Monday, April 28, 2008

Happy Confederate Memorial Day ! ! !

Just Joking.

But it really is Confederate Memorial Day in a few places. Wikipedia has the best chart of Confederate Memorial Days, state by state.

Question: Why isn't Confederate Memorial Day celebrated on the same day in all the Southern States ?

Answer: That's what happens with a confederation, unlike a nation, and it's part of the reason why Confederate money was eventually used as wallpaper. Rebels aren't known for being cooperative.

When I saw a web posting about Alabama's Confederate Memorial Day observance, it made me remember a few things..... and I have no idea where I'm going with this.

I went to a Mississippi school that had grades K-12 under one roof. I played snare drum in the 5th grade band, and stuck with it through the 12th. Our fight song (it was a segregationist academy) was "Dixie". I played that song in every parade, pep rally, pregame and halftime. I played "Dixie" after every field goal and touchdown for eight years.

Then I went to The University of Mississippi - a.k.a. Ole Miss.

At Ole Miss, I was also in the marching band (triple drums), and the fight song was, of course, "Dixie. I played that song for all of the occasions listed above plus blocked punts, 3-pointers, fourth-down completions, and coin-tosses. After two years, I transferred to a much smaller college. It had a different fight song, but the college was in the middle of the Mississippi Delta, immortalized in at least one book as "The Most Southern Place on Earth".

We didn't have to play "Dixie" quite as often there. Just before, during, and after the games. So from 5th grade until college graduation (10 years), I played Daniel Emmett's minstrel ballad "Dixie" more than anyone should ever have to.

Shortly after I graduated, African-American athletes wisely decided that schools which played Slaveholder Anthems should be avoided. The song fell out of favor, and I haven't heard it in years.

Therefore, since I got such a head start, I can make the case that I've played "Dixie" more than anyone else alive. I don't know where I'm going with any of this, in case you're wondering. Stop reading now if you're expecting me to make a point.

I had a "maiden" great aunt, to use a Southern euphemism for unmarried female relative, who we called Libba. Libba had seemed ancient for as long as I could remember. The day eventually came when she had to move into a nursing home in Jackson, Mississippi. Her mind was as sharp as ever, but her body was betraying her.

It was a nice enough nursing home. Ross Barnett - the infamous Mississippi governor who stood in the doorway of the University of Mississippi administration building to prevent James Meredith from integrating Ole Miss - had spent his last days at the same facility.

Going to the nursing home was traumatic enough for Libba. One of the many things she found to gripe about: the nursing home, as an integrated care center, didn't observe Confederate Memorial Day. OMG.

Ok, I know where I'm going with this post. It'll be worthwhile.

Libba eventually adjusted, and spent her time watching Jeopardy and writing hate mail to Alex Trebek for not agreeing with everything she'd learned at Yazoo City Consolidated High School. I don't remember the name of Libba's first roommate, because that lady was white.

You know what happens next, don't you? The white roommate went on to the place where you go after you leave the nursing home.

Libba's next roommate, Mrs. Mackey, was black. There was major trauma for all involved. We're talking about people who grew up in the Jim Crow south.

Mrs. Mackey was in her early sixties, totally blind, but otherwise healthy. She was one of the most genuinely kind and caring people I've ever known.

Libba was outraged over being assigned a black roommate. Worked herself into a devout Methodist fury. She was too polite to say anything to Mrs. Mackey, of course. I think part of the problem was that Libba could see that Mrs. Mackey was black. But Libba had know way of knowing if Mrs. Mackey, being blind, really knew that Libba was white. (I know, I know, this is almost like a Henry James novel....)

Libba made phone calls to the family whenever Mrs. Mackey shuffled outside the room. Plots were plotted. Whispers were whispered. The nursing home wouldn't budge. They were an integrated facility, and Libba and Mrs. Mackey were going to be roommates unless one of them could come up with the money for a private room.

And then, it happened....as they always say before the crucial moments in episodes of "The Wonder Years".

Libba's electric wheelchair stopped working.

The electric wheelchair had been Libba's status symbol, giving her a level of mobility denied to most of the others on her floor. The electric wheelchair got her to the cafeteria before all the red jello was gone. Not only that, but the electric wheelchair said "My nieces are married to guys who are RICH !"

The tragic wheelchair malfunction brought Libba down to the commoner level. She knew more than Alex Trebek, and could work the New York Times Crossword with a permanent marker, but she wasn't strong enough to push her wheelchair to the cafeteria.

That's when the two roommates finally bonded. Libba could see, but couldn't walk. Mrs. Mackey could walk, but couldn't see. Unless they started cooperating, lesser beings would beat them into the cafeteria, and there would only be nasty green jello left. So Mrs. Mackey started pushing Libba and the wheelchair while Libba navigated. I think they eventually ditched the heavy electric contraption for a more streamlined manual model.

They learned about each others' relatives. They worked out a joint custody schedule for the radio and television programs. Theological debates took place in their room that would've left Martin Luther and John Calvin scratching their heads in wonder, wondering "just who is this Jimmy Swaggart person, anyway?" Libba and Mrs. Mackey spent a lot of time wandering around the nursing home in a symbiotic relationship, stopping in various rooms to show off their mobility and say "howdy".

Somewhere in that relationship is a good screenplay. Sort of a cross between "Driving Miss Daisy" and "The Defiant Ones", where Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier are chained together but still escape from the chain gang.

In fact, I hereby copyright this movie idea: Imagine mixed race nursing home roommates who aren't allowed to leave for the black grandson's graduation or the white granddaughter's wedding. Something like that.... So they escape in the middle of the night in order to attend both events. They have road trip adventures. They get the wheelchair onto a Greyhound bus. They bond together. They go into a redneck bar in the middle of the night to earn meal money by singing Jimmy Swaggart songs for tips. The crowd goes wild over them, and many of the bar patrons resolve to live a better life. Everyone learns important life lessons, like in The Wonder Years or Grey's Anatomy.
They float the wheelchair down the Mississippi River on a barge, with Huck Finn overtones. They're given up for dead, and watch their own funerals from the church balcony, in a Tom Sawyer homage. They eventually get back to the nursing home cafeteria in time for the red jello, and discover that the white half of the duo has forgotten all about Confederate Memorial Day.

As we all should. It was a hundred and forty years ago.
Let's give up Dixie too. I hate that damn song.

10 comments:

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

Wow. This is one fantastic story.Great writing - and so true

Patrick said...

One of life's great questions. Why is there never enough red jello?

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Patrick,
I think it goes back to a deeper philosophical question. If green jello didn't exist in the cafeteria, would there be such a demand for red jello? In other words, can we truly know what is good without some form of bad as a reference? This is a deep, deep question that should probably be referred to Jimmy Swaggart.

Great Satan's Girlfriend,
I'm always a bit alarmed when you drop by, and wish you'd give me some advance notice so I could clean the place up beforehand. (You know, temporarily kick the Leftists out of the blogroll, post something about eliminating various Middle Eastern dictators, put up some pics of military hardware....)
Glad you liked it.

Pete Wann said...

I agree, well said.

As for the movie - I think it was called "The Bucket List." (Only I don't think it had quite the same racial overtones.)

Anonymous said...

Zbeth says:
I grew up in Michigan, noted for all those veterans of the Grand Old Army of the Republic. (They got homesteads as bonuses for serving.)
We sang Dixie all the time when i was a kid and I never knew it had overtones.
I like that song.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Pete,
Thanks for commenting. Great blog, BTW. Hope you noticed "West and Clear" under the Fort Worth Bloggers category.
I haven't seen "The Bucket List" yet. Will try to get to it.

Zbeth,
The song "Dixie", in case you're wondering, now has more overtones than the bell tower at Notre Dame cathedral.

johnhspivey said...

Hey,
This is a great post! A wonderful story. And like you, I went to high school with 'Dixie' as our fight song. It didn't hit me until much later how offensive it must be to the black athletes on the field.
As far as your grandmother's story goes... a while back, my father who had gone blind and developed dementia took off with my uncle who had his larynx/voicebox removed.
My ne'er-do-well old unk and dad had a similar symbiotic realitionship. Unk would be the eyes for Dad - and Dad would be the cursing mouthpiece for him. They went to Vegas. All true. I also wrote a screenplay... although I thought it was pretty good, it remains - well, unproduced to date.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

John,
I've always wanted to ask the songwriter who composed Merle Haggard's classic "Daddy Frank":

"Fever caused my mama's loss of hearing.
Daddy Frank was born without his sight.
And mama needed someone she could lean on,
And I believe the guitar man was right."

If Daddy Frank could hear, but not see, and Mama could see but not hear, how did they ever hook up? Did they both just decide to marry people they'd never be able to communicate with?

I think a symbiotic relationship was intended by the songwriter, but it wasn't thought through very well....

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

Remember you asked for the list of poeple that signed the petition against the MFI: here it is: http://www.nolanchart.com/article4161.html