Monday, January 14, 2008

Georgia on my mind

Last week the boys were out of school so we went to Atlanta to see family.

Going to Georgia means driving through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. At some points in there I thought I was in a different country. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a Waffle House, and most of the billboards are for casinos or other gambling establishments. I stopped at a gas station in Alabama, and as I was going in, a redneck with 3 teeth and a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon was coming out. He eyed me and my wife suspiciously and said “Ya’ll ain’t from ‘round here, is you? [multiple sic]” I’m not sure what gave us away.

Atlanta is a contradiction of a city. Huge, jammed with traffic far worse even than Dallas, loaded with history and culture. They have the best aquarium I have ever been to. They are rightfully proud of Martin Luther King Jr. We visited his home and Ebenezer Baptist Church.

They are proud to have hosted the 1996 Olympics. They are also inexplicably proud of Jimmy Carter. I stood outside of the Carter Library and tried to get people to sign a petition to require that any sentence containing Jimmy Carter’s name also include the word “hapless.” It didn’t go over well. I guess that if you only have one president from your state, you take what you can get. Kind of like Arkansas, only they kicked the guy out.

But for all their pride in MLK, if you drive 15 miles east from downtown Atlanta you come to Stone Mountain, where the 90-foot-high figures of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E Lee, and Jefferson Davis are carved into the side of the mountain.

The carving was started by members of “The United Daughters of the Confederacy” in conjunction with the Klan (who regularly hold rallies there), and completed by the “Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial Advisory Committee” with the stated purpose of “honoring our heroes and preserving our legacy”. I never did figure out what is honorable or heroic about guys who divided a nation and fought a war which claimed 620,000 American lives in their attempt to perpetuate and expand slavery, but one certainly gets the feeling that they can't wait for the South to rise again and win the rematch in the Northern War of Aggression.

They would do better to honor their liberators: Grant, Sherman, and Lincoln.

In fact, there are plenty of people from Georgia worthy of honor: George Washington Carver, Eli Whitney, Clarence Thomas, and of course Newt Gingrich. I would certainly applaud a decision to dynamite the existing statue and replace it with the figure of Martin Luther King Jr.

Either that, or they could add the hapless Jimmy Carter and rename it “Georgia’s Hall of Shame.”

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