Sunday, July 06, 2003

Bookends, Part 1

Our trip was fun, yada yada yada and all that, but two experiences right at the beginning and right at the end got me thinking...

Thinking about how much further we still have to go in dealing with bigotry and racism in this country.

Saturday the 28th we drove through South Carolina on the way to Hilton Head and stopped at Maurice's Barbecue. This is a 61-year-old institution in S.C., with several restaurants scattered throughout the state and beyond, probably. My wife had stopped in there on a previous trip and we decided to give it a try.

Maurice Bessinger started the chain many years ago, and his face and influence still play a large part in the place's notoriety. Trouble is, crazy old Maurice is one of those "Southern Heritage" good-old-boys. You know the ones, they proudly fly their Confederate Stars-n-Bars, and insist on the absolute soveriegnty of the states rights over the good of the country. Maurice was instrumental in the fight to keep the Confederate flag part of the S.C. state flag and keep it flying over the capital building in Columbia. He once pulled down the US Flag and raised the Confederate and S.C. state flags in its place to protest the state's interpretation of the 10th amendment.

His restaurant and his website have "Truth Stores", where you can buy his book (only $19.95 plus shipping!) and other gems such as "The South Was Right", and "Myths and Realities of American Slavery", and "Arguing the Case for Southern Secession"...not to mention picking up the latest in Confederate flags, "10th Amendment Heritage Protector" T-Shirts, and CSA Songbooks.

Now, I'm Southern-born, Southern-bred and I'll be Southern till I die - but I'm an American first, Tennesseean second and Southerner third. This kind of anti-patriotism makes me sick, and makes me wonder about what nightmares people like this have at night - nightmares of Federal Policemen coming in the middle of the night to dissolve the state boundaries and chain us up in the yokes of governmental oppression. We've seen here locally what paranoia of what the government might do to you can cause - the traumitization of a high-school girl.

Interestingly, although the website boasts a plethora of statements, fact-sheets, press releases, diatribes and other musings by Maurice and others about the issue regarding state's rights, they never come out and print the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution. I'll do it here, for completeness:


The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Now, I'm no Constitutional scholar and don't pretend to understand all the nuances intended by the Founding Fathers or interpreted by the courts since it was written, but it seems to me mostly the amendment says that where there is not a specific federal regulation, the states are free to create their own

When the Constitution was written, the 13 colonies were likely more like the European Union is today - different people of different cultural backgrounds, settled by people from different foreign countries and possesing different ideals. It probably made sense back then to keep a lot of power in the hands of the individual states and not the federal government.

But things are much different now. Aside from accents and some customs, things are pretty much the same in Portland, OR as they are in Austin, TX as they are in Knoxville, TN as they are in Hackensack, NJ. People go to work, go to school, jog in the parks, play baseball, go to the movies, see plays, eat at McDonalds pretty much the same way all over.

That's because with our communication and travel abilities being the way they are today, Americans move from place to place very easily. Just in the past month I've been to Clarksville TN, Las Vegas NV and Hilton Head SC. By way of Savannah/Atlanta and whatever little town in SC that had the Maurice's.

America has been shaken to its roots in the last two years. A lot of people have had to do some soul-searching about what it means to be an American. For the first few months after 9/11, we saw US Flags on every car, every house until it became a status symbol. While it eventually became excessive, it did show who we are - how people who'd never visited New York or Washington grieved for the people in the planes and in the buildings as if they were their own family. I know I did.

The 21st Century in America is not the time to worry about the divine right of full state soveriegnty and Confederacy. Keep it in the 19th century where it belongs - a relic of history.

We are one.

Tomorrow I'll post Part 2, about the incident on the return trip.