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.