nations of the world) combined. If each of us had the same opportunities afforded to us, then what a different world this would be. When Jesus said, "the poor will always be with you", I don't think he meant that somehow this was the way things were supposed to be, always. Indeed, if all people lived a virtuous life, there would be no poverty in the world whatsoever. This goes well beyond advocacy work on behalf of the poor. That in and of itself is good, but is insufficient. What is called for is a total change in mindset and mentality. Those around us are poor in many ways beyond having no money: poor in spirit, poor in morality, poor in ignorance, poor in judgment. I maintain, and I maintain strongly, if we saw to these problems as we should, how much better everyone's lifestyle would be in the process.


Anonymous said...

It's so true! They really are not used to having their views challenged. And they do not like it. We think we've lost friends over this election. How sad is that?

Utah Savage said...

Preaching to the choir, honey. What can we say to those with this narrow mindset? And how do we reset our priorities to make these changes? First we need to change the tax code and hopefully that's coming. But it will take a massive group hug to change minds. The ignorant poor white in the South has been voting against his own economic interests because of "family values." How do we change this mindset? How do we become the party of a new kind of family values that embraces the idea that all of us have a right to marry or adopt children or marry someone of another race?

I'm horrified that in this day and age we are still so homophobic as to want to deny these citizens who are our neighbors, children, siblings their civil rights.