An old ditty is echoing in my brain today. It goes something like this: “When the race was run that day, Sparkplug went the other way. Barney Google with the goo-goo-googley eyes.”
I don’t remember the rest of it. My mother sang it to me when I was a very tiny tot. But I know it had something to do with a racehorse that ran in the opposite direction from the rest of the field. A wrong-way Corrigan kind of horse.
So what brought that kooky old song to mind? The oddly contradictory news of the day.
Here it is 2013 and the world has changed dramatically in the 79 years that I’ve been around. The sun set on the British Empire, after all. Johnny came marching home and went back to the battlefield… and came marching home… and went back … again and again… But now, Johnny doesn’t dig trenches and use bayonets. Now, there are computerized tanks in the field and drones in the sky. Now, Johnny could be a woman or a gay man, an openly gay man (or an openly gay woman).
In today’s America, the faces on the street have gradually morphed from black-and-white to color. The shades are far more varied, now, the accents more diverse. This is not the America I read about in the Saturday Evening Post my mother used to get back in the Jamaican mountains.
In this new America, the political scene is confusingly conflicted.
While a bipartisan immigration reform bill was passed by the Senate, it is apparently doomed in the Republican-controlled House. And while the Supreme Court said it’s OK for states to approve same-sex marriages, the same justices gutted the Voting Rights Act.
In this sophisticated country, where men can now marry men and women can now marry women, where marijuana is sold legally in some states, where the morning-after birth control pill is available to teenagers, where openly gay men and women serve in the military… in this apparently progressive country, Texas Governor Rick Perry was on TV this morning, ranting against a female senator who filibustered a regressive state bill banning abortion after 20 weeks.
What are politicians like Perry up to? Why is the Republican Party so desperately fighting to preserve the era of Barney Google?
You probably never heard of Barney Google. He was before your time. But Barney Google’s America persists and the Republican Party is counting on its support.
In this crazy-quilt of a country,”modern” America lives in the cities, especially the cities of the northeast and along the coasts. In the deep South, the Heartland and the rural west, Barney Google survives. On the tobacco farms of North Carolina, on the lone prairie in Texas and Montana and Wyoming ,,, in the remote terrain of Mormon-ruled Utah or coal-dominated West Virginia and Kentucky … on the tornado plagued plains of Oklahoma… among the secluded bayous of Louisiana … in Tennessee and Arkansas, Nebraska and Idaho… and – of course – in Alabama and Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina… and the rural districts of Missouri and Virginia…
And as urban America evolves with the times, rural America digs in its heels. These folks will not meekly accept the change they hear about on TV and read about in their local newspaper. And when it shows up on their streets, they do not embrace it as progress, they feel threatened by it.
But show up more and more it will.
With change will come more votes for politicians who embrace change. Obviously, those politicians will not be Republicans. The party’s leaders know this, but it’s in the future and nobody can be sure when it will happen.
The Republicans’ wrong-way strategy could be a winning ticket for the short term. The more threatened those rustic residents feel, the more fervently they will support the Republican reactionaries. It could turn out the vote for the 2014 midterm elections.
And the longer term?
Blow the bugle and place your bets, ladies and gentlemen, Sparkplug is heading for the starting gate.