Saturday, April 26, 2014


David Firestone of The New York Times reminds us that what he calls Cliven Bundy's "slavery nostalgia" is hardly unique to Bundy, and isn't always expressed privately, especially in the redder states:
... in the South, such sentiments are hardly unheard of, even if they are usually muttered in private over a few bourbons rather than spoken at a news conference.

Occasionally, in fact, they are expressed or embraced by public figures. A particularly relevant case started about 14 years ago, when Maurice Bessinger, owner of a chain of South Carolina barbecue restaurants called Maurice’s Piggie Park, began distributing pro-slavery tracts in his stores. One of the tracts, called the "Biblical View of Slavery," said the practice wasn't really so bad, because it was permitted in the Bible. It argued that many black slaves in the South "blessed the Lord" for their condition, because it was better than their life in Africa.

When the tract was discovered, Mr. Bessinger was denounced and his restaurants boycotted. Many retail stores pulled his distinctive (to be kind) yellow mustardy barbecue sauce from their shelves.

But one prominent South Carolinian decided to stand up for Mr. Bessinger. Glenn McConnell, then a state senator from Charleston, stocked the sauce in his Confederate "art gallery," which was loaded with secessionist flags and uniforms, as well as toilet paper bearing the image of Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. When a local power utility banned its trucks from the parking lots of Piggie Park, Mr. McConnell threatened a legislative vendetta against the company.
And the upshot? Wait for it:
Mr. Bessinger died in February. Mr. McConnell is now the lieutenant governor of South Carolina.
And not only is McConnell the lieutenant governor now -- as Firestone notes, McConnell has been handed the presidency of the College of Charleston, despite the fact that he has no relevant academic experience. There he's expected to rein in a dangerous strain of contemporary thinking, which has led to the placement of (gasp!) a lesbian-themed memoir on a voluntary reading list, and to plans for a campus performance of a play based on that memoir.

Glenn McConnell's thriving career is a reminder to me of why I automatically tune out any argument that contains the phrase "political correctness." I grant that there are things you simply "can't say," according to America's "official culture." But outside America's political and media centers, these "incorrect" ideas are loving cultivated, valorized, and carefully transmitted to future generations. That's why there are still Klansmen and neo-Nazis. That's why well-educated young men still think sexual penetration after the administration of Rohypnol or a few too many drinks is perfectly OK. That's why Silicon Valley and Internet comments sections are still hotbeds of virulent sexism. And so on. Cliven Bundy isn't a throwback. He's just a guy whose ideology usually flies under the radar. We just ignore the precincts where that ideology thrives.


Victor said...

And sadly, Steve, it's not contained in the South.

I know it was a while ago, but I'm still kind of in a state of shock from a Phillies game I went to, back in 1990.
I got a hold of some seats my company had behind 3rd base, and brought along my then girlfriend.

The GREAT Mike Schmidt had retired at the end of the last year, and the Phillies brought up young black guy named Charlie Hayes.
And he had a HELL of a spring that season.
When I went to the game in late June, he was hitting well over .300, and had double-digit HR's, and a lot of RBI. And he was playing the HELL out of 3rd base!

Well, after he struck out in the 1st, the booing started.
Then, he struck out again in the 3rd. The booing got louder.

And then, in the top of the 4th, he booted a ground ball.

Well, the same fans who booed Mike Schmidt for most of his careers, booed again - but also, and whole bunch of them started chanting the "N-word."

I turned to a neighbor and asked what the fuck was going on. 'Oh,' he said, "they do that to him all of the time, if he makes an error."

I told my girlfriend we were leaving, and as we were leaving those seats, at the top of my rather ample lungs (I inherited them from my Carnegie Hall-singing mother - not her voice, just her volume), I yelled "You stupid racist assholes, it's almost the end of the 20 Century! Shut the fuck up, AND GROW UP!!!!!'

As a few guys started coming at us, Security came running down to help escort me and my girlfriend out.

Maybe Philly is better almost 25 years later - but, I still know some people down there, and they assure me that not much has changed.

Boston is also a pretty racist town.

Hell, I heard some of this shit in NY City, when I worked and lived there.

Bigotry is a cancer that will never completely leave us.
Sad, but true.

Ken_L said...

I believe no sane person sincerely yearns for the return of slavery, although they may have a deluded belief that really it wasn't all that bad for "the Negro". The real racism in Bundy's comments was his unquestioning support for a race-based division of labour. Real men "put red meat on the table" and live in nice big ranch houses while "those people" get out there and pick the cotton before they return to their little shacks where at least they have a family to sing happy songs with. That automatic acceptance of inequality as God's plan is the true evil of Bundyism.

molly cruz said...

Cliven Bundy had a thought, clearly he hasn't had many; he thought it clever, no doubt; a connection, a different angle on yet another subject he knows nothing about, God only knows. Don't mind him; that was just Cliven Bundy, being deep.