Monday, May 14, 2012

Talk About the South Column: "Let the Fur Fly"

Let the Fur Fly
Talk About the South Column
Byline: Dayne Sherman
Hammond, Louisiana
May 5, 2012 / 775 words

I’d like to make a confession: I’m a writer. In this column, I want to explain my goals as a writer and a critic of social and political issues.

Several years ago, I conceived of a series of newspaper columns dedicated to the American South, my home and native region. I wanted to make it light reading. I planned to cover everything from how to raise okra to the loveliness of Oxford, Mississippi. But somehow I’ve gotten derailed from my simple quest for an easy column. “Talk About the South” is like a rusty shovel digging the graves of politicians and a clawhammer banging on the heads of the numbskulls that purchase their votes.

Any honest writer and thinker should be concerned about the current state of affairs in Louisiana. And as the great social critic Edward Abbey says in his essay “A Writer’s Credo,” the serious writer must “Speak out: or take up a different trade.”

I aim to speak out. Indeed, the devious hack job Gov. Bobby Jindal is doing to higher education, teachers, public schools, healthcare, and rank-and-file workers’ pensions is an injustice of epic proportions. It’s anything but conservative. It will conserve noting but the governor’s political power and national status.

I don’t hear much at all from our community’s leaders. Do you? The silence is so profound you can hear a mouse pee on cotton. By staying silent, the leaders approve the utter destruction of this state.

So, it is left to the freelance writer to point out the obvious. A writer must never shy away from calling out the powerful. Thus, my primary goal is to tell the truth. Truth has been on such a long vacation we hardly know it when we see it, and when it comes our way, we often get mad at the person carrying the message.

Let me lay all of my cards on the table. I’m so far right politically that I’m on the left, so far left that I’m on the right. I’m a registered Independent. I rarely miss church, and I’m a practicing Christian. I’m fiscally conservative. I think FDR saved Western Civilization, Jimmy Carter is right about almost everything, and Martin Luther King Jr. was the greatest man in the Twentieth Century. I’m pro-family values, and my worst vice is drinking too much coffee, at least two cups a day. I’ve been a hunter since I was eight years old, but please don’t Dick Cheney me if we go on a dove shoot.

I care about my place of birth, and I’m trying my best to preserve and defend my community, my state, and my nation from insanity, much of which is embodied in Gov. Jindal’s recklessness and limitless ambition. 

What I’m finding in my odd circle of friends—Tea Partiers, Libertarians, Independents, Republicans, and Yellow Dog Democrats—is that we are all tired of the lies. We have more in common now than ever before. We just want our politicians, bureaucrats, and business leaders to shoot straight with us and quit spinning every single sound bite.

What can we do to change this culture of corruption?

For almost two decades, I have been studying social movements and the role of the white establishment, particularly white ministers during the American Civil Rights era. Most white Southerners were silent, but a few stood up.

One Southerner who spoke up and stood up was Myles Horton, founder of Highlander Folk School. He outlined three steps that common folks must take in order to make positive changes to society. First, the people must be angry. Second, they must have hope. And third, they must get organized.

Social movements that change society for the better do not depend on the elites sitting together in a backroom and deciding to give up power. The establishment never gives up power willingly. No, it is taken away from them by everyday people working together for change using the methods of nonviolent action. I like to call this the politics of love, democracy in action.

Recently, I spent an afternoon reading the old Hammond Vindicator newspaper on microfilm from the 1930s. The paper had a catchy slogan, “Let the Fur Fly.”

That’s exactly what I plan to do in my column, “Let the Fur Fly.” It feels mighty good to stir the pot. You should try it sometime. It might just make a difference.

Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the FallenParadise: A Novel, which was named to Booklist magazine's "Hard-BoiledGazetteer to Country Noir" on May 1st, a national honor. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or his blog at