As a resident of this area for over 5 years, an active political junkie, former history teacher, and survivor of Grif Stockley's law course, I am again perplexed at how this man's inane ramblings, misunderstandings, and small-town gossip column style of writing earn him the unofficial title of preeminent “expert” and author on Arkansas race relations.
Stockley's recent Times piece, “The Obama Effect,” completely misses the point on what we witnessed on Election Day. I assert that Stockley's “visions of an increasingly color-blind Arkansas” are, unfortunately for our state, totally off-base.
Don't get me wrong, I sincerely wish some of Stockley's we're-finally-all-just-gettin'-along contentions were true. And I do agree with the notion that a Barack Obama presidency will foster improved race relations in all states in some way, including Arkansas. But to ignore the results from Nov. 4 and pretend that Arkansas is even close to being beyond its ugly past, mainly because of the personal experiences of one man in a van full of like-minded supporters, is doing all of us a disservice.
The fact is, Arkansas was only outmatched in its redness for McCain (59 percent-39 percent) by 5 other states, despite the fact that our state swings heavily Democratic in nearly all major state offices and in representation to the federal government. This is a state where John Kerry, a northeastern liberal who lost the election and who had almost no grassroots support here, garnered over twice the final tally for Obama, a Midwesterner who won the election handily. Was it a lack of enthusiasm for Obama? Certainly not, judging by the number of volunteers working for him here. Was it the disaffected Hillary backers getting payback? Well, we know that trend did not play out nationally. So that leaves us with one possibility: Obama's race played the primary role in his defeat here and, despite Stockley's contentions, Arkansas just took another huge step back in race relations. Thank you.
North Little Rock
I just read Max Brantley's column on the lottery and the legislative session. Please keep up the spotlight on this issue — I would hate to see the legislature do something stupid after Arkansans have taken so long to approve it. You're right on with the words “universal, simple and fair.” I have always thought that the GPA requirement should be a 3.0, but you have made me rethink this as well. This lottery has so much potential to do good for so many people — hopefully the legislature won't dampen what can be done.
Reflections on July 4
Like many of you July 4, I displayed my American flag, watched fireworks, and ate too much barbeque. But it was the playing of our country's patriotic songs that got me to thinking, and now writing. It is time to change our national anthem.
Francis Scott Key wrote the words to the Star Spangled Banner after watching, from a British ship, Fort McHenry getting attacked during the Battle of Baltimore in the middle of the War of 1812. We won the Battle of Baltimore, and later the War of 1812, but keep in mind our national anthem is rooted in America's getting attacked. I vote we look to another song, one with less firepower and more pure, inspirational language. Like “O Canada!” and “God Save the Queen.”
This weekend we sang “America the Beautiful.” This song exalts prosperity (waves of grain... fruited plain), proclaims “grace” has been “shed on thee”, seeks God to mend its ev'ry flaw, champions the sacrifice of its soldiers (“Who more than self their country loved”), and calls for national “brotherhood” to “crown [its] good.” And it gets better. Katherine Bates composed these lyrics during a train ride across the country.
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