Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Genteel Folk

adjective: genteel

polite, refined, or respectable, often in an affected or ostentatious way.
"her genteel upbringing"

This is the word that describes the pretension and arrogance of the South.   They have a sense of moral superiority and entitlement that is surreal when you first encounter it.  It again crosses all lines of race and gender and it is a mask they wear to cover their lack of education, the poverty and of course the buried secret of racism and obsession with religion as some type of value metric. If one thing that the White folk of the Antebellum South did was convert them to Christianity.  To be missionary's on their own land, in providing a fake book of myths, and the concept of a Savior on the other side to release them of their bonds of slavery, was the single most significant act of cruelty they did but fuck it it worked.

Ephesians, VI, 5-7: “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.” 

So when you go to the Bible belt and see the numerous Churches, some small, some quite large and some very deserted but their presence marks their significance of times past, speaks louder than any Choir could to show the influence that exists to this day about the hand of Christ.  Everyone I met had a conflicted relationships with regards to this but they faked their fealty and duty to follow the mantra: I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  On that I would say, not in prayer: Dear God.

Religion is a drug, it is like any opioid as it is to salve and balm the soul, to take one out of pain and somehow enable you to swallow the shit they are shoveling at you as if it is fine ash to place upon your head at those special times of worship.  It is the biggest load of bullshit that never stops coming in truckloads.  If the postal service had to deliver it they would never be in financial trouble ever as it would to Amazon for the sheer weight it would require to meet the demand in the South.

I want to point out that where Religion is the most significant symbol and belief, the opioid addiction problem is also at its worst. So much for prayer.  The situation with domestic violence also rages in the south thanks to that little book of bullshit.

Ephesians 5: 22-23: "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour."

1 Timothy 2: 11-12:  "Let woman learn in silence with all submissiveness I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man; rather, she is to remain silent."

Okay just soak that in there and I will move on to more Biblical texts that subjugate women, enable children to be beaten and people sold and tossed out like shit or you could do that yourself as this usually sets me off into a rage so I will move on.

But the South's special relationship, kind of like the one America and England have (think about that for a minute) is with the rich and white and the poor and black.  Now let me go back to the England and America thing.  We fought them, we asked for our freedom, we went to war and we won and formed a democracy. We were not a nation but a Commonwealth, which Virginia still is.  The country was largely agrarian and the largest industry was tea, cotton and other items traded with England and of course France and Spain. To not be boring and teach history here the Anglo history in the United States is by far more present in the South than in anywhere else in America.  It surprised me when I began to drive around and speak to folks and you hear that legacy in Charleston, South Carolina when they speak of their place in history.  That whole first shot in the Civil War at Ft Sumter, yeah, but that place was named after a famous Revolutionary War General (also know as the Fighting Gamecock, if that doesn't say it all nothing does) and that legacy is essential when you move throughout the region.

But the Civil War was and will always be the most divisive and significant issue in history and present day despite the fact that we in the North are hardly crystal clean on that whole racism and oppression thing but we just did it differently.  And we still do.

I have explained numerous times that Southerners are not running around being overtly racist, in fact many do not believe they are and again there is truth in that.  As horrible as it sounds the reality is that they see one color - green - and that is how you merit importance in the South.  There is no problem with a black family moving into Belle Meade (the wealthy hood of Nashville) if they pay cash for the pad.  Trust me no one is stopping them.  Have check? Will it clear? Then welcome.

I referred to myself as the Vagina with a checkbook and once I moved away both were closed for business. The Vadge had been for years but in the South you still have to appear to give a fuck about fucking as that is a woman's worth, her vadge, and that is how they saw me, a vagina.  I assume that if they realized I wasn't into it they would presume I am a Lesbian and while I normally don't care in the South that is one step lower on the hierarchy ladder than Black as both Black and White folks there have issues with the gay folk.  I had enough going on to handle that so I stayed out of that one.

Poverty is the agent like yeast in bread, without it it does not rise and there is so much poverty in the South it beguiles you in ways that make you ashamed.  I never felt such powerful guilt in my life until I lived there and saw child after child act so vile, so enraged and so fucking dangerous that I knew that I had to get out as I used to say; "Once I am afraid of children it is time to quit."  Yes that is systemic racism and in turn a cultural co-dependence that has enabled generation after generation to remain enslaved to a system that has crippled them as human beings.  And the clinging to the Bible and other myths does nothing to improve their quality of life and without leadership, some guiding force and significant legislative action this will not change.  Both Black and White live in a bubble and for both neither is a good thing and that pop you hear is not it but a gun as they are sure that violence and the honor code is the way to prove they are independent, strong willed people with God on their side.  What.the.fuck.ever.

This article from the Guardian explains why the South is raging right now with Covid and the concepts of access and availability are two essential components in making not just equality but equity. Again those too are two different concepts that have been buried behind the screaming.  We need to stop screaming, stop talking and start doing. There are starts all over the country with new elections and without feet to the street, to the mailboxes and to the ballot boxes we will continue to have what we have.

‘It’s bad when you have to drag yourself to the hospital’: US south struggles against Covid-19
Coronavirus outbreak

Poor access to healthcare, failed political leadership and the endurance of segregation and racism have contributed to a surge in deaths

Oliver Laughland in Alabama and Mississippi
The Guardian
Wed 5 Aug 2020

It was only two years ago that Pamela Rush travelled from Lowndes county, Alabama, to Washington DC to testify in front of a panel of US lawmakers, describing the conditions of crippling poverty and predatory lending in an area still blighted by generations of racial inequality.

“They charged me over $114,000 on a mobile home that’s falling apart,” she said. “I got raw sewage. I don’t have no money, I’m poor.”

And it was only last month that she died of Covid-19.

Her death from the virus, wrote the civil rights and moral movement campaigner the Rev William Barber, was “a death caused by structural poverty”.

The same could be said of many deaths in black belt counties in the deep south, where a combination of poor access to healthcare, failed political leadership and the endurance of segregation and generational racism has contributed to a surge in Covid-19 deaths in recent months.

As the rain pounded her raised front porch, Sandy Oliver, one of Rush’s best friends from high school, took a moment to reflect on those she had lost to Covid-19. Sitting in her rocking chair, she counted them in her head, gazing to the roof where an old ceiling fan whirred gently. “At least 10,” she said. “All within the last month and a half.”

Lowndes county, in south central Alabama, is a sparsely populated rural expanse with less than 10,000 residents. Coronavirus has spread like wildfire in the county, making it an epicenter in the state and a national hotspot. One in every 18 residents has been confirmed infected, by far the worst rate in Alabama and one of the highest rates in the US. The county is 72% African American.

Oliver knew many of the 24 people who have died from the virus here. A few days earlier Rush had been commemorated at a nearby socially-distanced funeral.

“I felt terrible because I know it could have been me too,” said Oliver, who recovered from the virus a few weeks earlier. “My heart just goes out for her, and for her two kids.”

For many communities in the deep south, the story of death, loss and suffering at the hands of the virus has been borne of the same entrenched issues.
‘I don’t feel like this is the richest country in the world because we’re struggling’

Decades ago, during the civil rights movement, the county was referred to as “Bloody Lowndes” due to its long history of lynchings, white supremacy and KKK activity. In 1965, voting rights marchers led by Martin Luther King Jr and the late John Lewis crossed the county on the way to Montgomery from Selma.

But 55 years later, and with the final mission of the civil rights movement to tackle economic inequality never resolved, 30% of residents here live in poverty making it one of the poorest counties in the state. There is no hospital in Lowndes, so those like Sandy Oliver and Pamela Rush, sought treatment many miles from home. Census records indicate at least 12% of residents have no form of health insurance.

Although the Trump administration has pledged federal aid to hospitals treating uninsured patients for Covid-19, the stigma and fear associated with no formal coverage left some here struggling to seek help.

When Rickey Lewis, Sandy Oliver’s son-in-law, got the virus, causing pneumonia in both his lungs, delirium and fever, he didn’t call an ambulance but drove himself to the hospital. He has no insurance and worried about ambulance bills. He also knew it could take hours for paramedics to arrive. By the time he made it, he said, he couldn’t walk and had to be carried inside.

Lewis spent four days at Vaughan Regional hospital in Selma before being discharged. Although he still had symptoms, he said, he drove himself home to avoid the risk of financial penalty.

“I had the faith I would survive,” Lewis said, now recovered. “I had to.”

But his wife, Quanita Oliver, felt less confident.

“It’s really bad when you have to drag yourself to the hospital if you’re sick,” she said, describing how she cried down the phone to her mother as Lewis’s symptoms got worse. “I don’t feel like this is the richest country [in the world] because we’re actually struggling.”
Steven Reed, mayor of Montgomery, Alabama, recently found himself in the middle of the mask wearing culture wars. Photo by Kevin D. Liles/The Guardian

At Montgomery city hall, Mayor Steven Reed looked out of his boardroom window and considered the news of the day. His office is a few hundred feet from the state capitol building where governor George Wallace, on 6 March 1965, sanctioned the use of force against peaceful marchers in Selma, and where 19 days later Dr King delivered his How Long, Not Long speech after the march was finally completed.

Hours earlier Alabama’s Republican governor, Kay Ivey, had ordered a statewide mask wearing mandate in order to curb the spread of the virus. July marked the deadliest month for Covid-19 in the state as cases skyrocketed, disproportionately killing African American residents who constitute 41% of the 1,580 deaths in the state, but only 26% of the state population; 143 people have been killed by coronavirus in Montgomery county.

“Maybe it will help to de-escalate some of the political rhetoric around wearing a mask and doing other things that are necessary to win the battle in this pandemic,” said Reed, the city’s first Black mayor.

Montgomery found itself at the centre of the mask wearing culture wars in June, after the city council voted down a mask ordinance despite soaring deaths and testimony from hospital doctors urging them to pass legislation. The council, which consists of five white members and four Black members, voted largely on racial lines. Doctors who attended the vote walked out in disgust as the result was announced.

Following a national backlash, at the beginning of July the council eventually took another vote and passed the mandate.
The Alabama State Capitol in downtown Montgomery Ala., on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.

But the council president, Charles Jinright, a conservative who changed his ballot the second time around, was frank about his motivation for doing so, and spoke openly about his own skepticism that mask wearing had an effect on transmission, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary.

“It was public opinion at that point,” he said of what changed his vote. “You get different stories from the White House, different stories from doctors, and then you see stuff that’s online – there’s so much information out there.”

Jinright, who is white and has sat on the council for over two decades, conceded that the June city council meeting was the first time he had heard of the racially disproportionate death toll in his city. His district is majority white.

Mayor Reed remained diplomatic when he heard of Jinright’s recent realization. “I think people often live in a cocoon of who and what they’re familiar with,” he said. “If you don’t venture out in terms of trying to get more information, it’s very easy to become trapped in the narrative that you find easiest.”

Last week governor Ivey extended the statewide mask wearing ordinance.
Left: Pulmonologist Dr Rachael Fraught outside the Greenwood Leflore hospital in Greenwood, Mississippi, on 15 July. Fraught is one of the two doctors rotating shifts at the hospital’s Covid-19 unit. Right: A sign, Heroes, dedicated to medical staff remains at the hospital. Photographs by Rory Doyle/The Guardian.
Leflore county, Mississippi

Dr Rachael Fraught found it difficult to hide her exhaustion. One of only two ICU doctors at the Greenwood Leflore hospital, which serves many counties in the rural Mississippi delta region, over the past month she has seen a surge of critical cases that have often left the hospital overwhelmed.

She has watched three members of the same family die from the virus. In recent weeks, as the county experienced a second surge in cases following a fresh wave of community spread, the 12 bed Covid-19 unit reached capacity and some patients were transferred out of state.

Patients coming in with severe symptoms are disproportionately black.

She walked up to a wing, converted from a ward into sleeping quarters for doctors and nurses working overtime, and showed her makeshift bedroom, where she naps and sometimes sleeps the night on a hospital bed.

“It’s a rollercoaster of emotion,” Fraught said. “There are times when I feel very prepared and motivated to take care of people because I’m the one who’s trained to do this. But at times you can get a little desperate. Especially when we were having a lot of death.”

Leflore county is 75% black and has the third highest Covid-19 death rate in the state with 59 deaths. Despite this, it was only last week that the Mississippi governor, Tate Reeves, ordered residents in the county to wear masks. Cases have been surging in the state in many counties with majority Black populations, and following sustained pressure Reeves eventually issued a statewide mask mandate on Tuesday.

Dr Fraughtwas frustrated with the fact that Mississippi was one of the first states to reopen after going into lockdown too late. The hospital has become more adept at treating Covid patients by establishing routine, and has seen some success with the use of the antiviral drug remdesivir. But, like many rural hospitals in America, it faces financial uncertainty and still goes through waves of PPE shortages, meaning staff are often forced to reuse masks, gowns and face shields.

“This is my hometown,” she said. “And in a lot of ways the care here is personal. I have less than six degrees of separation from everybody that I treat.”

Greenwood, on the banks of the Yazoo River and the largest city in the county, has its own rich history from the civil rights era. In 1962 numerous organizations descended on the town to start voter registration drives. In 1966, in front of a crowd of 3,000 people, Stokely Carmichael coined the phrase “Black Power” during a speech here following his arrest during “The March against Fear” from Memphis to Jackson.

At the city hall, where his grandparents were once denied the right to vote, Tavaris Cross reflected on that history in the context of the pandemic.

“Things have changed but so much has stayed the same.” Cross, an organizer with the Poor People’s Campaign, said. “We still have low salaries, low wages, the worst housing conditions, poor schooling and a healthcare system that needs a lot of work.”

A few feet from the city hall stands a confederate monument erected in 1913. Following Mississippi’s recent decision to remove the confederate battle flag from its state flag, the county voted to take the monument down as well. Cross was heartened by the move, but remained cautious of the long term effects on race relations in the city.

“It’s a double edged sword, because the reality is our white counterparts are the employers in this community. This statue represents their history and their heritage. And it’s not coming down by choice. It’s coming down by force.”

He has worked with Covid survivors in the community, some of whom, like Patrick Ivory, lost their jobs when taking sick leave.

Ivory sat out on his neatly mowed lawn and listed his symptoms from last month. A temperature of 104F and pneumonia on his right lung. “It felt like fire,” he said, describing how his wife Davuchi would place ice on his body only for it to melt instantly.

He spent one night in the ICU after his blood oxygen levels plummeted and then returned home with oxygen support. It took two weeks for his symptoms to subside, but by that time his employers at a local hardware store, Home Front, had terminated his job. He was unable to claim unemployment.

A manager for the store, Richie Fulgham, declined to comment on Ivory’s sacking.

“He did everything right,” said Davuchi. “But after he got sick they didn’t want anything to do with us.”

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