From the desk in my living room – in Selbrook off Old Selma Road, just beyond the fingernails of the Montgomery city limits – I can see the world. Not literally, of course, as there’s not even a window from which to view the trickle of traffic that paces down my street, but figuratively. From this desk, as opposed to the one I once inhabited in a busy newsroom, I have the benefit of silence and time – time to calculate thoughts and retrace steps and conjure ideas. I’ve found myself more distant from politics, a game I once took great pleasure in watching. I still scan headlines and parse through news articles, well aware of the movement in Washington and the moons that surround it, but I’ve come to view American politics in much the same way that one would view a landfill – a putrid but necessary place, as long as people continue to create the refuse that fills it up.
This week I penned an article about political polling, specifically concerning the 2016 Presidential Election, and the vast number of candidates and data that one can mine while trying to keep a finger on the shaky pulse of American politics. To say that Hillary Clinton will be our next president is not a prognostication I’d like to leave from my lips into the annuls of history, but viewing the polls it seems an almost foregone conclusion. In nearly every national poll, and damn near every state poll aside from the Deep South and those that resemble it, Clinton has a decidedly significant lead over the plethora of GOP candidates vying for the spot. As I’ve noted before, Clinton would not be my first choice – the leftist Bernie Sanders falls much closer to my political leanings – but she’s got the name recognition and war coffers necessary to launch a successful campaign against nearly any foe, not to mention the moral deficiencies required to do so. And, further, the extremism that would keep most people from logging a vote in favor of Sanders is even more pungent on the other side of the aisle. The Republicans have nothing but extremists among their ranks today, all possible presidential candidates included, and not one among them is fit to lead the nation.
I’m still ambling through that powerhouse of a novel “The Kingdom and the Power” by Gay Talese and last night I watched “The Rum Diaries” based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson. While the two have no real similarities or grounds for comparison, I was able to take something similar from both. At my current place in the Talese book, the author is discussing the way the South was viewed through the lens of a Timesman during the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s and contrasting it to the same evaluation during the Civil War. Talese wrote the following about one Southern Timesman and the news of the day: “There is little resemblance between the South that Catledge knew as a boy and the South that he now read about in his newspaper – but this is, as he would not care to admit, partly the fault of journalism. Journalists concentrate on isolated incidents, current confrontations, printable news that fits – they leave historical perspective to others, and they leave the pleasanter side of any place to the memory of those who predate disorder and press coverage, people like Catledge whose South no longer exists except when resurrected by an old familiar word that jumps up at him from his newspaper, Neshoba, or when there is printed a fact or a name that is otherwise linked to the Mississippi of his mind.” For some reason that passage stuck out to me and I was reminded of it later in the day as I watched “The Rum Diaries.” At one point, Kemp is meeting with some shady moguls looking to pay him for favorable press coverage. One such mogul says the following concerning liberals: “There’s no such thing as a liberal. A liberal is a Commi with a college education thinking Negro thoughts.”
Again, why the two seemingly unrelated comments struck me the way they did is something I can’t quite explain, but they touched on several topics that are near and dear to my heart – journalism, The South, liberalism and current race relations. The South, in its own way, is still perpetuating the cycle of American racism with its continued support of the Republican Party. To say that the modern GOP is not bigoted is to ignore the reality of the modern conservative psyche – whether the response to same-sex marriage or immigrant children, today’s Republican Party is very much still in touch with its segregationist cousins of the 1960’s. Let us not forget that, at one time, it was considered against Biblical edict for blacks and whites to marry – much the same mantra being spat today in relation to same-sex marriage. That marriage is no longer an establishment overseen by the church seems lost on today’s conservatives. Further, if one takes even half a glance at conservative policy, they will find that those who benefit are largely affluent, Caucasian males. However, as deeply as it pains me to admit, journalism is likely to blame for at least part of the GOP’s image problem. Don’t misunderstand me, conservatives do a fine job of making themselves look like asses, but today’s journalists make sure that the populace notices every misstep conservatives take. Luckily for journalists, they do it frequently and with varying disregard for decency or reality.
While the last few paragraphs may undermine my allegation that I am more distanced from politics than I was as a daily reporter and columnist, I say all of that to say this – what’s the alternative? Voting is all but useless, a revelation I’ve come to lately despite years of believing the contrary. Inevitably, Americans will pass the gavel to some lunatic judge who will hand down one-sided sentences upon the heads of anyone he or she deems worthy of retribution. Voting third party is just as good as not voting. Sure, you can put a couple of numbers up on the TV screen aside your candidate’s name, a nod and a wink to your independent thinking, but the same song and dance will play out before the American populace as it has since our inception. No one is protecting the common man and no one is going to, because the common man is too foolish to bite the hand that malnourishes. The only thing that we can do, that small corner of America still interested in the welfare of our neighbor and the intelligence of our culture and the safety of our children and a perpetuation of that lost side of contemporary reality where decency and compassion still reigned supreme, is to live with a big smile and bigger heart. For some, we will try to do our piece from the news desk in the living room…