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Monday, June 20, 2005

Planet Georgia

If you Google for "two Georgias," you will find links to lots of articles that contrast Atlanta and the rest of the state. In the over 20 years I’ve lived here, I’ve found a different — more metaphysical than political — pair of Georgias. It’s like one of those Stephen King stories about how the barrier between worlds wears thin in some locales. C.S. Lewis wrote of this phenomenon in That Hideous Strength, where a nation (or state) can be torn by the conflict between two visions of how things should be.

One one hand, there’s the Georgia that gave us progressive heroes like Henry Grady, Jimmy Carter, and Martin Luther King, Jr.; poets like Sidney Lanier, musicians like Ray Charles, the Allman Brothers, Otis Redding... the Georgia that lives up to the words, “Wisdom, Justice, Moderation” on its state seal.

It seems impossible that the same place could inflict upon itself (and the world) a state legislature that is a perennial laughingstock — or worse, the likes of J.B. Stoner, the lynching of Leo Frank, and the sordid events of 1912 in “Historic” Forsyth County. This is Planet Georgia, where the “old times” of Jim Crow and even slavery are not only not forgotten, but held up as an ideal; where there are enough knuckledraggers, who like the old state flag with the Confederate emblem, to swing elections. Here, the only place you can find wisdom, justice, or moderation is on the state seal.

Unfortunately, in the struggle for the soul of the state, Planet Georgia is currently prevailing. I don’t know if things will change for the better in my lifetime.

1 comment:

  1. "Easy Rider" was the literal truth. If you don't carry a gun and know how to use it, you don't belong in the South.

    As late as 1979, my wife and I nearly got murdered in the Florida panhandle when we used "colored" restrooms by mistake at a roadside store. At the time I didn't know such things still existed, but when I came out of that restroom and confronted six or seven big, strong and very angry young black men, I quickly learned the truth. They didn't hurt me when they discovered my yankee ignorance, but I think they might have killed a cracker.


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