Alabama Angst

Oct. 8, 2003

By Ralph Wood

Alabama Angst

Alabama politics has been dogged by two big issues in recent weeks. The first issue actually started a few years ago when a then relatively unknown county judge, Roy Moore, had the Ten Commandments hanging in his courtroom. Civil rights groups raised a big stink about that — separation of church and state, you know — and Alabama 's not-to-be-taken-lightly class of Bible thumpers rose up in arms against them. You would have thought Noah's ark had sunk.

Ralph Hood is a Certified Speaking Professional who has addressed aviation groups throughout North America. A pilot since 1969, he’s insured and sold airplanes at retail and distributor levels and taught
aviation management for Southern Illinois University. Reach him at [email protected]

Judge Roy Moore was reviled by some, worshipped by others. Some say he engineered the entire thing for political reasons, others say he was motivated by pure religious fervor. Either way, he ended up Chief Justice of the entire state. Things were quiet for awhile, perhaps too quiet for Judge Moore, who by then, some say, had his eye on the governor's office. Chief Justice Moore surreptitiously hauled a gigantic two-and-a-half-ton rock monument emblazoned with the Ten Command-ments into our state judicial building in the dark of night.

The courts said Judge Moore had to remove the monument. He refused. Eventually he was suspended, the monument was removed, and the Bible-thumping multitudes rose up anew in sanctimonious fury. As I write this, that's where it stands.

Even more divisive has been our fight over a proposed enormous tax hike and tax reform. Our governor, Bob Riley, wanted to raise — repeat, raise — our taxes by $1.2 billion. Gov-ernor Riley said we needed the tax increase, pointing out that we rank among the very lowest states in guvmint revenue and spending. Some agreed; others fought it tooth and nail. Nobody was neutral. (By the way, decades ago Riley bought the first airplane I ever sold. We got into an argument over the sales tax.)

The "pro" folks said the state would have to cut services dramatically if we didn't vote for the tax. The "con" folks said we would go bankrupt if we did pass it. Both sides had statistics and facts, and it was a ferocious fight. Pro tax folks called the holdouts "stupid," "losers," and "rednecks." The antis wanted to recall (shades of California ) Governor Riley, who up ’til this event had been an antitax Republican. Citizens were deluged with warnings that a "No" vote would kick old folks out of nursing homes and kids out of schools. The same citizens were also advised that funds derived from a "Yes" vote were not earmarked and would be spent by politicians on pork and special interests.

In a statewide vote, the citizens killed the tax proposal just as surely as the courts kicked the Ten Commandments out of the judicial building. I think the citizens were unconvinced by either side. Uncertain, they voted with their natural suspicion of more guvmint and taxation.

How did I vote? Well, I agree with that great old Alabama humorist, Sharon Elabash, who said of another controversy, "Some of my friends are for it, some are agin' it. As for me, I side with my friends."

I will also say that if not for California , Alabama would have the silliest politics in the country.