Alabama is a poor state.
There are plenty of people here with loads of money. People who are, as they say, filthy rich. Of course, as is the American way, those people really don’t like to share. Or, if they do share, they like to make sure there are plenty of rules about how and with whom they share.
Lots of people, myself among them, will point out that Alabama doesn’t have to be so poor. We will point to the nasty right-wing politics that prevented the state from receiving millions in federal funding.
Fat load of good that does for the people who are living in poverty.
As I drive farther south, deeper into lower Alabama – LA, as the joke goes – it’s hard to ignore the exhausting ‘poorness’.
Dried up towns. Falling down houses. Lone trailers.
I didn’t grow up poor. We had everything we needed and more.
I did grow up surrounded by poverty. Surrounded by poor people.
Whether I had a full awareness of it or not, poverty permeated our existence, defined my childhood.
And America hates poverty.
America hates poor people.
So, in many ways, America hates the South.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are many things about the South to hate.
The number of ‘rebel’ flags I see on my drive makes me feel ill. Confederate flags that have been flying for years and some brand new ones. Flags flying in defiance of new positions and flags flying in defiance of long-term neighbours. Flags representing ugliness and ignorance and flat out racism.
A history of ‘old boy’ politics. Governments managed through back-room hand-shakes and under-the-table ‘negotiations’ and family networks and pay-offs and placements and anything but democratic values.
The use of ‘religion’ to keep people in their place – poor people, people of colour, women. The use of churches to tell people how to vote. The use of ‘religion’ to fan the flames of hate and prejudice. The use of churches to maintain the ‘social order’.
But, in many ways, the thing that America most hates about the South is that it’s poor. It is very, very poor.
Sometimes, we say we don’t know what to do about that.
But the truth is we don’t care.
Or we are just too greedy and too lazy and too closed-minded to actually do anything about it.
Or, maybe, we rely on it and we use it.
As I drive through ‘LA’, the state legislature is raiding the educational fund and the feds are defunding Planned Parenthood.
Don’t kid yourselves that these things are economic requirements or that they are based on closely held religious beliefs.
These are simply ways to maintain and reinforce a hatred of poverty.
A loathing of ‘the poor’.
A way to continue to punish poor people.
Don’t educate people.
Don’t give access to birth control.
Keep people uneducated.
Reinforce the myth that poor people have no control over themselves and simply make bad choices.
Hate with a clear conscious.