The photo was taking on a hiking trip in September. The socks were drying and attracted flies (there were actually about a dozen flies on the socks, but when I got close for a picture, most of them flew away). In light of the rest of my post, I thought smelly socks and flies were appropriate.
“I’m so far behind, I’ll never die,” or so says Calvin (the comic guy, not the theologian). I often resemble that remark. Lately, the resemblance has been too frequent and I’ve not had any time to finish any of the stories I’m been working on or to write any satires or complete any book reviews So I’ll just dig out an old column that I wrote long ago for a newspaper. And since Trent Lott is dropping all kinds of big hints that he’d like to be redeemed and step back into the spotlight, I think it’s time we remember what got him relegated to slumping down in his senate seat. This column ran in December 2002. About noon, on the morning the newspaper was published, Trent Lott resigned as Senate Majority Leader. I’m not really vain enough to think I had a hand in his resignation, but who knows. Maybe someone called his office and told him there is another newspaper columnist out in Podunk land blasting his sincerity. And maybe Mr. Lott decided just then to throw in the towel. Maybe, but I doubt it. Enjoy, and hopefully in a few days I’ll have washed those socks and be back writing fresh stuff.
Lott’s Faux Pas
I hope Trent Lott scrubbed his feet before attending Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party. Regularly washing one’s feet is a habit all politicians should develop since they seem to have a tendency to stick ‘em in their mouth. Before the evening was over, Lott’s toes were tickling his throat. Standing before the centurion, the soon-to-be leader of the Senate bragged that his home state, Mississippi, voted for Thurmond for president in 1948. That’s true, but Lott stretched it to suggest that all Mississippians are proud of it. After all, a large percentage of the state population is African-American and, if most of them had been allowed to vote in 1948, it is unlikely Thurmond would have carried the state.
By the time this column runs, Lott’s political future may be over. Granted, Lott has repeated his time-delayed apology over and over. But over the past few days, similar remarks he’s made in the past have been revealed. It’s also been discovered that Lott, as a college student, crusaded to keep his fraternity racially segregated. Some have rallied around Lott and have reprimanded his critics, including the editorial board of this newspaper. But with new revelations coming to light, more are questioning his leadership. The President verbally chastised Lott and some politicians and columnists, including some notable conservatives, have called for his resignation.
Like Lott, I too am a son of the South. During my life I’ve struggled with what it means to be proud of a heritage while acknowledging that it comes with baggage. A nineteenth century German philosopher, who was never popular in the South, once quipped that the past “weighs like a nightmare upon the brain of the living.” And there are few places where the past is more haunting than the South. Historian C. Vann Woodward even titled one of his books, The Burden of Southern History. A past that includes slavery and Jim Crow is burdensome and cannot be all glorified.
Strom Thurmond represents the past. In 1948, he was a segregationist. In his later years, he either tempered his views or learned to hold his tongue. Unlike fellow segregationist George Wallace, who devoted his final years to seeking forgiveness for his racial prejudices, Thurmond, and until recently Lott, have primarily discounted prior racist actions as events of another era. Sure, it was another era, but that shouldn’t mean one should ignore such behavior. Both Senators should acknowledge their role of promoting injustices in the past. This means swallowing pride, being humble, and admitting that instead of standing up for what was right, they went along with a popular, but immoral, philosophy. Both are guilty of being politically correct, in the worst sense.
If Lott wants to keep his job, he shouldn’t just say that times have changed. Instead, we need to hear of an epiphany. Tell us how, Mr. Lott, you’ve personally come to realize the past was wrong. Just saying it, at a time when your political hide is on the line, doesn’t cut it. Show us, to use the language often associated with southern revivalism, that you’ve been born again.