Manifest Destiny: The South has gotta go

My wife and I have been to New Orleans several times, and have always loved it. We spent three months in San Antonio before I shipped out to Vietnam, and, despite the ominous clouds, we had a great time there. Don’t know what the heck Florida is, but we’ve been there, too, and had fun. I have friends who are born Southerners; went to college with a bunch of them as well. Nice people. Decent, generous, smart. But dang! If we don’t cut the South loose, we’re not gonna survive as a country. Give ‘em a pat on the head, sign a couple of trade agreements, a treaty here and there for this and that. But get them the heck out of our country and its politics. Let them think it was their idea. Invite our folks who agree with them down there. Bring here the ones from there that don’t. Pay their fares, each way. Seriously. It’s manifest destiny.

Sure, we have our share of nutjobs of all political stripes around here; and if Idaho had pontoons, I’d float it down there next to Texas. California probably deserves its reputation for creating its own reality. But I don’t think our legislatures would ever do what North Carolina’s just did: put forth a bill to create a state religion, effectively declaring the Constitution null and void. Yep, that’s what they did.

Not coincidentally, I’ve just written about that: in our politics there are two different ways of looking at things (for one side, it’s more like ignoring than looking at), and there’s getting to be no path to reconciliation. The South will keep electing people like Louie Gohmert and Virginia Foxx and Paul Broun and Ted Cruz. And because our founders, despite misgivings about the masses, didn’t foresee such wanton disregard for reality, such rejection of the very foundations of democracy including education and an inquisitive press, our constitution gives to those people the power to gum up the works, no matter how few of them there are.

Throughout the South, state legislatures are controlled by Republicans, of the type that want a bible-based theocracy; that see public education as a threat; that, while claiming distrust of government, believe it should peer into bedrooms, prevent voting by minorities, and decide whether science is allowed to be taught. Texas, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, has some sort of stranglehold on textbooks for the rest of the country. We need all the smart kids we can get; and refusing to let them learn about science, and teaching them made-up and made-down history is hardly the best way to achieve that. We can’t prevent Texas and Georgia from producing all the endumbed reactionaries they want: kids who’ll watch Fox “news” and be unable to separate truth from fiction, even if they wanted to, which they won’t. But that’s the kind of representatives they’re sending to Washington D.C. lately, and it’s killing us.

It’s important to have steely-eyed and energetic discussions, disagreements over the best policies. But when the people elected from the South to engage in such matters are simply lunatics who, by their own descriptions, believe science is the work of the devil, that gay marriage will lead to bestiality and (not kidding here) gun control, how can there be any progress? When a Georgia Republican leader, following in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan (who frequently confused movie plots with reality) claims straight people will fake gay marriage to get benefits (it was an Adam Sandler movie), how can you expect rational lawmaking from there? When their favored “news” source wastes precious information minutes every day on the Obama kids’ Spring break plans, and viewers rise up in outrage, on what basis is there to feel optimistic about our future?

Based on the feedback this column gets (most of which is positive, I’m happy to say), it’s clear that impediments to reality-testing don’t end at the south side of the Mason-Dixon line. I accept that there’ll never be universal agreement on anything; nor should there be. But in these parts there seems to be at least a plurality of people able to start their minds in the morning with a certain level of rational thinking. Our southerly brethren and sistern? They live in another universe, where crazy congregates, and confusion collects like earwax. Surely they’d be happier without our influence on their worldview. It works both ways.

Sid Schwab lives in Everett. Send emails to columnsid@gmail.com

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