On My Mind: Finding A New Enemy, Again
The other day we put out an episode of my SouthBound podcast with John Archibald, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist from Birmingham. In the podcast John mentioned how one of his colleagues had coined the phrase “the Alabamafication of America.”
What he means — and I’m going to oversimplify it a little — is that Alabama tends to be a place where people care more about having a common enemy than doing things for the common good. That helps explain everything from Gov. George Wallace to Alabama-Auburn football. And the theory goes that the rest of the country is slowly becoming what Alabama has been all along.
It’s a good theory with two flaws. One, there are millions of decent people in Alabama who are trying to make their state, and the whole South, a kinder place. And two, the rest of the country — and to be honest, most of the world — was Alabamafied long before now.
So many of us are drawn to what we hate more than what we love.
The latest evidence came out of Atlanta, where a 21-year-old white man has been charged with eight counts of murder in shooting deaths at a series of spas. Six of the eight who died were Asian women.
There has been a spotlight on violence against Asians in our country during the pandemic — the idea being that some people are attacking Asians at random because they blame the Chinese for the spread of COVID-19. The nuttiness of that theory is obvious before you get to the end of the sentence. And it’s not yet clear what motivated the man arrested in Atlanta. But it is clear that some sad, deluded souls among us have found a new common enemy.
This sort of thing has been true from the origins of this country, of course. The first settlers from overseas aligned against the Native Americans who had this land first. The white founders of our government aligned against the Black people they imported as slaves. Today, large groups of Americans align against the immigrants trying to make a better life here, or trying to get here to make a better life.
It’s such a persistent urge, to divide and separate. If you’re lucky enough to be on top at the end, I guess it works out. But in the big picture it runs counter not just to everything we’re supposed to stand for, but to everything we could do if we pulled in the same direction.
We’re coming off of the most Alabamafied president we’ve ever had, into one with different ideas. I like to think some of those will stick. I like to believe we’ll evolve into people who will care more about what we share than how we differ. I like to believe that.
What I know is, we’re a long way off.
Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs Mondays on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at firstname.lastname@example.org.