Alabama Goddam

In Birmingham, Alabama, Kelly Ingram Park is filled with statues. It's quite a stunning place, if you've never been. Along with large statues of Martin Luther King and other civil rights icons, there's one of four girls, representing the four who were killed in the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church, which is right there at the northwest corner of the park.

Other statues are even more moving. A water cannon is pointed at two cowering teenagers, as a reminder of how the police and authorities, under the leadership of Bull Connor, had no problem hurting kids. And there's this one:

Obviously, it represents the dogs that were used to intimidate and attack civil rights protesters. You can walk between them, and it's an eerie feeling, even in stillness, to do so.

Alabama's legacy is one of abject hatred of non-white people. And, despite the public displays that recognize that legacy, the hatred continues to this day. We can see it in the repugnant poverty that many African Americans are forced to live in all over Alabama, poverty that has led to third-world conditions and diseases. We see it in voter i.d. laws that are targeting black and Hispanic Alabamians who have less access to such i.d.'s or the transportation and funds needed to get one.

Unless some small miracle happens, Alabama, a mostly white, mostly Republican state, will elect Roy Moore, a man who, disgusting, disqualifying, and illegal sexual proclivities aside, believes that life was more civilized during the time of slavery, a man who believes that the country would be better off if the amendments to the Constitution ended at the Bill of Rights, thus leaving out the end of slavery, as well as women's right to vote and, ironically, the election of senators by popular vote. He attacks LGBT people with regularity, calling for homosexuality to be illegal and to reverse same sex marriage and rules allowing gays to serve in the military. Hell, his positions on his campaign website are barely as complex as a bumper sticker on some jerk's car. And he has broken his oath of office multiple times already.

Alabama believes, like many states in the South before it, that it has gotten past its horrific heritage, from slavery to lynchings and Jim Crow. But it hasn't. It's just come up with quieter ways to decimate and hinder the non-white population.  Even though there are lots of good people there of all races, of all economic classes, Alabama's organizing principle is still oppression of those who would challenge a straight, white, male power structure. It is more important to Alabamians to uphold that than it is to elect an accused child molester.  Doug Jones should be revered as a hero, instantly electable, for his role in prosecuting two of the perpetrators of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. Voting in Jones, the Democrat, would be a way of saying that Alabama is ready to move beyond the past. But it most definitely is not.

I'd say that Alabama needs to reflect. I'd say that Alabama needs to evolve. But it won't until demographic changes wreck that white hegemony. Until then, Alabama is a lost state, a Flying Dutchman of our racist past, damned to remind us again and again of who we really are as a country, demanding all of us to do better than Alabama.