Well, Doug Jones has stepped in it now. The Democratic nominee for United States Senate went and called the state he hopes to represent an “embarrassment,” and now he’s catching hell for it from the Republican nominee, occasional Judge Roy Moore.
“We are at a point in this state that we can either go forward or backward,” Jones told reporters from a statewide website. “I’m not a perfect candidate or a perfect person, but I will tell you, what we represent is going forward in this state. Roy Moore represents a backward look. I’m tired of Alabama being an embarrassment around the country.”
Moore fired back in a statement, saying, “Alabama needs a senator in Washington who is proud of this state, someone who will be a strong ambassador for Alabama. We don’t need an Obama-like senator who goes on an apology tour for Alabama like President Obama did for America.”
It started me thinking, ARE we an embarrassment to the rest of the country? Is Alabama the family member nobody wants to talk about? I know we all love to think that’s Mississippi, but what if it’s us? And if so, should we start the dreaded “apology tour”?
I tried to think about things we’ve done that might embarrass the U.S. in front of other countries. Certainly we’ve had our share of embarrassing political moments over the years, from George Wallace trying to block African-American students from entering the University of Alabama, Fob James pretending to be a monkey while discussing whether evolution should be taught and Robert Bentley. I mean, just Robert Bentley as a whole — all of it. The Luv Guv was a total embarrassment.
But do we need to apologize for these guys? Wallace actually apologized for himself, even though you’d never know it from the way he’s remembered. Fob certainly isn’t much worse than some of the other goofy governors other states have elected — looking right at you, Illinois and Rod Blagojevich. And we’ll apologize for Bentley when New York apologizes for Anthony Weiner, OK?
Maybe we should be embarrassed about the sorry state of our educational system, but really, unless your state is in the top 15 or so states education-wise, shouldn’t everyone be embarrassed? Nobody’s putting up signs at the state line announcing that you’re entering the state with the 30th best education in the country. Finishing in the bottom three is particularly awful, but the last list I saw had the entire U.S. ranked in the middle of the pack worldwide, so we all kind of suck. Roy’s right about that one, there’s no need to apologize for being uneducated.
Should Alabama be embarrassed about being poor? We are one of the poorest states, but if you flip that around, it probably means we have fewer of the richy-rich 1-percenters who aren’t paying their share of taxes while they reap untold wealth off the backs of the less fortunate. Maybe that makes us a nicer place, and there’s no reason to apologize for being nice, right?
While it’s true that many people, especially East and West Coast elites, immediately think of Alabama when it comes to racial strife and inequality, we’re not alone in that category either. All the rioting and public demonstrations appear to be happening in other states, not Alabama. Can we surmise, then, that there is no longer a problem here and no need for apologies? I’ll let Roy field that one, but I have a good idea what he’ll say.
Certainly we have no reason to be embarrassed about our football teams. The University of Alabama kicks butt week in and week out, and Nick Saban could be the smartest person who ever lived. Maybe Rhode Island should apologize for whatever passes for football in that state. They’re the ones who should be embarrassed.
Really, there are a lot more things to be proud of as an Alabamian than there are to be embarrassed about. I mentioned football already, didn’t I? We have lots of humidity and that’s supposed to be good for wrinkles, so we probably have really nice skin as a state.
Alabama has contributed mightily to the country’s music and literature and also provided the internet with the YouTube sensation, “The Crichton Leprechaun.” That piece of pop culture is known worldwide. Talk about no apologies necessary! We know where da gold at!
Huntsville was home to much of the technological development of the rockets that helped us land on the moon in 1969. True, we did enlist the help of some former Nazi scientists from Germany, which may look bad when viewed through today’s hypersensitive lens. Maybe we offer a “mini apology” on that one.
I also like to think about the proud Tuskegee Airmen — the first black fighter squadron in World War II — as a moment of Alabama pride. The Commodores came from Tuskegee too, so that’s another winner. Of course there was also the Tuskegee Experiment, in which the U.S. Public Health Service left hundreds of black men who had syphilis untreated for decades just to see what would happen. That definitely counts as an embarrassment for the state, but the feds get some of the blame too.
Speaking of STDs, even as I wrote this another point of Alabama pride came to my attention. The Centers for Disease Control just listed the top 10 and bottom 10 states when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases and guess what? We weren’t in either list! Alaska clocked in at number one in the STD category, followed by our neighbor to the west — and my home state — Mississippi. (I haven’t lived there for a while, so no need for alarm.)
Actually, Alabama finished at number 11 on the list, but we know for sure that people from Alabama aren’t spreading STDs anywhere near as often as people from Alaska! Of course the prudes from Vermont had the least amount of social diseases, but that’s probably just because they’re too worked up about maple syrup.
We can count the birth of Mardi Gras, our sugar-white beaches and the biggest traffic snarl on I-10 from coast to coast among some of our great achievements. Jimmy Buffett, the guy who runs Apple and George “Goober” Lindsey are all Alabamians.
So Doug Jones, it looks like Roy Moore may be right. There’s no need to be embarrassed about Alabama. You can probably rest assured that if Roy wins the election he’s going to give Alabama a whole lot of other things not to be embarrassed about.