Muse and Whirled Retort Archives 2006

The Muse and Whirled Retort, April, 2006

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

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The Muse and Whirled Retort

April 5, 2006

Volume VII Issue vi

Washington, DC



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  1. HEY HEY and welcome to April!
At 3 seconds after 1:02 it was 1:02:03 04/05/06

Pretty cool huh?



Dr D and I are headed to the North east next month and still looking for dates in the Philadelphia and New England area. This summer we are looking forward to The San Francisco, High Sierra Oregon Country Fair and Islands Folk Festivals. We are still looking for dates particularly in Washington Sate ­ especially Seattle.



Results for the 2 Kerrville songwriting contests come out this month. If I make it I will re arrange things to come to the festival ­ but since I have lost 15 time in a row ­ I am not holding my breath. Yes I am.



But reality? I will miss my lovely festival!!! But since I was just in Texas for Folk Alliance I just can't afford such a beautiful vacation. I love you Kerrville!

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  1. and now...
T.H.E. .M.U.S.E. .A.N.D. .W.H.I.R.L.E.D. .R.E.T.O.R.T.

April 4, 2006

Volume VII Issue iv

W

April 4, 2006

Vol VII Issue VI

April 4, 2006-04-04 Washington, DC



Hey everybody, It's that time of the month again.



Today is April 4 the anniversary of Martin Luther King's assignation. He was in Memphis helping garbage workers settle. a strike. His assassination remains shrouded in mystery and you have to wonder how much his anti-war stance played into it. I am not implying any particular conspiracy theory here - I just have to wonder.



In his immortal "I had a Dream" speech Martin Luther King said, "Let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia"



Stone Mountain



A few months later ­ I would be born - in the Stone Mountain of Georgia. As a kid I wondered why would martin Luther King have picked my hometown for freedom to ring from? Everything seemed normal to me. I just didn't know any better. How could I?



Sure, I was living in the home of the Ku Klux Klan. I know, lots of places claim that distinction. It's funny, when I tell people that they are quick to say they thought THEIR hometown was the home of the Klan.



So, let's be straight about this there were really three Klans. Two of them were started in the 60s ­ One in the 1860s in Pulaski, TN - the other in the 1960s in Meridian, MS The one I'm talking about started in the teens. Aside from these three "Eras" of the Klan, there were countless splinter factions and subsets of secret ­ even more secret than you're your secret societies There was the invisible nation, the white knights, the royal white knights ­ not to mention the 1990s when there was the imperial white knights of the Los Angeles Police department.



There were sects that not only wore bed sheets, but more secret ones that wore whole blankets quilts, ones that wore the whole bedroom sets. They all wear secret rings to identify themselves. Yes, lots of folks will rightly claim that there town is "THE HOME" of the Ku Klux Klan ­ thus proving people will brag about anything.



That being said, undeniably the largest wave of the Klan, the strongest and most intimidating, was the second era ­ The Klan of the 20's. None of this is to say that there was never a time that such hate groups didn't exist ­ only lulls between there activity. The Klan is funny that way ­ sometimes it goes away for a while ­ and ya think your safe ­ but then rises from beneath the bed sheets like a herpes simplex viral blister.



The modern Klan started in 1915 with about 15 to 200 people depending on who you talk to. (ya, know like the time U2 Played at my college campus and only 8 or 9 people were there ­ though if ya talk to any DeKalb College alumni they will all claim to have been one of them ­ I know have claimed to have been there ­ I wasn't ­ I did see the poster.)



It was at Stone Mountain where these 15-200 people donned their linens, climbed to the to of this massive, one mile, boulder and burned a cross so large it could be seen from the tiny town of Atlanta nearly 20 miles away. It was there that they added to there doctrine of white supremacy anticatholiscm and anti Semitism ­ which was easy to do since there were very few Jews and Catholics anywhere near St Mountain at the time. I've often said, it's easier to hate what ya don't understand than to admit you don't understand it Just as it is true of something as iconic as The Klan ­ it is also true of you and me.



From that ceremony in 1915 until well into the David Duke 90s Stone Mountain was at the heart of much of the Klan's activities ­ particularly ceremonial ones.



Its what I grew up with. They were omni present in my childhood world ­ though, oddly, rarely spoken of. I was raised by a single mother. Across the street, a neighbor - - a real father figure to me ­ the one that taught me how to drive a nail, and wire a lamp and rebuild a carburetor I am sure was a Klansman ­ though we never discussed it. But I recognized the secret ring.



My earliest memories are of watching the Klan parade down my town's streets - marching by Stone Mountain's other claim to fame ­ The Confederate Memorial. Perhaps you've seen pictures of it. It is the world's largest carving of Moe Larry and Curly ­ I mean Stonewall Jackson, Robert E Lee and Jefferson Davis on Horseback.



That was the environment... so, Sure, I and everyone I knew yelled racial slurs, and told N-Word jokes about people we had never had a conversation with. Sure, I believed I was not to touch black people nor eat from the same table and surely not drink from the same glass. A family not far from us actually had live in house servants ­ who ate from a separate set of dishes. Everything seemed normal to me.



I am probably the youngest person you will ever meet that went to a segregated school. In 1970 Jimmy Carter defeated Lester Maddox for governor and went about practically desegregating the last of the segregated schools. I was in the first grade.



At that time Stone Mountain was a trailer court for poor white trash well outside a small town known only for Co-Cola and Gone with the Wind. I was born on a dirt road which is now a four lane-er with a traffic light. In my life time the city of Atlanta has grown from three hundred thousand to three million and counting. There were no Atlanta Braves or Flacons or Michael Vick or Atlanta International Airport or CNN. Stone Mountain has gone from white trash trailers to distant ring of 'burbs in a minor American city to inner ring of 'burbs in a major international city. It is in fact, now the epicenter of the Untied States of Generica. Now, couple the urban sprawl with (in my opinion) the story of the 90's - the emergence of the black middle class - and you have a real irony. Stone Man is now an upper middle class black suburb.



Which is why I couldn't think of what to say when I was home recently at a Shell station on the corner of Rockbridge and Cynthia McKinney Blvd a young middle class African American teenager spied my bald head and funny spring tie and sauntered up to me wearing his mall bought ghetto gear, a Negro league baseball jersey expensive oversized pants and enough bling to make Libberachi's jewelry look like Barbra Bush's



"You got no idea where you is, boy."



I thought about it and snickered softly to my self. I couldn't blame the kid, no more than I could blame my grandmother for making racial slurs ­ Hell, she was nearly 60 at Brown VS Board of Education, and grew up in the depression in rural Alabama.



Instead, I asked him what he knew of the spot on which he stood?



That threw him off long enough for me to get a word in edgewise. "did you know that this road here used to be an Indian trail that went from the mountain over to what is now Etowah, Georgia? There you'll find a giant Indian mound that is older than the pyramids. - from the ground it looks like a pile of rocks which is what modern people thought it was until recently it was viewed from the air. From the air it is in the perfect shape of an eagle's head. Thousands of years ago people walked the 80 miles to here ­ this big rock."



I could see I was boring the kid, but I pressed on.



This spot was a regular meeting place for The Woodland Indians who built a wall around the top of the mountain and used it as a fortress some 8-10 thousand years ago.



"Take that Egyptian pyramids." Yea, people will brag about anything.



"I guess the fortress didn't work because they were wiped out by the Creek who were pushed out by the Cherokee. Yes, people of all races have warred against one-another throughout human history.," I explained.



I don't think that was the answer he was looking for.

"Ya wanna go out there with me? It's about an hour's drive?"



He declined, but I didn't miss a beat. "What if I just show you around this town." Surprisingly he accepted. Ya gotta admire his guts - a black teenager getting in the 1986 Subaru of a 40 year old bald white man.



"You know about the Mountain right?" I asked as we approached the massive rock.



"Ya mean the big carving of the Klanspeople on horseback."



"No, they aren't Klansmen ­ at least one of them was dead before the Klan was ever dreamed up."



He didn't know his town had been mentioned in King's famous speech he told me as I drove around to show him the bell commemorating freedom ringing from Stone Mountain.



"Why did he pick this place" he asked .



I said, "I have thought about that my whole life.. "Ya know this place was burned to the ground right?" Nothing remained except for this big old rock.



"Yea, so?"



"Think about it. What didn't burn?"



"OK, but I am not sure I am following you."



"Look at that carving," I said.



Ya see, Stone Mountain itself is not so much a mountain but a giant rock that is so big it is classified as a mountain and sticks out from the rolling piedmont like a republican in a tattoo parlor. It protrudes from the ground some one mile into the air. Under ground it goes seven states. In fact there is a St Mountain, NC and a St Mountain, VA ­ that are named for the same giant piece of granite . The World's largest piece of granite which was even declared the 8th wonder of the world in 1849 but I think there is a potato chip in the shape of the virgin Mary available on e-bay that has the same distinction.



And what a better place to put a memorial to the confederacy than on a giant rock that Sherman couldn't burn. Such was the thinking.



Ya see, as the Children of Civil-War veterans came of age ­ they started building monuments to their parents. From the 80s well into the 20s the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected thousands of monuments around the country.



"You've seen Mt Rushmore, right? Same guy carved it. ­ or at least started it. But when he found out it was being funded by the Klan he quit and did Mt Rushmore instead."



"No way ­ why don't they tell us that in my local history class?"



"Well, to be honest, he may have just realized The Klan simply couldn't afford the project ­ I don't know ­ I just know he took off to the North Carolina with the money, and after hearing the story of the guy who duped the Klan for a million plus the State of North Carolina refused to extradite him Needless to say he pissed of a whole bunch of people when he left. So they blew off the part of the carving that he started.



"Really." There used to be a museum right there on the corner that had pictures of it ­ I went to high school across the street."



No way ­ that's where I go.



"Oh yea it was a school for drop outs in those days but that's a different story. , Small world isn't it. You couldn't have gone there when I was born. ­ It was segregated. I used to skip class and come down here. Speaking of class ­ why aren't you in school?



"I'm ­ ummm... skipping class."



"No you're not."



"You ain't takin me back to school ­ I'll jump out of the car right now."



Nothing could be farther from my mind. But you ain't skipping class. Class is an experience ­ and education is a series of experiences.



Let's go have a better look at the carving.



The whole idea for this thing was dreamed up in the 1890s by Helen Plane the President of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Her father had Served with Lee and died at Gettysburg during the second War of Independence/



The Daughters brought in Gutzon Borglum. The guy who later did Rushmore. He proposed a portrait of Robert E Lee being followed by an entire army ­ a really ambitious project ­ each state would choose 10 civil war heroes and he would carve them.



"I'll bet none of them choose Fredrick Douglas." He replied.



"Yea, you right."



I took him down to the football field where I had played little league football. I had never been around black people before and finding kids ­ just like me ­ playing hard ­ depending on them ­ discovering team work together changed my life. The first time I shook hands with a black person and found my hand didn't fall off I changed my tune. Schools, swimming pools, and community events and locker rooms were all recently desegregated. Who knew that little league football could take on such epoch proportions



It's like that line from Dan Bern: "Everything I learned I learned from dad, and he learned it all from his, and his dad just happened to be wrong about everything."



Then I took him out to the old site where I went to jail for the first time for disrupting a Klan rally. I was in high school.



Well into the 80s the Klan had regular meetings there including their annual labor-day cross burnings. I suggested we bring s'mores but my idea was trumped as my friends and I formulated a plan.



Tommy Nall stole some sheets from his mother and we put together Klansman robes using orange traffic cones to serve as a form for the pointy caps. We used old boy-scout patches to add an air of authenticity. Our plan was to run out and joint their ranks carrying signs with obvious misspellings like "Blaks is stooped"



We thought such a sight would be so funny we were sure to make the front page of the New York Times if not outright end the reign of the Grand Wizard himself.



Though the truth is they were pretty pathetic ­ none of us knew how to use a sewing machine and we looked more like a pin-head Charlie Brown on Halloween than imposing Imperial white Knights. It didn't help that the sheets were not really white and had a pastel pattern of light blue hydrangeas.



We had the robes and signs in the Trunk of Tommy's Malibu, we popped the trunk, looked at the robes and orange traffic cones and then at the approaching mob ­ we looked at each other and as the group of a hundred or so rounded the corner on to main street we... completely chickened out and threw some rocks and then ran instead. We were caught, taken to jail and released ­ the black cop winked as he let us go.



Yes, "My town has come along ways. In 1996 the town made the front page of the New York Time when it elected a black mayor. When the Olympics came to Atlanta Stone Mountain they had long distance running around the mountain. Of course the Kenyans are the greatest ­ and it was quite a site to see these Kenyans running in first place silhouetted by the worlds largest carving. The Confederate battle flag blowing in the breeze.



I think about all of this on the day of King's assassination. I wonder how much his opposition to the Vietnam War would have changed the trajectory we are on.



I see the effect he and his army of volunteers organizers and activists had on my home town. I wonder how they would have changed the debate on the current war.



Would we even be in Iraq? And why is there any debate on the war anyway? What's to debate except the method of which to get us out and fix what we have broken.

  1. ANNOUNCEMENTS
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Dr D and I still have a lot of tentative dates in May and lots of places in the NE that we could plug in a date.

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You will notice there are very few April dates ­ That's because I am spending the month working on video projects ­ in particular a DVD for David Rovics ­ It is my first "for hire" video project ­ I'll let you know when it's done.

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  1. H.E.R.E.S. .D.A. .D.A.T.E.S
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updated 7 years ago