Blogs > Cliopatria > Moore Grandstanding in Alabama ...

Dec 15, 2004 2:15 pm

Moore Grandstanding in Alabama ...

It surely didn't just begin with George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama. That was a symbolic gesture when the substance was already largely inevitable. But Alabama just has more than its share of grandstanders in executive, legislative, and judicial office. Take two recent cases:

Ten days ago, Andrew Sullivan and I took note of legislation proposed by Brother Gerald Allen who represents Tuscaloosa County's Cottondale in the state legislature. It would"ban the use of public money to purchase any work of fiction with gay characters or any non-fiction work that appears to condone homosexuality or any work of either sort that appears to condone heterosexual sodomy; and it would further bar any teacher from distributing material that or inviting a guest speaker who speaks in favor of tolerating homosexual behavior."* I was only slightly re-assured when David Beito, who does missionary work over in the wilds of northern Alabama, told us that Brother Allen's legislation is dead in the water. Come to find out now, from Brother Josh Marshall, that the White House looked fondly on Brother Allen's notoriety and invited him to come up there for a meeting with the President day before yesterday. It's a good thing Google worked out that agreement with Harvard, Stanford, Michigan, and Oxford when they did. We could get national legislation banning the faggy taint from all our library shelves. Symbolic gestures, indeed.

Then, of course, Alabama's also notorious for grandstanding from its benches. Former Chief Justice Roy Moore is the prime recent example of that. He positioned himself for a bright future in Alabama politics by slipping a two and a half ton monument of the Ten Commandments into the state judicial building's rotunda in the dark of night and refusing to have it removed. Gave up his office rather than obey orders to remove it. Now, comes Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan of Covington County. That's way to the south, just above the Florida pan-handle. Well, Judge McKathan showed up in court yesterday in a judicial robe with the Ten Commandments embroidered in gold threads on his robe. He must have been quite a sight, too, because the lettering was big enough to be read by anyone standing anywhere near him. It's the gold armbands of Chief Justice Rehnquist creeping around front to literacy and public sanctimony. Well, the defense attorney in a DUI case down there in Andalusia objected to the robe and moved to continue his client's case on the grounds that Judge McKathan's Ten Commandments were a distraction. Motions denied. The Ten Commandments represent the truth, said Judge McKathan. You can't separate the truth from the law or right and wrong. I'm thinking of renaming the county seat Indelusia.
Update: Josh Marshall has moore on Brother Allen from the Anniston Star.

*That's Ralph Luker quoting Ralph Luker, but I put those quotation marks around it in case those investigative journalists at the Chronicle of Higher Education are looking around for moore hapless historians to string up these days.

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Jonathan Dresner - 12/15/2004

I still have reservations, given that it is a term in current use for religious leaders, but you know the specifics much better than I.

I still think we need a specific term for, if you will, Mullahism from petty officials which flaunt policy.

We get so tied to our own neologisms that it isn't funny....

Manan Ahmed - 12/15/2004

Yes, I remember that exchange now. I think Brian said that religious zealotry should not get Islamic tags. I don't necessarily disagree with Brian and I see his point. At the same time, Mullah has not been a term or respect or endearment at least since Hafez (14th c). It has served as a shorthand for religious bigotry and stupidity in literature and poetry (Sufi or other) in the Indo-Persianate tradition. I see no problems with exporting the term to other faiths.

Jonathan Dresner - 12/15/2004

Brian Ulrich had an interesting exchange with one of the major bloggers (Josh Marshall at TPM?) about the use of Islamic terms for general, negative, categories.

More to the point, there are only a few places where this kind of behavior, particularly on the part of an official of the state, qualifies as challenging to the status quo. I suppose we could expand the term to include all "holier-than-thou" gestures that contravene state policy, but I'm not sure that Moore loses his iconic status even so.

Manan Ahmed - 12/15/2004

I want to see a picture of the robe. The gold embroidery instantly reminded me that the grandest of the grand muftis often have elaborately embroided robes with Qur'anic verses. Similiarly embroidered cloth serves as cover on funeral caskets of dignitaries. Most famously, we have the Ka'aba which is draped in black cloth with gold embroidery of Qur'anic verses.

Instead of Mooreism, I nominate Mullahism which would be a more inclusive term representing the Abrahamic roots [and religious nuts] shared by the three faiths.

Jonathan Dresner - 12/15/2004

Since it seems highly likely that Moore's protest will be considered the starting place for all these ten commandments protests, we should coin a term for them now. Then we can categorize them and dismiss them with a quick phrase when they arise.

"Mooreist actions" are those which flaunt historical and judicial determinations against introducing more religion into state venues and institutions, particularly those which claim either revelatory (God's will) or fundamental (the Founders made me do it) authority.