Posts Tagged ‘george wallace’

(Oh, how fun it would be to write no posts but those that portray the modern South as one big tailgate outside a stadium where the home team always wins, followed by a fish fry and then a pig pickin’ and then a barefoot wedding, all on the grounds of a restored farmhouse with a wide front porch, on 2.5 acres that border a clean river, attended by a coterie representing all ages and races, but all of them attractive, holding advanced degrees and progressive political and social views.  Oh, how fun portraying that South would be.

But I would hate myself in the morning.)

Fifty years ago today, George Wallace stood on Goat Hill and swore – before God and the nation – to preserve “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”wallace

The full sentence, in fact, went like this:

“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny and I say: segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

(You can read the full address, penned by Asa Carter, here.)

That sentence ends on a crescendo, a cue for the audience to applaud, a slogan for the segregationist bumper stickers.  That sentence’s end is what was meant to be noticed, what was meant to be the headline, what will be and should be remembered today.

The crux of the sentence, and of the sentiment, and of segregation, comes at the beginning, though.

Any and every coherent culture ever on this Earth has been quite certain that they have it right, and they become more, and more loudly, certain as the real or perceived threats to their culture mount.  The South was and is no different, except that arguably – as with college football and charismatic faith – we do what others do, but with a good bit more combustibility.

I have said and I will say again that I could live in no other part of the nation or the world without missing the South every single day.  The South offers so much to love and honor, and as someone pointed out on Facebook not long ago, you never hear of anyone retiring to the North.

I’m just curious how so many Southerners remained (and remain) so hellfire sure that we were (and are) “the greatest people that have ever trod this earth” in the face of test scores and trailer parks, pellagra and strokes, defeat and invasion, standards of living and life expectancies, homicide rates and Honey Boo Boo.

Fifty years ago today, Wallace’s inauguration inaugurated a year in which the segregationist order would flare and flame and fail, taking many innocent lives with it.  His promise was doomed, and all but fools could see it was doomed, by Christmas; his stand for segregation was as grand and futile and self-defeating as his “stand in the schoolhouse door,” or, for that matter, as the firing on Fort Sumter.  The history of the South is littered with such stands, and I have to wonder how great a people we could possibly be, since we never seem to learn.


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