We’ve all had our share of conversations, meetings, classes, interviews, transactions, negotiations, arguments, and, yes, first dates followed by a night, a day, a week, and I dare say longer when we think of things we should have said.
You may think there’s no such thing as a do-over, but I have a blog.
On the night of Martin Luther King Day, I got a call from a fellow who wanted to talk about a column I had in the local paper under the headline, “Where is MLK when we need him?”
He does a podcast called Race Matters which he tried to get me on a little over a year ago when I reviewed his William Lloyd Garrison lecture, the 2nd annual here in WLG’s hometown (link below). I dodged it until he forgot it, although I enjoyed a few drinks with him in The Grog a month or so later.
When he named Newburyport’s Senior Center as a place to meet, I only figured that he had others in mind for a conversation. Many events happen there, large and small, so I walked in unsuspecting, only to find myself seated in a recording studio in front of a microphone and camera, all of which I assumed he kept at The Governor’s Academy well south of Newburyport where he is the Dean of Multicultural Education and teaches history.
Links appear below to my column (updated and adapted from a blog headlined, “Calling Dr. King”) and Edward Carson’s podcast, both of which can speak for themselves. However, if I had it to do over again, here’s what you would hear.
Regarding his memory of having George Wallace as governor while growing up in Montgomery, Alabama:
Edward, you’re not old enough to remember George Wallace, though I’m sure you heard plenty about him at an early age. Did you also hear of Lester Maddox?
He’d have likely said yes, but I still wouldn’t believe he could have anything near my real-time memory of the Georgia governor. Though, to be fair, he did quote Wallace’s mantra, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” so why wouldn’t he remember Maddox wielding an axe handle in defense of his Jim Crow restaurant against integration? I’d have taken another tack:
All these anti-woke pronouncements we are hearing from governors DeSantis and Abbott, gag orders on talk of race in Florida, bounties on those seeking reproductive rights in Texas, transport of immigrants under false pretenses to Northern cities–in one case an island–are a replay of Wallace and Maddox sixty years ago.
Not sure what he would have said to that, but no matter what it was, I’d have continued:
Wallace and Maddox were in a competition. Which one could prove himself the most worthy front man for white supremacy? The Republican idea of a Southern Strategy existed long before Nixon brought it into the open. Democrats and Republicans were vying for Southern votes to tip an otherwise balanced scale. Who would they deal with? Both Wallace and Maddox wanted that role.
I’d pause here, but not for long:
DeSantis and Abbott are doing the same, only this time the stakes are higher, not to help pick the king, but to be the king. Or to replace a king whose base is base in both senses of the word. Which one can be the nastiest, the most cynical, the most malignant, the most likely to ridicule a handicapped man, insult a woman who asks direct questions with lines like “She had blood coming out her wherever,” and dismiss developing nations as “shit-hole countries”? DeSantis and Abbott are vying for that role.
I’d pause again to let it sink in, but quickly add:
Regarding race, their task will be to find more Kanye Wests and Hershel Walkers to stand with them in photo-ops, smiling and nodding their heads to every hateful thing they have to say–which is all they have to say. Neither DeSantis nor Abbott needs P.T. Barnum to tell them how to play to the lowest common denominator–not anymore than they need Tom Hanks to tell them that every lead role needs supporting roles.
I have a hunch Edward would interrupt me here to add something. And I think I know what he’d add. If not, I would say it:
And both have had Trump show them that all supporting roles must be filled with yes-men.
One other item late in the interview: In the column, I had quoted King’s prediction shortly before his death that America was heading back into the Dark Ages. In the interview, Edward asks if I think that has come true, and I offer my opinion that it is.
Now I realize that I didn’t need to offer an opinion. I have proof. For starters, former Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota ran in the Republican primaries in 2012 with a stump speech all about the Enlightment and Renaissance being where western civilization turned away from God, and all went wrong. Four years later, that became a key part of the MAGA creed.
But I can do better than that. Whatever I say in the video, strike it from the record, and replace it with this:
Edward, you may not know this, but I am a strolling minstrel in a Renaissance faire, King Richard’s down in the cranberry bogs way south of Boston every fall. Been in it since 1999. Part of my routine is to be at the gate as people leave at the end of the day. I banter with them as much as I play, and a few years ago, before the pandemic, I came up with a great laugh-line: “Come back next year! We’re going to put Galileo on trial.”
Edward has a rich and easy sense of humor, even with serious subjects, so I’d laugh with him, but only for a bit before continuing:
Don’t laugh too hard. Just weeks ago, Republicans took control of the House, and they now call the shots for every House committee. One committee has already slated as its first order of business calling in Dr. Fauci and grilling him over the handling of the pandemic.
Second chances, take backs, mulligans, and do-overs are all well and good if you can manage them. But when jokes like that start coming true, there’s a much larger do-over that needs to be re-done.
The Martin Luther King Day column:
The William Lloyd Garrison Lecture blog: