(Warning: the following contains language.)
Folks from Alabama usually have a love-hate relationship with the state. They just fucking love to hate it.
Take me. My name's Clark and I'm from goddamn Alabam. Reckon I'm lucky I got named after a comic book character and not somebody from The Andy Griffith Show or one of those freaky, obscure books of the Bible. Nevertheless, once or twice a year, it just so happens that I wake up in an Alabama state of mind. That means I'm cussin' up a blue streak before I'm even out of bed. To kick the day off rightly, I drink no-brand bourbon for breakfast and stand in the yard in my tattered underwear yellin' at the neighborhood dogs. I play old Hank really loud and stomp around rantin' about all the dumb-ass things that come outta Alabama, knowin' deep down that my own name is probably somewhere on that list.
This righteous anger comes on hard because there's a lot of shit to hate about that sad, backwards-ass state, whether it's racist fucks like Bull Connor or Christian fascists worshipping false idols or that whole embarrassing "South's gawna rise agin!" war cry. I swear to gawd, sometimes I just wanna high-tail it back home and start whuppin' some redneck ass. And if that includes your mamma, well hey, she's probably your sister too, so I'll get to kill two critters with one rock
However, thanks to the calming effects of anusara yoga, colonic cleansing and the sublime joy of doing hard drugs in a Blue State, I can sometimes contemplate the really good things about Alabama. Seriously.
There's the amazing Alabama Shakespeare Festival, one of the best in the nation (folks on Broadway think they discovered Norbert Leo Butz -- fact is, he spent many seasons in Montgomery honing his chops, much to the delight of Alabama theater-goers). There's the Alabama School of Fine Arts, an incredible performing arts high school from which I graduated (amazingly, it's still tuition-free, with support coming from the otherwise unfairly-allocated state tax base). There's Maya Lin's incredibly moving memorial at the Civil Rights Institute in Montgomery (also home to the invaluable Southern Poverty Law Center). There's Harper Lee, God bless her, still alive and sittin' on her porch down in Monroeville, listening to the soul-shattering echoes of her sole novel still reverberatin' around in America's heart. And there's the thirty-six percent of voters who fought the paranoid Bible-totin' redneck tide to vote against King George in the last election.
There's Ava Lowery, an awe-inspiring teenager who expresses her political awareness through powerful videos she edits on her home computer. Using nothing but her mind and her mouse, she's already pissed off lots of Republican grown-ups, not just because of her Bush-bashing messages, but because these idiots are truly ticked to realize their own fundamentalist wacko kids don't know jack-diddly-dick about computers or being creative (hint: it's your primitive education standards, you backwoods creationist dipshits). When Ava appeared on CNN earlier this year to discuss death-threats that right-wing cowards have made against her, she was incredibly poised and eloquent as she defended her views. Can you imagine threatening to kill a kid because they made a video, even if it was something you vehemently disagreed with? Through it all, Ava's kept her cool in way that blows my mind.
Here's a new video Ava has produced to mark the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. You remember that, don't ya? When our government failed to save one of its crown cities from drowning? I cannot wait for this talented young girl to start producing her own feature-length documentaries.
Technically, the hell-raising band known as the Drive-By Truckers may hail from Athens, Ga., but most of the members are from my hometown. In fact, the leader of the band, Patterson Hood, wrote record reviews for me when I edited the student newspaper at the University of North Alabama. Back then, Pat dressed like a preppie and was in a fraternity and we honestly didn't hang out much, but he was into all kinds of great music, from Joan Armatrading to Dylan to Captain Beefheart. I'd ask him to review some shit like the new Frankie Goes to Hollywood and he'd just stare at me like, Naw, man, we don't need to do that. Now he's shed the pastel button-down shirts and loafers, grown some serious hair, and is churning out some of the best, most blistering Southern rock you'll hear.
And I'm not talking about that thinly-disguised racist conservative bullshit Southern rock. You know the kind, how some Skynyrd fans always wave the Confederate flag and join in on the "Sweet Home Alabama" lyric" "Well I hope Neil Young will remember/a
certain Southern man don't need him around anyhow." Well, if you rednecks can find somebody to read this blog to your ignorant asses, you'll learn that Neil Young was singing about a corrupt government and institutionalized racism, which means Alabama and George Wallace and Richard Nixon and black children being blown up in a goddamned church and cross-burning and how wrong all that shit is, so the rest of us do need Neil Young around. We need an army of Neil Youngs. Besides, the joke's on you, ya cowshit-huffing country dumbfucks: Ronnie van Zant actually approved of Neil Young's views and was using that lyric to make fun of your idiotic whoopin' and hollerin' ass.
The Drive-By Truckers carry on in the great liberal tradition of Hank Williams, Sr. and Woody Guthrie. They sing about the little man getting screwed by the system -- and that "little man" can be black, white, male or female. And that system is anything that creates an unjust world. Like Republicans.
I love Alabama. Seriously I do. It's my home, and if I've made anything worthy in this life, that's where I got my start. But there's plenty of days when all I wanna do is kick its red-state ass till it turns blue. When it does, there will be more people there like Ava Lowery and Patterson Hood, and far fewer like Richard Shelby and Judge Roy Moore.
Now if you'll pardon my uncouth manners, I do believe I hear them mangy fleabag dawgs pawin' around in my yard agin. It's time to crank up the Hank and dish out some Southern justice here in urban LA.
Country boy can survive.