Living in this state is like loving a teenager. Your love is deep and profound for her, but somehow she still manages to make you want to pull every strand of your hair out and scream into a pillow.
Our state legislators have really outdone themselves this session, passing the most restrictive abortion bill in the country, which certainly garnered lots of national attention but will probably do absolutely nothing but cost the state lots of money. Yay!
They were able to get that highly controversial bill through, while most likely not being able to get anything done on the lottery by the end of this week, when the session is expected to end. Most Alabamians are in favor of a lottery, and agree it would have brought much-needed revenue into the state, whether it went to education or to shore up the general fund.
Y’all just go ahead and do whatever you want, don’t worry about the will of the people who put you there.
Even a bill that would look “progressive” in any other state, ended up grabbing more national headlines and ridicule. This bill eliminated the need for probate judges to issue marriage licenses. Instead a couple would simply have to file an affidavit stating they were not married to anyone else, were of legal age and competent to wed. The judge would simply be responsible for collecting and recording these sworn statements.
On the surface this looks like it protects same sex couples from discrimination — which it ultimately does — but as the only gay legislator in Alabama, Rep. Neil Rafferty told al.com, the bill “was born out of prejudice,” so he voted against it.
Essentially, the bill was written to protect the judges who didn’t want to issue the licenses to gay couples because of their own personal beliefs, not the other way around.
This did, however, generate some rather misleading national headlines, including “Alabama Votes To End Marriage Licenses After Judges Refuse To Give Them To Same-Sex Couples” and “Alabama Goes Scorched-Earth Over Same-Sex Marriage, Votes to Eliminate Marriage Licenses and Weddings Altogether.”
Certainly these headlines were written to make it seem like the Hicks of Hicksville would rather just ban marriage altogether than see same-sex couples wed. And that is obviously not the case. At least it does offer protection to everyone now from rogue judges, which this state is kind of known for, even if that was not its original intent. And lucky for the national media, they were able to get a few more jabs in at us too. Win-win?
We are such an easy punching bag. Every late-night show should have five writers from Alabama on their staff to make the joke writing and material mining even easier than it already is.
When I visited a friend in New York we caught a show at the legendary Comedy Cellar. One of the comedians was asking where everyone was from and my friend blurted out “Alabama” and pointed at me. The room erupted in laughter and so did I. I knew what was coming.
This was right after the special Senate election and Roy Moore controversy, and this guy looked at me like he had been handed a gift from the comedy gods. It was all in good fun but he railed on the state for most of his set, looking at me as he delivered each predictable punchline. The folks from Ohio and Kansas did not get the same attention. It was an easy day at the office for him.
That same friend who I was visiting and is also from Alabama (and loves it), texted me last week during our latest round of bad press. Her text simply read, “Oh Alabama.”
I knew exactly what she meant and just texted back, “I know.”
It’s not that we really care what these people think. They have written us off as a bunch of ass-backward, toothless, barefoot yokels that the rest of the country should ridicule, scorn and continue to “fly over.”
They just don’t get it. Nor do they want to.
Don’t get me wrong, we bring a lot of this on ourselves. That state legislature that is so embarrassing? Well, we sent those people up there to represent us. Most of us can’t even name who our reps are and many didn’t even bother to vote. While there are, of course, some good representatives and senators who are up in Montgomery for the right reasons, there are just as many morons up there for all the wrong ones. And that is on us.
But what it so frustrating is that these outsiders can’t see just how wonderful this state really is, and how many really incredible, talented people call it home. It’s like that teenager you love. You are scared people only see the angst-filled, bratty side of her, but you know there is also a sweet, glorious soul in there as well. And you want the whole world to see that too!
We build airplanes in the southern part of this great state, cars in the middle and the north is populated with rocket scientists — literally. We have produced countless writers, artists, musicians, scientists and sports legends who have all won the top prizes in their fields. That is not by accident. There is 100 percent humidity and 100 percent magic (and yes, even some crazy) in this air that creates such people.
The past couple of weekends have I been reminded of our state’s breathtaking beauty. I traveled to Choctaw County last weekend and tromped through a forest of pine, oak and magnolia trees down to the glittery white sandy banks of Okatuppa Creek, where I searched for arrowheads and shark teeth with my children and took turns skipping rocks across the water.
This past weekend I sat in the water off Sand Island with friends and drank cold beers and talked about how the kids who were splashing all around us were growing up way too fast. Hermit crabs were caught. Dolphins were spotted, and fish were hooked. All was right with the world. Perfect even.
As I saw young and old fishing off the Dauphin Island pier and friends posting photos of children happily playing and girlfriends taking selfies on Robinson Island and Point Clear and Fort Morgan, it made my heart swell with pride. What an absolute embarrassment of riches we have here.
I am from Alabama, and I feel so very lucky to call it home.
We can change who we send to Montgomery, and it’s time to start really paying attention folks, and it’s also way past time for good people to step up to the plate and run for office. But nothing can ever take this paradise we call home away from us. And there is no place I would rather live and raise my children than here.
Oh, Alabama, I love you so.
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