Skip to comments.A New Stoplight in Town
Posted on 11/11/2004 7:41:03 PM PST by Congressman BillybobEdited on 11/12/2004 8:20:27 AM PST by Admin Moderator. [history]
Last week, the powers-that-be installed a new stoplight in Highlands, NC. Its on Carolina Way at the intersection with US 64, just east of Main Street. That makes four stoplights we have now. And it raises the question of why the 99.44% of my readers who live in a town larger than 1,000 people should care in the least bit about this major civic improvement.
Ill make this relevant. Have I ever let you down? Other than that one time?
Last week I drove my usual route from Watts Bar Lake in Tennessee, back to my home. The trip was mostly on blue line highways through small towns, across the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I saw things that helped me to understand the results of the 2004 election far better than the pundits in their air-conditioned, hermetically-sealed cliff dwellings in New York and other large cities.
The first was the site of what the pundits think, wrongly, is the key to those election results. In Rhea County, Tennessee, they have lovingly preserved the old courthouse where the Scopes Trial took place in 1925. That trial concerned a state law which forbade the teaching of evolution in Tennessee high schools. John T. Scopes was the teacher convicted of violating that law.
The case pitted two towering lawyers against one another. Clarence Darrow was counsel for Scopes; William Jennings Bryan was special counsel for the state. Darrow was the voice of science and modernity. In addition to his legal skills, Bryan was a legendary orator and three-time Democratic nominee for President. In an unusual twist, Darrow called Bryan to the stand to cross examine him on his fundamentalist Christian beliefs.
The pundits who are blissfully ignorant of the realities of people who live in the Red counties, the ones that carried the day for President Bush, pretend that the contest between Darrow and Bryan was played out again in 2004. The pundits have half of the equation right. Theyre right that many people who supported Senator Kerry believe, along with Darrow, that reason is paramount. They believe that man is, if not perfect, at least perfectible. Nirvana would come if only the government would pass the laws they approve, and take the actions they deem correct.
Theyre wrong to believe that the key supporters of President Bush are hard-shell Bible-thumpers, to use a phrase popularized by H.L. Mencken when he covered the Scopes trial for the Baltimore Sun. Did people with such religious beliefs support Bush? Yes, but in about the same percentage of the votes cast as in 2000. The notoriously wrong exit polls this year were right about this one point: More people this year than in prior years were interested in moral values, and that group voted heavily for the President. The meaning of that, however, is broader and more subtle than the pundits know.
Allow me to help them out. Along the way I passed the Westside Baptist Church in Cleveland, Tennessee. Remove the sign out front and the cross on the roof and this elaborate complex could easily be mistaken for a large resort hotel in that small town. Its no secret that people in these towns take their religions seriously (please note the plural).
There are billboards in these parts that are solid black with just a few words on them. Each has a statement followed by a signature. There is no identification of who or what has placed those ads. Here are two of those I saw on this trip:
We have to talk.
Dont make me come down there.
I find two aspects of these signs interesting. The first is, they are non-denominational. They encourage readers to seek their personal relationships with God, in any religion and in any way. The second is that people hereabouts take the ideas of a higher power and a call to morality (however defined) quite seriously.
Another tradition hereabouts is lettered signs in front of the churches, that are changed from week to week. One of those I saw on this trip said simply, God humbles us into greatness. That gets more to the point. Folks around here lose respect for people who are full of themselves, who think that they are exceptionally gifted, who pretend they arent subject to the flaws and frailties found in all mankind.
Inside or outside of a house of worship, we dont take kindly to anyone who places himself above all others. Ray Stevens caught this idea just right in his song, The Mississippi Squirrel Revival. It took place in the First Self-Righteous Church with one of the key parishioners being Sister Bertha Better-than-You. A basic part of morality is being a decent human being, not better than others, not worse than others, but simply well grounded in truth and common sense.
You begin to see the point. Morality is not the sole province of fundamentalist Christians. Nor even of religious people of all denominations. Folks hereabouts who dont attend any form of services except baptism, marriage, death and an occasional Christmas, still believe in morality. A mans word is his bond. Thats an incredibly old-fashioned idea which would be laughed at in many parts of America. But we take that seriously in the Red counties that dominantly supported the President.
We started by talking about the new stoplight in Highlands. It eliminated traffic jams involving as many as ten cars in a row, when they were hung up behind a log truck, or a Cadillac bearing Florida plates with a Q-tip at the wheel. (For those not familiar with Q-tip, it means a short, elderly driver, showing just a tuft of white hair above the wheel.) Yes, life is a whole lot different in small towns, rural areas, and the growing ex-urbs, than it is in the big cities in the Blue counties.
Life here is more personal, more honest, more in line with common sense. And we prefer our political leaders to show the same characteristics. All that is included in the catch-all phrase of moral values. Odds are, the pollsters who asked that question didnt have a clue about the broader meanings of the phrase they used.
I have a challenge to any and all of the pundits who dont understand what happened in the Red counties, and therefore are only guessing about the reasons for the outcome of the 2004 election. One from England is invited to accept this offer, except for anyone who works for the Guardian. The same offer goes to one from New York or Washington, except for Maureen Dowd or Paul Krugman.
As you can see Im excluding those who lack a sufficiently open mind to learn from the experience. And heres the experience offered: The visiting pundits can bring a mammal of their choice. They can visit for a week. I offer excellent food, intelligent company, beautiful surroundings.
I ask only that the visitors have a passing familiarity with three books: Common Sense, by Thomas Paine; The Federalist, by Madison, Hamilton and Jay; and Democracy in America, by Alexis deToqueville. No one should be on the loose discussing American politics in public without a familiarity with such basic works.
In return, I promise not to discuss politics with the visiting pundits nothing newer than 50 years ago, at least. Well stick to history, not politics. What I will do is take them thither and yon on the blueline highways of the American South. Ill introduce them to places and people who are almost entirely new to them. Again, the purpose is not to talk politics, but to observe a slice of real life.
Its been a lifelong learning experience for me. A week in the midst of reality couldnt be too harmful to a pundit, now could it? Ill even throw in a guided tour of the new stoplight in Highlands.
About the Author: John Armor is a First Amendment attorney and author who lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. CongressmanBillybob@earthlink.net
That's JOHN SCOPES, not SNOPES.
Good article, otherwise.
Did the writer really go there, or just make it up?
I ask because its not the Snopes trial its the Scopes Trial.
Now I remember ... the Snopes are William Faulkner's fictional White Trash family.
"You say you believe in Him, but you don't obey Him. That is worse than not believing at all."
This jumped out at me, both because of my recent posts on William Jennings Bryan and because most people understand very little about what was really going on at the Scopes trial. The book that Scopes was teaching was a popular biology book of the day--George Hunter's Civic Biology (1914). Bryan was not just disturbed by the teaching of evolution but more broadly by the whole social Darwinist agenda, including both capitalism and genetic superiority. Civic Biology was a vicious social Darwinist tract. Here are some excerpts from the book, courtesy of Eugenics Watch:
Hunter's Civic Biology, p. 195-196
The Races of Man. At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the other in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, in structure. These are the Ethiopian or negro type, originating in Africa; the Malay or brown race, from the islands of the Pacific; The American Indian; the Mongolian or yellow race, including the natives of China, Japan, and the Eskimos; and finally, the highest type of all, the caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.
Hunter's Civic Biology, p. 261-265
Improvement of Man. If the stock of domesticated animals can be improved, it is not unfair to ask if the health and vigor of the future generations of men and women on the earth might not be improved by applying to them the laws of selection. This improvement of the future race has a number of factors in which we as individuals may play a part. These are personal hygiene, selection of healthy mates, and the betterment of the environment.
Eugenics. When people marry there are certain things that the individual as well as the race should demand. The most important of these is freedom from germ diseases which might be handed down to the offspring. Tuberculosis, syphilis, that dread disease which cripples and kills hundreds of thousands of innocent children, epilepsy, and feeble-mindedness are handicaps which it is not only unfair but criminal to hand down to posterity. The science of being well born is called eugenics.
The Jukes. Studies have been made on a number of different families in this country, in which mental and moral defects were present in one or both of the original parents. The "Jukes" family is a notorious example. The first mother is known as "Margaret, the mother of criminals." In seventy-five years the progeny of the original generation has cost the state of New York over a million and a quarter dollars, besides giving over to the care of prisons and asylums considerably over a hundred feeble-minded, alcoholic, immoral, or criminal persons. Another case recently studied is the "Kallikak" family. (Footnote: The name Kallikak is fictitious.) This family has been traced back to the War of the Revolution, when a young soldier named Martin Kallikak seduced a feeble-minded girl. She had a feeble-minded son from whom there have been to the present time 480 descendants. Of these 33 were sexually immoral, 24 confirmed drunkards, 3 epileptics, and 143 feeble-minded. The man who started this terrible line of immorality and feeble-mindedness later married a normal Quaker girl. From this couple a line of 496 descendants have come, with no cases of feeble-mindedness. The evidence and the moral speak for themselves!
Parasitism and its Cost to Society. Hundreds of families such as those described above exist today, spreading disease, immorality, and crime to all parts of this country. The cost to society of such families is very severe. Just as certain animals or plants become parasitic on other plants or animals, these families have become parasitic on society. They not only do harm to others by corrupting, stealing, or spreading disease, but they are actually protected and cared for by the state out of public money. Largely for them the poorhouse and the asylum exist. They take from society, but they give nothing in return. They are true parasites.
The Remedy. If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with some success in this country.
Blood Tells. Eugenics shows us, on the other hand, in a study of the families in which are brilliant men and women, the fact that the descendants have received the good inheritance from their ancestors. The following, taken from Davenport's Heredity in Relationship to Eugenics, illustrates how one family has been famous in American History. ...
For me, this irony cuts many different ways. The ACLU and Darrow were right in principle that the legislature shouldn't be determining what is or is not good science, but the version of evolution (white genetic superiority) that was being taught in Scopes would be viewed as very bad science today. This also illustrates that the spirit of free inquiry works, not because it is always right, but because people are free to put ideas out and have them refined and corrected. [UPDATE: Here 1920s science was right about the basics of evolution, but was wrong about social Darwinism and white genetic supremacy and was immoral to advocate eugenics.] It also reminds us that eugenics was a "progressive" idea in the 1920s. Last, of course, it suggests that the enlightened are often much less enlightened than they think they are. Sometimes neither the enlightened nor the supposed unenlightened are right.
what WAS the url of the church group that had all those sayings on a flash banner? It was designed for kids. I lost the link and really would like to save the entire collection of "billboards".
Wow, you get a Paul Harvey award for providing "the rest of the story"
Ask & ye shall receive. I Googled it, & there's a lot of links, but no official site because it started out anonymous. I like this one because you can see them all at once:
This is Mrs. BwanaNdege, I'm using my husband's screen name 'til I get registered.
I loved your definition of a "Q-Tip". I have driven behind them many a time up Hwy 64 from Franklin to Highlands and Hwy 107 from Sylva to Cashiers. We have a bumper sticker that says, "When I get old I'm going to move to FL and drive REAL SLOW". Guess you have to experience it to appreciate it.
Hope someone takes you up on your offer to meet the REAL people of our beautiful "RED" states. The folks who deal with reality!!
As far as I know it remains anonymous. I particularly like the one that says "Keep using My name in vain, and I'll make rush hour LONGER."
Damn right. I wuz framed!
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