More Jackson County Opinions...

AUGUST 18, 2004


Column

By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
August 18, 2004

Long live the Hillbillies!
A lot of you are trying to figure out Zell Miller. I hate to tell you this, but that is an exercise in futility. In fact, trying to figure out most politicians is an exercise in futility.
A lot of politicians zig and zag. The only reason we socked Miller with that moniker is because zig and zag rhyme with Zell. But he isn’t the only one who beats around the political bush. (No pun intended.)
My gripe is not with Zell’s politics. It’s his social and cultural stance. He’s trying to do to the H-word what’s already been done to the N-word; that is, obliterate it.
Zell may mean well, but a lot of us treasure our distinguishing Hillbilly trademark. Next thing you know, they’ll try to do away with Redneck and Hick. We enjoy being unsophisticated and provincial, don’t we, Bubba? Be alert, lest they try to take that away from us, too.
This controversy has been bugging me since Friday, July 20, 2001. That’s when this headline appeared in The Atlanta-Journal Constitution: “Miller condemns use of ‘Hillbilly.’”
At first, I thought he was kidding. I mean, he wasn’t much into zigging and zagging between Democrats and Republicans at that time, and I figured he just needed something to keep his name before the public.
Some movie or TV producer brought up the brilliant idea of doing some sort of reality show about a Hillbilly family from Appalachia, and Zell went berserk. Here’s what he said:
“The mountaineer is the only person left in the ethnic shooting gallery that is still all right to shoot at. We’ve removed all the others, but it’s still all right to ridicule and make fun of and put down mountaineers. In this time of cultural sensitivity, we condemn anyone immediately when they use the N-word, and well we should. Well, the H-word is just as bigoted.”
Well, duh. Come on, Zell. Get real.
Like I said, I thought he was kidding. Please, Senator Miller, tell us that you were.
Just think what a positive witness we can make to the world if we just smile and keep our cool and poise when somebody calls us what we are. I mean, what’s to be uptight about when somebody calls us a Hillbilly. So we are the only ones left in the ethnic shooting gallery. What an honor!
Everybody else is hung up on political correctness. To call anybody anything is taking the risk of being called something worse in return. Like the scum of the earth. Maybe even a bigot.
Why is everybody so sensitive all of a sudden? (Ok, it didn’t come on suddenly; like most foolish, idiotic causes, it crept up on us slowly, from behind.)
I wish Zell could have grown up in the 1920s and ‘30s in McLemoresville, Tenn. (population 311 if you count dogs, cats and chickens). If I had taken offense at some of the things I was called on the school playground in that little town, I wouldn’t be alive to write this deathless prose.
The only H-word we feared was hell. If we couldn’t take a joke, or a little kidding, or being called a “bad” name occasionally, that’s what somebody would beat out of us.
I guess our skin was a little thicker back in the good ol’ days.
Anyway, that attitude, lifestyle, philosophy — whatever — that we grew up with down on the farm and up in the hills has carried over to today. It certainly has kept the peace when the Clark’s Hill Gang meets every spring at the confluence of Fishing Creek and the Savannah River. When you camp, fish and rough it for a week with eight or ten Southern gentlemen, you are likely to be called a name or two that you wouldn’t be called in polite company or at Sunday School.
The scenario goes something like this: You are called a (censored). Your response: “OK, McQuiston, you say I’m a (censored). Very well, if you say I’m a (censored), then I’m a (censored).”
And that’s the end of it, and we go on about our business of camping, fishing, roughing it and having fun. We love each other anyhow.
There have been a few guys who couldn’t buy that. They got mad when called whatever insensitive word was in vogue at the moment. They are no longer with us. They’ve taken up golf or chess, something more civilized.
Look, I’m not advocating foul language here. But I am suggesting that we not think too highly of ourselves and go around with a chip on our shoulder. If we do, I promise: somebody will take us down a notch or two and knock the chip off. Didn’t I read somewhere that it’s a good idea to think others better than ourselves?
There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.”
Not the A-word, B-word, C-word, F-word, H-word, J-word, L-word, N-word, P-word, S-word, W-word or any D-word.
I would spell these words out, but I’m afraid I might offend someone.
There are at least four occupations that are immune to insults, put downs, name calling, insensitive comments, etc. They are editors, politicians, schoolteachers and preachers. They’ve been called so many things so many times that whatever they are called rolls off ‘em like water off a duck’s back.
If you are in one of those jobs and you still get offended when somebody calls you something you don’t like, you need to look for some other line of work. But chances are you’ll be overly sensitive in that job, too. Some folks are just sensitive, period.
Thank God for Hillbillies. We are the only ones left in the ethnic shooting gallery. Come join us. Come on over and enjoy the prestige and honor of being in that elite group.
Just pray that Zig Zag Zell stays busy zigging and zagging between Democrats and Republicans and leaves social and cultural issues alone. If he is successful in doing to the H-word what’s already been done to the N-word, all the targets will be gone, and we’ll all wind up being wimpy, weak and complaining crybabies, helpless and without hope in the world. There’ll be nobody left to insult.
Long live the Hillbillies!
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.

Jackson County Opinion Index

Column

By: Susan Harper
The Commerce News
August 18, 2004

There’s More Than One Athens
My dad doesn’t usually tell stories on me, but there’s one from my early years that he gets a kick out of. A neighbor back then overheard a conversation I was having with a little playmate. The child was saying with solemn pride, “My dad crossed the ocean,” and I was heard to reply, “Who hasn’t?”
I was probably not being smart-alecky, which is how I think it sounds. I expect that in fact I was as solemn as my playmate, and genuinely confused. Didn’t everybody’s father cross the ocean? I thought it was their job. In my earliest memories of him, my dad was dressed in a uniform and leaving to go overseas. When Mother sang me to sleep with “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” I pictured my dad lying down in a plane, somewhere above the sea.
Fast-forward about 15 years and I’m a college student doing a junior year abroad in Scotland. Spring vacation is coming up, and my roommate and I see a little card on a university bulletin board. “Take a Train to Greece This Holiday!” it says. She and I look at each other and our eyeballs have a one-second conversation. “Yes!” we say in unison. Five days later, we were on the train.
It was then, sitting there with scenery flashing by outside the window, that I had time to realize I had absolutely no idea what lay ahead – as in what country came next. I have no head for geography; and if people give me directions that include words like “north” or “due east” or (God forbid) “kilometer,” they shouldn’t expect me to arrive anytime soon, if at all. I was astonished to find myself traveling through Belgium, West Germany, Austria, Hungary and Yugoslavia. Somehow I had thought we’d just zip straight over to Greece. (That old flying-family background was playing tricks with my head, I guess.)
But Athens – that other Athens, the one where the Olympics are being held – was worth the wait. Even the wonderful pictures they’re showing on TV during the Olympics don’t quite convey the impact the Acropolis has on your eyes. Maybe it’s something about the ancient stone of the columns on that hill overlooking the city. It reflects the colors that surround it, so in the morning the Parthenon is golden as the sun comes up; at midday it’s the white-white of the shirts my grandmother used to wash with “bluing,” and at sunset it turns pink, then lavender, and then bright white again just before dark.
There’s an elegant simplicity to those ruins – the bleached bones of former buildings, but my oh my, what bones! They remind us that democracy was born there. That Socrates, Plato and Aristotle walked there.
I know that if God had meant for us to fly, he would have given us tickets. But he did give us airlines and cruise ships. And if there’s any way you can get yourself to that other Athens, this side of the grave (and no, that’s not directions), I hope you’ll go.

Susan Harper is director of the Commerce Public Library.


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