By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
As if the corruption cloud raining on Mike Hubbard isn’t enough . . . as if the unanswered questions surrounding Gov. Robert Bentley’s destroyed 50-year-marriage isn’t enough . . .
Along comes Jim Zeigler, Alabama’s state auditor.
Yeah, it would be fair to ask how Zeigler ever was elected to statewide office, considering his history – if we were another state. But remember, we re-elected Chief Justice Roy Moore, after Moore was thrown out of office for defying a federal court order to take down his Ten Commandments behemoth from the state judicial building back when.
Moore’s homophobia didn’t derail his election. His uncomfortable propensity to force his religion on others didn’t do it. His strange eyes didn’t do it.
We elect some odd folks.
Anyway, Zeigler is just a state auditor. It’s a small office (made even smaller by the Legislature steeply cutting his office’s budget in the recently passed state General Fund budget).
Still, he holds a public position, representing all Alabamians. He never should have spoken to the pro-secession group “The League of the South” earlier this month.
But Zeigler did, offering whatever legitimacy he can confer on a group that is so 1861.
Appearances matter, and Zeigler didn’t help Alabama or its tattered reputation on race, immigration, and marriage equality issues by appearing before the group.
According to a story by Alabama Political Reporter’s Brandon Moseley, Zeigler was there to argue for returning the portraits of former Govs. Lurleen and George C. Wallace “to their places on the Second Floor of the Capitol Rotunda.” They were removed in January. Moseley reported that Zeigler said taking down the portraits was “unauthorized, violated a joint resolution of the Legislature, and was an attempt to revise Alabama history.”
Wait a second. Alabama history depends on the portraits of the Wallaces being displayed in the Capitol Rotunda? If so, history is fragile, indeed.
Be that as it may, Zeigler should be able to argue publicly about the portraits being removed, if that’s his issue. It’s his right. And I guess it’s his right to argue it in front of a hate group, as the League of the South has been deemed by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery and hate-watch organizations.
However, there are consequences. And the consequences are that Zeigler gives credence to a group that, well, shouldn’t have any and, mostly, doesn’t.
Yes, let’s honor our Southern heritage, but not our Southern mistakes. If we celebrate the Confederacy, we’re celebrating slavery. There is no honor there. If we remember our lost ancestors who fought or died in that war, that’s OK. Remember, right? Don’t celebrate with flags and statues of misguided humans and then talk, yet again, of secession. That’s so 1861.
Moseley quoted Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen: “It’s quite unfortunate that a public official would lend legitimacy to a hate group by appearing at one of its functions. And believe me, the League of the South is about hate, not heritage.”
Zeigler must accept that stain of hate if he’s going to speak before a group that encourages secession. If it argues our black citizens are less than them. If its idea of immigration policy is to accept white immigrants who agree with its clearly racist policies. Yes, that’s so 1861.
League of the South President Michael Hill states that his group “is a Southern Nationalist organization whose ultimate goal is a free and independent Southern republic. At present, the League is more concerned with the survival of our people on their ancestral lands and resurrecting our cultural base than with entering into the conventional political arena. Once our Southern nation is secure and our culture is re-established, then political issues will begin to take care of themselves.”
Huh? How about reinstating the “ancestral lands and resurrecting” the “cultural base” of the Creek Indians and other tribes native to Alabama? There’s some heritage for you.
Moseley reported that Hill recently wrote: “A free South will have a name and place among the nations of the earth. And we will understand the meaning of the term ‘nation.’ It means people of historic European stock. We will not be a ‘melting pot’ or misnamed ‘nation of immigrants.’ Others already have their own countries; the South is ours.”
Well, OK. But again, that’s so 1861. While Zeigler calls the SPLC the “Southern Political Correctness Center,” he might want to explore his own political incorrectness, meaning, this is 2015, not 1861. The South – we – lost that war, and we lost it badly. In some ways, we’re still paying the price, because the League of the South, Zeigler and others just flat won’t let it go.
We lost that war not simply because we were beaten by a better army. We lost it because we were wrong. We were politically incorrect — and humanely incorrect, too.
We lost because our cause was wrong. There will be no “independent” South. We are of this union. Want a more perfect union? The vision of the League of the South is not it. We can all work together to help improve the union we have, but that doesn’t include an “independent South” of the League’s vision.
To Zeigler, taking down a couple of portraits constitutes rewriting history. My goodness, man, look at the history the League of the South wants to rewrite. The group you graced with your appearance.
Look at it right up close. That is, if you can leave 1861.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes this column every Wednesday for Alabama Political Reporter.
Email: [email protected].