One of the perks of getting out of the newspaper biz (see Part I) is that I hope to pay less attention to politics. I really do love this place, the beautiful countryside and the basic sweetness of the people who live here; but it’s easier to keep the love flowing when you don’t have to keep observing stuff that makes you want to shake people until their eyes rattle! And I’m afraid that the state-level political debates on May 14 were serious eye rattlers for me.
At the county level, office seekers have to address real, immediate issues with real impact on the local population: Why should we keep paying SPLOST when SPLOST projects never get built? Do we really have the money to build a water reservoir? Can't we do something about all these potholes? Shouldn't we get some activities in here so kids have something to do in the summer besides drugs?
But at the state level, you would swear from listening to the debates that all northwest Georgians do all day is go around pondering the Big Ideas--Does personhood begin at conception? How much control should the government have over a woman’s body? Is socialism creeping insidiously into American life?—that, or fretting that the feds are fixin’ to march in here and take their guns away. I have never heard so much meaningless drivel about abortion and the Second Amendment in my life!
Candidates Dade sends to the capital have a long tradition of forgetting this place and their loyalties here the second they hit the fleshpots of Atlanta. From what I heard at the May 14 debates, you would think the voters--or anyway the debate moderators--were encouraging that. You would swear people were saying to them, "Hey, you-'uns, don't you worry none about the ignorance, poverty and need here at home, you just git down to 'Lanter, eat you some sushi and stop them girls down there from getting abortions."
I don’t really care what you think about abortion. Me, I’m pro-choice, but I don't carry on about it here because this is a local newspaper and abortion is not a local issue. Which is the point I'm trying to make: Even if you are so obsessed with stamping out abortion that you go around haunted by it 24 hours a day, it still shouldn’t be Job One for your northwest Georgia rep in the House or Senate because we don’t have abortion facilities in this area.
What we do have here is ignorance, poverty and need. What we've got is meth. What we've got is some poor young women who didn't get abortions getting arrested by Tennessee for trying to get Medicaid for their babies. I won't beat that horse any more but I can think of a million better things for a Georgia legislator from these parts to be worrying about than abortion clinics in Atlanta.
But that's about all young Colton Moore, who won his House of Reps seat at age 24 and now wants to charge on to the state senate, did do as a rep, and all he had to brag about at his debate with incumbent Sen. Jeff Mullis: He'd helped get the heartbeat bill passed. What young Moore didn't say is what he'd done to distinguish himself as a new rep is immediately and viciously betray the buddies on the Dade County Board of Education who'd supported his candidacy, then not much the hell else. Oh, except pick fights he couldn't win with the silverbacks in the House and draw attention to himself with flashy, self-absorbed press releases. Then, when the aforementioned silverbacks slapped him to the mat, he jumped on the heartbeat bandwagon and started bleating about abortion being murder and mighty Colton being the champion of the fetus.
I am not of course privy to young Moore's private life and I am not sure how vested an interest he is ever likely to have in the female reproductive system, but if I were a woman of childbearing age I would fiercely resent a strutting, insincere boy in his 20s trying to make decisions about my uterus. I am not one and hell, I resent it anyway. It seems a little wicked-witch-of-the-Westy for a person of my age to express the amount of scorn and distaste I feel for a person of Colton Moore's, and normally I try not to take politics so personally; but young Moore is seeking higher office having done nothing in lower office but doublecross those who put their faith in him and I'm damned if I let it happen without saying my piece.
When a young person runs for office it's usually a good thing, because it presages change. Change is healthy and normal. It is also healthy and normal for young people to have broader minds and more progressive ideas than their elders. If that weren't so we'd all still be wearing knee britches, powdering wigs, indenturing servants and arresting homosexuals.
But what about when a person of Colton Moore's age seeks office by posing as more retrograde a conservative than a person of my age's parents? Well! I think the operative verb there is "pose." Everything about his candidacy strikes me as phony and false, as if he were wearing a suit he got out of his grandpa's closet. If he really has any values, young Colton needs to get them out of his own closet instead.
The incumbent state senator, Jeff Mullis, has a reputation among county officials I've talked to as a kind of walking tip jar, and ordinarily I'd cheer some impertinent youth trying to usurp his place in the Senate. But this time I think it's more a case of the piglet trying to nose the old hog aside at the trough. I never thought I'd say such a thing but give me Mullis any day! At least he acknowledged that governing involves getting along with others, and is known for trying to bring good things to this area--even if, like the Vanguard plant, they don't always turn out to be that good. As for candidate no. 3, Todd Noblitt, I'm still kind of recoiling from his trotting out his dead child as testament to his anti-abortion zeal, or for the sympathy vote, or something. Anyway I don't think somebody who would do something like that has much hope of election.
Since I seem to be making last-minute endorsements here, I might as well spout off about the House of Reps race, too. I'd go with John Deffenbaugh there, again hands down and no one else close enough he has to look over his shoulder.
I swore I wasn't going to talk about abortion here, but candidate Vikki Mills offended me mightily with her contemptuous reference to abortion patients as "these girls." I worked briefly in a women’s clinic where abortions were performed and I think people would be shocked to know who all ends up getting them—where do you suppose your family-values pols send their honeys when accidents happen? (Or their daughters for that matter?)
But I don’t want to focus on spectacular cases. All kinds of women end up having them for all kinds of reasons that aren’t ours to know, and not all of them are girls. I am not fixin' to give up anybody else's secrets, but in my acquaintance was once a certain beloved mother of four who found herself pregnant well into middle age, when her children were out of college. I remember the anguish she suffered making her decision, her horror of abortion pitted against the fear of bearing a child at her age and in her physical condition. In the end she aborted on her doctor’s advice but with such grief and sorrow that I think if I’d heard Ms. Mills shrieking ABORTION IS MURDER at her I might have been tempted to consider the real kind. “These girls” indeed! We are talking about a grandmother here.
Another abortion that comes to mind is one I learned about sitting on a Dade County grand jury over 20 years ago. It was the case of a 10-year-old girl who had been impregnated either by her trashy stepfather or by one of the drug buddies he passed her generously around to. Since it was a case not only of rape and incest but—hello?—10 years old, social services had allowed the girl to be aborted though you could tell it didn’t sit well with some of the grand jurors.
That’s the problem with abortion. It doesn’t sit well. It violates our instinctive life force. Nobody likes it. Babies are good, we feel, abortion is bad. Thing is, though, there’s a need for it. There was a need for it with that little 10-year-old rape victim and there was a need for it with our aging mother of four. And there’s lots of other needs that are not ours to know, that we simply have to leave between patients and doctors. Abortion has been around just as long as the need for it and it’s not fixin' to go away. If we don’t keep it safe and legal all we’re doing is bringing back a nasty black market and causing a great many unnecessary back-alley deaths.
Again, I don't want to fight the abortion fight here. But I will say before I leave the subject of Ms. Mills that she was bragging in a letter to the editor here of being endorsed by Georgia Right to Life. I inserted an editor's note that Georgia Right to Life is not associated with the national group Right to Life. I'd looked it up and you know what? The group that backed Ms. Mills was booted out of the national group for being too anti-choice for Right to Life--they didn't want any exceptions for rape and mother's health. Not, by then, that it mattered to me. She'd lost me at "these girls."
Not to mention all her vicious rhetoric about Democrats "stopping at nothing" to "destroy democracy." In Dade County! Where all the county leaders who now run as Republicans ran as Democrats not 15 years ago. Where the remaining Democrats must, and will, register as Republicans in order to have a say in choosing their next county boss and district commissioners. I remember something the late U.S. Congressman Jim Mackay, who helped pass the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s and later retired to Lookout Mountain, said about the old-South, Jim-Crow politicians he served with. None of them, he told me, hated black people enough that they didn't want their votes, he said. This basic truism of politics seems to have escaped our Ms. Mills.
As for candidate no. 3 in that race, Mike Cameron from Rossville, he struck me as saner than Ms. Mills but when it got to abortion I changed my mind. They were all trying to out-Ah-Hate-Abortion each other and Cameron commenced carrying on about a new movement to require that patients who take the "abortion pill" be instructed about an antidote. What the so-called abortion pill is is a drug combination that blocks progesterone which, early in a pregnancy, causes the lining of the uterus to dissolve--basically, it brings on your period. The so-called antidote is a flood of progesterone to counter that effect. So I got this image of Mike Cameron trying to wrestle the Kotex box away from one of "these girls," shouting, "No! No! You must not have your period!" You want to talk about gummint overreach!
Then the guy further irritated me by managing, in his closing remarks, to work in a reference to Stacey Abrams and how proud he was of whatever role he purported to have played in squelching her run for the governor's mansion in 2018. It came so starkly out of nowhere that it would have puzzled anybody who hadn't had to watch local racists come out of the woodwork to hate on old Stacey on the local political page The Village Idiot since her name came up in 2018. They were always flushing her down toilets and such back then, to the point I couldn't bear to look at the page anymore. These days somebody will bring her back up periodically, in the pretense she might be Biden's VP pick but really just for the fun of communal fat-black-woman-bashin'.
I took this screenshot from The Village Idiot a week or two ago. Please note the references in the comments below the fat-joke meme to "Buckwheat." The pretense these days is that it ain't racism, it's hatred of "socialism." So what I wanta know is: Was Buckwheat a commie?
Anyway, my point in bringing this up, and in showing the meme, is that after months of seeing this kind of crap, I could hear Cameron's message about old Stacey Abrams loud and clear: AH KNOW YOU HATE YOU SOME BLACK PEOPLE! AH HATE 'EM TOO! VOTE FOR ME!
Well, to hell with that. Again, John Deffenbaugh was not exactly Dade's big champion during his couple of terms in the House before young Moore ousted him. And he made a reference to "creeping socialism," or something, that got my hackles up in one of his letters to the editor. If there's one thing I disapprove of worse than politicians trying to separate us into Democrats and Republicans, it's their trying to separate us with this fancy talk of Big Ideas. People don't need to start accusing each other of being commies because they send their kids to public school. Most of life, and all of it in a small town, is about getting along with one another.
But at least Deffenbaugh's a straight-up kind of guy, a decent human being, and he made some sweet noises about the importance of reaching across the aisle and learning from others. Anyway, not being slobbering insane goes a long way for me these days in our elected officals.
Well, those were my big points--oh, wait! I haven't even mentioned gun rights yet. Wonder why that is? Oh! Maybe because gun rights in Dade County is just not an issue.
I mean, there is just no threat to gun rights here. There was all that crap in the county commission recently about declaring Dade a "sanctuary county," where local officials are forbidden to take guns away from law-abiding citizens. Even the sheriff said it was meaningless, that he would never dream of taking guns away from them in the first place. He himself had postured enjoyably on the cold-dead-fingers platform while running for office in 2012, promising to stand off the feds in a bloody fire battle if necessary to defend Dade's Second Amendment rights. That was during the Obama Administration, so there was the extra piquancy that these might be black--whoops, I meant socialist--feds coming to take our muskets or whatever.
Obama never showed up to disarm the citizens of Dade and I would say the odds of a federal invasion are even slimmer these days. Still, all the state-level candidates at the debate were fighting about who would defend guns the hardest. At least in the abortion arena, abortion really does exist for them to be agin'. In the gun debate it was like children playing pretend.
I should be clear here. I don't just want to shake the candidates until their eyes rattle for carrying on like this, I also want to bludgeon the voters a little for letting them get away with it all these years. Voters should be asking, So! What are you going to do for me, politician? Not: What is your stance on some stupid non-issue that has no bearing on me or this area?
Well, those are my major points and I should shut up now before this turns into a novel, but the election is tomorrow and I can't close up for the day without saying I hope Dade voters will renew SPLOST. I spent the last year pointing out to gummint officials how badly they were mishandling it. They needed to show people why it was necessary and what it was doing for them, and instead they ignored the public and went on matter-of-factly making plans how to divvy up the loot among themselves. Now they've finally started realizing the voters really could say no but it may be too late.
I hope not. Whether the gummint mishandled it or not, I think if voters don't renew SPLOST they are cutting their own throats. We live in this funny border-town situation where--I heard this statistic at some public meeting--any time you might shop at the Ingle's over 60 percent of the other shoppers will have driven in from outside the county. Eliminate those people's help in buying your cop cars and fixing your roads--why would sane people do that?
And since I'm passing endorsements around like popcorn I'll go ahead and make some for the county commission, though what kind of perk for a candidate my endorsement is I dare not venture to say: Ted Rumley for county exec, Jerry Henegar for District 3 and Jeremy Dyer for District 4.
I have been monitoring the commission for 12 years now and I know it needs change. But I don't think anybody cares about the county, its old folks and its young'uns, its wealthy pillars of the community and its poor ole rednecks, like Ted Rumley does. I think he's been wrong, trying to keep the county a Temperance meeting when the vast majority of citizens voted to go wet, when even Alabama has started selling booze to please the tourists, and when even in the good old days half the county was guzzling at the American Legion and everybody else was taking clandestine nips behind the barn.
But I expect he's done it from genuine conviction, for what he perceives as the good of the county, and I respect that. And I think adding some new blood to the commission with the other two seats--as I believe is almost certain to happen--will be guarantee enough that the commission will get a little saner about the booze thing.
And that' s that. I have a lot more opinions but that's enough to be getting on with. Maybe we'll talk after the election!
--Robin Ford Wallace