I have no headline for this, and I am pretty good at writing headlines. So there! :-)

Gimme a second and let me figure out where it starts.

People make all kinds of claims about Southern Culture. Most of those people don’t actually know what they are a talking about. The only way to know a culture is to live in it. Internalize it. So today I will try and give you a walk in my shoes.

What if you missed the Civil Rights Movement by a few short years, and you began your life thinking it was all over. Settled. Done? Because apparently everyone was now equal and we we done with all that fighting??

What if you grew up, at least at the beginning, in a household which taught you to not say the N-Word in public, but it was ok to use that word from time to time where only White People could hear?

That whole chain of logic is strange to me to this day. I wasn’t taught to not use it because it’s offensive, hurtful, and a symbol of a system of slavery which was still almost a living memory on the day I was born. I was taught not to use it because it would harm me more than help me. It was a lesson in calculated decisions.

I opened my eyes and said “Hello” to this big, beautiful world for the first time in the early 1970s if that helps. I had no idea what the fuck I was in for. I was born in Mobile, which is in Alabama, which is in the United States, which is in the Northern Hemisphere of this one planet . . . etc.

How’s that for a prologue?

Now, I don’t want to write or share the next part of this, but I am doing it anyway. And don’t applaud me until you see if there is even a next post.

The racism, sexism, ( and more and more these days) militaristic nationalism . . . They trouble me.

One of the reasons I have such a hard time just writing this shit and throwing it out there is that it’s hard to look at, and it’s even harder to acknowledge that it’s real.

But it’s real. Talking about it is better than giving it a pass, because talking about it robs it of a little bit of its power.

Know that I am on your side.

Just don’t be looking for another post from me tomorrow. These things take a long time to write. Not because I’m short on words. What I am short on, these days, is courage.

If I take this up again. I will have more to say about emotional and financial manipulation, with a heapin’ helpin’ of religious fundamentalism thrown in to, you know, save my soul.

I remember when The Christian Coalition took over the little churches and weaponized them in the service of the Reaganites. I lived through the AIDS crisis, as a child, and I am not done burying people who were older than me and were damaged by it more than me because they had a more full understanding of what was happening there.

I am not done.

These words are hard to come by these days, though. Composition time is hard to come by. But I think I have more to say.

Hello, gloves. Enjoy being on my hands for the next little while. I will take you off soon.j

Don’t go mouthing off about Southern Culture on account of things you learned about it on the teevee. Don’t give it a pass, either.

This situation is way more complicated than that.

That is all.

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Here I Go Again.

I am back to blogging for the next little while. In the early stages of laying out a project that I think will run 8-10 posts, but they’ll be laborious to write and keep to a reasonable length. I plan to finish two of them and then start publishing them weekly once I have a good start on the third.

Original photo of the flag of Mississippi, USA, taken by the author of the post years ago to illustrate an essay in which he argued that the confederate symbol should be replaced in favor of something more inclusive.
The objectionable symbol everyone is angry about appears in the top left corner. (Photo by me taken at a moment when Mississippians were all at one another’s throats about the flag. Original caption included because #context.)

Far as the topic goes. It will be an exploration of my own lived experience. It will also be an examination of the particular combination of meanness and hypocrisy that is southern conservative culture. Hopefully I’ll be able to connect both my own experience and the regional political culture to some things that are going on in the country at large right now and have been for a while.

Difficult to write, hard to let go of, uncomfortable to publish. Bound to make some folks unhappy if they read it. Absolutely necessary for me to do at this moment, whether anyone reads it or not.

Before I begin I’ma say this once, and then point back to paragraphs four through six of this post if it comes up again. I am fully aware that neither southerners nor white people have a monopoly on intolerance in this country. And also that I am quite a privileged dude, being white and male and (mostly) able to afford to keep utilities on for myself and those who depend on me for those necessities.

I will also note that if the people who depend on me for the roof and power did not find ways to buy groceries and school supplies, I’d not be able to keep all the utilities on and still buy fuel to get to work. I’m a mature, well-educated person who has never moved further away from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi than San Antonio. That little adventure only lasted about ten months.

I know where the Christian Coalition was born and I understand how it spread. I lived though it. I’ve paid my dues to the point that if criticizing one’s own culture were a privilege in this great country of ours instead of a right, I’d be privileged that way, too.

So I’ve got shit to say all summer long on this here blog, and I give absolutely zero fucks what anyone thinks about it. If you’re just checking in here because I landed in your feed for the first time since 2016 and you’re like “OH. That guy! I was fond of him! What’s he up to now?” But you have a problem with a sober, honest, angry, unequivocally negative critique of southern, conservative (and by extension bigoted, mean-spirited, self-dealing and short-sighted) political culture . . .

. . . your safest course is to get the hell out and not come back until you see a headline at the top of the page which clearly indicates I’m done with this and have lowered the intensity back into the normal range. No hard feelings & no disrespect to you personally intended. Scout’s honor.

If you’re interested this content, or if you’re disinterested but genuinely glad I’m back because you missed me, you should comment on this post and let me know. Comments will be disabled before I post here again.

Done.

To the Publishers and Editors of the United States: An Open Letter

russian-billboard_getty

Dear Friends and Former Colleagues,

Donald Trump has been dominating news coverage for so long now, the stories have become predictable. There is a larger story about this election playing out which no news organization seems to be taking advantage of. Whoever breaks this story first is going to regain a lot of reader trust and generate a lot of internet clicks.

There are Pulitzers and book deals here in the offing for an enterprising journalist. All that journalist has to do to win them is find the truth and report it honestly. I’ve put together a list of facts to help you on your way.

1. The New York Times has published a long, well-detailed story about President-Elect Trump’s potential conflicts of interest which stem from his business relationships abroad. Time  and The Washington Post have published accounts Mr. Trump’s connections to Russia  and admiration of Vladimir Putin.

2. On Nov. 28, 14 members of the U.S. House Oversight Committee communicated a letter to Chairman Jason Chaffetz requesting that the committee begin a review of Mr. Trump’s finances “in order to identify and protect against conflicts of interest.” Ranking Member Elijah Cummings requested this review two weeks prior, and as of Nov. 28. had received no response from the chairman. The letter of Nov. 28 states that the Committee’s offices have received more calls from citizens asking for this investigation than they have ever received about any other issue.

3. On Nov. 29, seven members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence requested in writing that President Obama take steps to declassify information about Russian involvement in the recent Presidential election. The letter was made public.

senate_russiaAt the very least, this is notable enough to warrant front-page coverage. Intelligence matters are typically negotiated privately. It is highly unlikely that seven senators would make such a communication public unless they were sure the information requested includes facts the American people should have access to immediately. See Rachel Maddow’s report on 12/1 and Spencer Ackerman’s “Senators call for declassification of files on Russia’s Role in US election” in The Guardian to confirm the facts.

The overseas relationships and the Russian manipulation of the election must intersect somewhere. Follow the money.

If I were a publisher, I’d commit serious editorial resources to investigating all this. I would be investing money into the effort. I would have my best people on it and I’d be looking for a long series of front-pagers or cover stories.

The direction of U.S. policy for decades to come, the well-being of future generations, and the survival of press freedom may very well turn on the decisions we make about how we respond to this situation.

Sincerely,

Gene’O

-ed. The Trump/Putin billboard was captured in Macedonia last month by both Getty and Reuters and is verified as authentic by Snopes. The Getty version appears here. I’ve seen several other examples of this sort of imagery from Russia and the former Soviet sphere of influence in the last couple of months.