Thursday, April 28, 2016

Keep NC Gay... What? No. I Meant "Happy"

The fundamental driving force behind North Carolina's HB-2 is probably the great and hoary urban/rural conflict, wherein rural counties tend to be much more conservative socially, and urban counties tend to be more progressive and open-minded. We used to sing a song about this, which I learned the words to back in '72 I think, as it was one of the original songs on our set list back when we were playing places like the Endangered Species, a basement bar on Rosemary Street run by two lunatics, Big Dale and Little Dale. "I Wish I'd Bought Me A Half A Pint And Stayed In The Wagon Yard."

I am a jolly farmer, last night I went to town,
To take a bail of cotton, I'd worked the whole year round.
I hitched my team in the wagon yard and bought me a bottle of gin,
And went out to see them 'lectric lights, and watch the cars come in.

Now listen to me farmers, I'm hear to talk some sense,
If you want to see them 'lectric lights, just look right over the fence.
Don't monkey with them city duffs you'll find they're slick as lard.
Just go and get you a half a pint and stay in the wagon yard.

Now I'm a deacon in a hard shell church, down near Possum Trot,
if the sisters hear about my spree, it's bound to make them hot.
I went out on a party, I led the pace that kills.
When I woke up, that gang had gone and left me with all the bills.

I found them over on the corner, near the Soul Salvation Hall.
That drunken bunch was out there singing Jesus Paid It All.
They put me out in a dry goods box, Lord, my pillow was hard..
I wish I'd bought me a half a pint and stayed in the wagon yard.

[originally recorded by Lowe Stokes and his North Georgians, circa 1930]

I won't type up all of it here, it hurts my head to try to remember all of the lines. Al McCanless put in a nice minor chord on the first measure of the bridge, which spiffed up our version from the 78 rpm recording we got it off of. He and Tommy and Jim had been doing the song before the Red Clay Ramblers started, in '72, so it was easy to keep on at it. But we thought it was a funny song even then, and people laughed at it and with us, not only in the red nest of Chapel Hill, but up at Janette Carter's Carter Fold, in Hiltons, VA, which is as damn rural a place as you'll ever find anywhere within driving distance of North Carolina, and noted bluegrassers such as the Country Gentlemen have recorded it as well, even without a fiddle.

Now we got a guy running on the Republican ticket for Attorney General by the name of Buck Newton. He's from Wilson, NC, which is one of the places you can find the best BBQ on the planet, and from more than one fine eatery no less. Newton is currently an NC senator in the Legislature, and voted for HB2 of course, a preposterous piece of government dictate which in the Looking Glass way the Rethugs like to do it these days is being parsed by its authors and our weak-kneed Republican governor Pat McCrory as a sensible response to "government over-reach." Newton said in a speech this week, believing perhaps that sunspots were interfering with all recording devices, or perhaps that he was speaking only to the true believers:

"Go home, tell your friends and family who had to work today what this is all about and how hard we might fight to keep our state straight," Newton said during a rally in support of House Bill 2, the controversial measure passed in response to Charlotte's transgender nondiscrimination ordinance.

Buck. Of course that's his name, or at least the name he adopted before he ran successfully for state senator in one of our many predominantly rural counties, where for a century tobacco was king. When people from reality overheard Buck's remarks, they said, well, that's what we've been telling anyone who will listen. Because it's certainly right out there in Buck's timeless locution. The goal of this law is indeed to keep NC straight. It is expertly crafted by people with law degrees (and some of 'em surely get their ideas from the Koch's ALEC organization, which crafts all manner of laws ostensibly as an aid to over-strapped legislatures all over the country, and in fact as an aid to a successful state-by-state reactionary revolution which depends in significant part on fundamental flaws in the US Constitution, such as the tragic fact that representation is grossly undemocratic, e.g., Rhode Island gets two Senators, as does California.) How the law works is, a person who self-identifies as a given gender different from their birth gender is placed in an immediate legal quandary concerning which bathroom to use. To put it over-simply, use the restroom they "look like," or the restroom that corresponds to their genitalia at birth. There are already reports of persons removing themselves to other buildings where there exist neutral facilities rather than risk some sort of confrontation. The risks come with high stakes, obviously.

Buck just says "you Democrats are being sensitive, I never said anything about sex." What weasels the NC Republicans have become. They have a psychological problem. Having taken this short-sighted, un-thought-out position and made it into law no less, they are surely seeing, at least when they look in the mirror in the bathroom of their choice, the plain contradictions contained in the law. Making things worse, Ted Cruz, Presidential Candidate, has jumped on board. How can an authoritarian possibly back down? If only Pat McCrory had saved all of them from themselves! But the Governor is a party man, first, last and always. Possibly the advent of Trump will save the day, since he's maintaining a more common-sensical position at least at the moment. As soon--next week perhaps--as it becomes obvious that Trump is the Republican Presidential Nominee, good party men will be doing figure eights as grand as Jimmie Johnson's, or Junior's.

Hey Buck. Head on back to the wagon yard. You can explain to your agricultural constituents, over a nice G&T, why NC needs to somehow replace the millions in lost revenue which this vicious law has engendered. Maybe the Legislature can forego air conditioning this long hot summer to save some money.

[photo from WRAL-tv]

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