I’m tired of feeling like an alien. Or some exotic creature that needs to be studied in its natural habitat. Yes, I am a proud Alabamian. And lately, it seems like there is an effort or need by “the elite” (whatever that means) on the East Coast and West Coast to “understand” us. That “need” is condescending in and of itself. They seek to “understand” how some could possibly have different viewpoints from their own. They consider us a monolithic group of people, who don’t wear shoes or have teeth, who all voted for the same person and who scream “Roll Tide” every five seconds.
And we all know that’s just not the case.
Recently, Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” spent a week in our great state in an effort to try and “understand” why the show’s lowest ratings are in Alabama. After word spread that their correspondents were here doing this, we all knew what was coming. We’re an easy punching bag. But they really went for the low-hanging fruit by bringing in some of Paul Finebaum’s callers (cringe) and finding a Bigfoot enthusiast (apparently we have those in Alabama). I am sure they were extremely disappointed they couldn’t find a dentally challenged kid playing the “Deliverance” theme on a front porch along some back road.
I get it. It’s a comedy show. They were looking for laughs, not truly looking to conduct a sociological study of our culture. But it was fish in a barrel.
In Sunday’s New York Times, comedian and CNN host W. Kamau Bell — the son of a Mobilian — wrote a lovely opinion piece inviting the aforementioned elite to vacation in Orange Beach.
He laments that no one has taken him up on it yet because no one he knows has “any interest in purposefully spending any time in Alabama.” Ouch. I just can’t imagine why they would feel that way, y’all. When we are constantly painted as the most backassward state in the union (except for maybe you, Mississippi — thank you).
Bell, too, finishes up his column by encouraging his “liberal friends” who were “gobsmacked” by Donald Trump’s victory to visit another part of the country to spend some time with these strange creatures known as Southerners.
I feel like Mr. Bell truly gets it and his piece was well intended. But I imagine those casually reading his column in Manhattan or San Francisco and who might have actually thought about booking a trip to Orange Beach, as he suggested, would consider it more of a mission trip to observe the crazy natives (maybe even convert a few to their way of thinking) than a vacation.
But even still, I would love for them to come with their notebooks and microscopes (maybe some pamphlets) so they could see with their own eyes that our culture is way more complex than the stereotypes so easily portrayed on television.
Kick us as much you want, nation, but who gave you the CEO of one of the world’s largest companies? That would be Foley, Alabama, hometown of Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Arguably one of the greatest books of all time, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was penned by a little woman from Monroeville, Alabama.
We have multiple Grammy award-winning and just-all-around amazing musicians (Wilson Pickett, Jimmy Buffett, Lionel Ritchie, Shelby Lynne, Alabama Shakes, among many, many others), Pulitzer Prize winners (Harper Lee, Winston Groom, Rick Bragg, Cynthia Tucker, etc.), brilliant scientists (E.O. Wilson — also a Pulitzer Prize winner), genius inventors (Lonnie Johnson) and hysterical comedians, including Mr. Bell (he lived here for a bit so we’ll claim him), as well as the one “The Daily Show” sent down here to explore his home state, Roy Wood Jr.
Don’t even get me started on all the premier athletes (Hank Aaron, Joe Louis, Joe Namath, Vince Dooley, Charles Barkley, Bo Jackson, Julio Jones — and those are just the ones who came to mind in the first five seconds I thought about it).
And by the way, there’s a little place called Huntsville, Alabama, that is literally full of rocket scientists. Rocket scientists, people.
I’m sorry, but a land that can produce all of these great folks has to be a little bit magical. It just has to be.
Sure, we still have many problems to address. Admittedly we’re poorer, fatter, unhealthier and less well-educated than just about any other state in the country (thank you again, ‘Sippi, for keeping us from being at the very bottom). Our state government has more often than not been an absolute joke. And there are still racial divides we must address. But we know this, and we’re working on it.
And yes, we do indeed have more than our fair share of Paul Finebaum’s finest callers and, I guess, a Bigfoot enthusiast or two. I’ll give you that. But we are so much more. And that side of the story is never told. Because, well, it’s just not as funny or interesting. It’s way easier to write us off as a bunch of dirty, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, inbred idiots.
But please do, come on down, ye “Elites.” We would love to have you so we can tell you the rest of Alabama’s great story. Don’t worry, if you behave, we will take you to see one of our dirty, knuckle-draggin’, mouth-breathin’, toothless, shoeless cousins.
They are slightly easier to find than Bigfoot. Roll Tide!