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The phoniness of the State House

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

It’s the phoniness of politics that bothers people the most, I think.

The corruption is bad. The pettiness is sometimes just silly.

But the phoniness surrounding politics is never-ending, all-consuming and unavoidable. And it’s almost unbearable to endure silently at times.

Take Wednesday afternoon at Alabama’s State House, for example. Wednesdays during a session are reserved for committee meetings, which is where a number of the most important arguments over the most important legislation take place.

They’re also where the phoniness of it all trots out into the light.

It started in room 727, where a bill to protect and preserve Alabama’s historical monuments was being introduced to a Senate committee.

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Now, you might be asking, How is protecting monuments phony?

Because the monuments aren’t in danger.

Maybe you’ve noticed that around the state, there has been no concerted effort to deface and/or destroy historical monuments. No city government has decided to use a marker for target practice (although given our love of guns, I’m certain an amendment making it so could pass). No groups have made new efforts to remove, replace or hide monuments.

Sure, there have been a few efforts at times to rename or remove memorials that honor events or people which serve as an embarrassment to the State. But no more than in previous years.

And so, it took a public hearing on the House version of this bill to come to a real understanding of what all the uproar is about. And why the phoniness was necessary.

Turns out, these bills – the House version sponsored by Kyle South and the Senate version by Gerald Allen – aren’t really about protecting these historical monuments from vandals or radical groups.

They’re really not about protecting historical monuments and markers at all.

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What the bills are about is usurping the power of local governments to replace and rename schools, streets, buildings and statues erected to honor the traitors to the country who led the South in the Civil War. A war that was fought because one half of this country wanted to own other humans as a means of boosting their financial wealth and economic success.

(You can save your emails and other comments. It was about slavery. End of story.)

In recent times, some of Alabama’s more progressive cities (oh yes, they do exist) have determined that maybe it’s a tad bit understandable that black parents might have a legitimate complaint about their children attending schools named for men who fought to keep their ancestors enslaved.

That does seem like a legit beef.

Some cities have renamed some structures, and other cities have entertained discussions to rename or remove others.

And the Alabama Legislature, with all of the State’s other problems solved, want to put a stop to it. Because we’re Alabama, and dammit, if there’s history out there, our lawmakers have a need to be on the wrong side of it.

But they can’t just be on the wrong side. They can’t just say what they really want to do, because saying what they really want to do would cast them and the state in a bad light, possibly even drive business away from here. And we definitely can’t have that.

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So, out trots the phoniness.

The bill is decorated up as some noble attempt at protecting monuments and preserving Alabama’s role in the nation’s and world’s history. The lawmakers speaking on its behalf talk of what it would mean to lose that history that “makes us who we are.” They all have black friends who are in full support, because they want to protect the Civil Rights Movement monuments.

But as is so often the case, there’s always a tell – a little sign that gives away the game. Rep. John Rogers spotted it on Wednesday.

South’s bill requires that any monument or name designation that’s been in place more than 50 years receive a new committee’s approval before changes are made. Those less than 50 years old can be changed by local governments without the approval.

“The Civil War was a long time ago, so all of those names will need to be approved,” Rogers said. “The Civil Rights stuff is less than that.

“That’s sorta sneaky.”

Or phony.

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Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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