My title is a quote from the movie “Mississippi Burning” which I just finished watching for the third or fourth time. Seemed an appropriate thing to do on a Sunday evening after the inauguration of Donald Trump.
I hate “Mississippi Burning, “ and I love it.
I hate it because it reminds me of the South as it was during my childhood. I hate it because it reminds me of segregation. I hate it because it is heartbreaking and tragic and frightening and so true.
And, I love it because it is true and the truth must be told.
If you haven’t seen “Mississippi Burning,” watch it — NOW. You won’t find a better example of “when America was great” because that is what Trump and his supporters want — to make America great again like it was then, in 1964. And, they want to make America great for THEM. And, who are they? White Americans, mostly male but also a disturbing and incomprehensible number of females. In the movie, it is the white men who are in control, who think America is great. And, there are the compliant, white women, who follow their men and defend the atrocities they commit. Look at Trump and Melania and Ivanka and tell me things have changed.
The difference between now and 1964 is that in 1964 the federal government was defending civil rights. FBI agents were sent to Mississippi to investigate three missing civil rights workers who were researching voting rights violations.
1964. I was ten years old. Most of you probably weren’t born yet.
FIFTY THREE YEARS LATER and we are still battling voting rights violations! Nothing has changed except our current president and his puppets in Congress and his Cabinet want to limit civil and voting rights and will never send the FBI to investigate violations of those rights.
Do you get that? Violations of voting rights will not be investigated under our current administration. We were more progressive in 1964 than in 2017.
If you think I am an alarmist, you are right. I am alarmed. I am petrified. This is where we are, and this is what we can expect in the future. Republicans don’t want African Americans to vote, and they will do all they can to prevent them from voting. The FBI will not be the knights who ride in and save the day because our administration won’t send them, doesn’t care, and most importantly, because it benefits from the suppression of voter rights.
“These people are crawling out of the sewer” — another quote from the movie talking about the white suppressionists in Mississippi. I would change that quote to “These people crawl out of the septic tanks”. And that change is due to where many of these people live.
Now I am going to throw myself over the cliff here and say a few things that people won’t like. But, here it is. For many years, I was married to a Southern redneck. Yes, I know that is labeling and derogatory, etc. But, he called himself that. All of his friends and relatives called themselves that, and with great pride, so I assert it is acceptable for me to use the term here. I considered my husband to be an enlightened redneck — well, at first, anyway. After all, he married a liberal like me. He was a reader and tried to stay informed. He was more moderate than most of his friends and family. We had many discussions about politics, and he listened intently to my opinions and he, over time, leaned more liberal. As he aged, however, he became hardened and angry, over what I never knew. Paranoia gripped him — he thought everyone was out to get what little he/we had. He went from leaning liberal to solidly right. He became a gun enthusiast and a very vocal NRA supporter. I felt like I hardly knew him anymore. That was the end of our marriage.
In the years we were married, I was fully entrenched in the local, rural redneck community. Believe me, it was an act of love because there is no other force on earth that could have made me live with people whose beliefs are so completely different than mine. These were people I cared about, as family and friends, but people I detested in a broader sense. Now, in retrospect, I kick myself for what I put up with, for what I allowed.
I heard things like:
“Watch that black monkey run” when viewing a football game with friends and in-laws
“Ain’t no black ape gonna talk to my sister in the halls of our school or I’ll shoot his black ass!”
“Can you imagine, she’s marrying a nigger and sent me an invite to her wedding!”
“I was gonna have a Tupperware party and invite people from work, but my supervisor said I had to invite everyone, including the niggers, so I just ain’t gonna have a party.”
I can go on and on, but you get the picture. I objected when I heard talk like that, but I was one among many and always ridiculed. I begged them not to talk like that, but everyone laughed and kept on talking that trash. I tried to reason with them, but reason was not a concept they understood. My husband begged me to be quiet because they were his friends, his kin. Now, I wish I had walked out — out of the room, out on my husband, and out of that life. I didn’t, and for that, I will always be ashamed.
My point is, these type of people, the ones I called family and friends, are not going to change. They are uneducated and proud of it. They live small, isolated lives and want nothing more than that and don’t even want to know of anything more. The only ones who travel far beyond their homes do so for work or in the military, and, sadly, learn nothing about other people and cultures from their excursions. They don’t read more than a little local news and hunting, gun, and celebrity magazines. They only watch “reality” TV, hunting/fishing, wrestling, and sports programs, and low brow humor shows. The religious ones tune into Christian shows. Any program that is even slightly educational is subject to their scorn. They watch shoot ’em up movies with lots of car chases and dead bodies. They love Arnold and Bruce and Sylvester. Once free of school, they never read a book. Not once in all the years living in that rural community did I have an intelligent, meaningful, thoughtful conversation about anything of global importance with even one of my redneck acquaintances.
The people I lived among are not much different than those in “Mississippi Burning.” The only difference, until recent events, is that they limited their racist, sexist opinions to their own social groups. But now Trump and his clown parade are legitimizing and normalizing their hateful “isms.” Hate talk is increasing; it’s more open; it’s more accepted. What was once only said in a living room is now said on a stage.
“If you ain’t better than a nigger, son, than who are you better than?”
Another quote from the movie and one that still applies to the redneck culture. And, how do you prove that you are better when you definitely are not better? You harass and bully and intimidate. That happened in Mississippi in 1964, and we are seeing the same criminal behavior now. Trump and his bully crowd are trying to prove they are better than a race of people that they fear. And you can add to that group, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and any others that don’t fit their idea of the chosen ones.
Trump supporters will not change. They are happily ignorant and will remain that way. You cannot reason with them.
Another interesting note from the movie is that the local Mississippians were constantly trying to shut out the media who came South to cover the story of the missing civil rights workers. Reporters and cameramen were harassed and threatened. Trump is already doing that. He is limiting press access to the White House. He and his press secretary are spreading fake news and outright lies. The legitimate press is his enemy, and he is hellbent on silencing them.
Again, let me emphasize that the difference now is that we have no good guys coming to defend our rights. No one will come to help, to investigate, to arrest. Expect much of the media to avoid controversies that will put them at odds with the president and his goon squad. Unfortunately, true reporters, the ones who care about truth and who expose lies and crimes, are a dying breed.
I have said it on Medium before and I say it again, there will be blood in the streets. Trump will not tolerate dissension. He will begin cracking down. He will call out the Guard and the Army.
This is serious. Yes, woman marching all over the world is heartwarming and all kumbaya-ish, but what will happen when soldiers start shooting grandmothers and mothers at the next rally? What will happen when laws are passed to further suppress the voting rights of minorities? What will happen when we have McCarthy-like investigations into anyone who has spoken out against the president and his thugs? What will happen when Trump forms a secret police squad to arrest and interrogate dissenters? What will happen when people start disappearing? Don’t think that is possible? Read about Argentina’s Dirty War.
Here is the truth:
WE ARE MISSISSIPPI BURNING and Florida burning and New York burning and California burning and Colorado burning and Maine burning and on and on.
No one is going to come put out the flames.
We are on our own.