Friday, May 19, 2006

Herald-Leader Gone Ape!

Christian Patterson is a “guest columnist” for the Lexington Herald-Leader. In his column of 18 May, he asked the question, “How do we want the world to see our state?” Presumably he figures that the folks in Niger (literacy rate – 17.6%) are waiting with bated breath to see how the folks in what Patterson seems to think is a back-woodsy state are getting along these days. However, he mentions some of the native Kentuckians who bid fair to make the state’s reputation soar in the eyes of the world – folks like Tara Conner, recently crowned “Miss USA” (gasp, the most notable news lately, according to Patterson); Heather French Henry, Miss America a while back; George Clooney and his father, Nick Clooney, recently spotted touring Darfur with cameras whirring like mad; and actress Ashley Judd.

All of those folks have been very successful in their chosen fields, and, mentioned as they are with such things as the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Horse Park, give Kentucky an aura, in Patterson’s view apparently, that actually approaches the attributes of a halo. Either now or at one time or another those folks have been or are in the entertainment field, thus possessing high profiles that say what, exactly, about Kentucky? Nothing. Every state in the union has produced entertainers, and most of the states don’t let the rest of the states forget it, as if entertainment somehow is made of the stuff of progress.

This is not a pejorative picturing of entertainers and entertainment, integral and important elements in the society. They serve a useful purpose, even if only in terms of recreation and publicity. Clooney called attention to Darfur and presumably will allocate considerable sums of his wealth to that benighted region, a la Bill Gates and his millions in behalf of doing something about AIDS. If he doesn’t, he should just shut up, pack the cameras, and head back to Tinseltown.

Absent from Patterson’s screed was mention of coal miners who risk life and limb to make a grimy-faced living deep underground, where most folks would fear to tread, or other workers who take it a day at a time but make their lives work. Most egregiously, he didn’t mention the 45 GIs from Kentucky who have given their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is what the world should see in Kentucky, the graves of those who in just recent years have gone beyond the superficial level of entertaining or the practical level of just making a living to put their lives on the line for people like Patterson, who is enamored of celebrity but apparently devoid of the ability to discern what’s important and who makes it that way.

After a few paragraphs of this incidental and totally unimportant fluff, Patterson got to the meat of his column…quote: When a college in Kentucky expels a student merely for being gay, the message sent to the nation is narrow-minded intolerance for any person who is not a straight, white, conservative, Christian-right, Republican-voting American. It’s easy to see from where Patterson has slunk (under some rock) – using the hate-speech route he employs magnificently – to where he is going, namely, to the socio-political minefield he thinks he has laid out for those he hates, the straight, white, conservative, Christian-right, Republican-voting Americans. He didn’t bother with tact…he just attacked straight-on like the generic brand of buffoon who paints with a brush wide enough to exclude most everyone from being tagged as human beings…except himself, of course, perhaps a homosexual, liberal, atheistic, Green-oriented, non-voting person of color, who is what? Certainly not an American, since he has outlawed them and identified himself as none of the above!

Patterson refers to the fact that a homosexual attending the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky., a Baptist school where, as stated in its student-handbook, homosexual behavior is not tolerated and can lead to expulsion, outed himself on two Web-sites on one or both of which were pictures of young men kissing each other and a description of his “dating life.” The young man had already suggested on the Web that he would likely be transferring, but by his action gained the 15 minutes of fame that eventuated in media opportunities as far away as New York, where he could spread the “darkness” of his benighted state, stuck as it was in the throes of virtual barbarism, Neanderthal-mentality, nihilism, and most any other vile ism.

Patterson probably hates the entire military, too, since homosexuals, when they are outed, either by themselves or in some other way, are discharged immediately. This means he considers the leaders, from the president as the commander-in-chief right on down through the Department of Defense and each service to the lowest ranks as straight, white, conservative, Christian-right, Republican-voting Americans, and therefore insufferable bigots who make the whole nation, especially including Kentucky, into one mass of homophobio/religio/racists To Patterson, apparently, sexual perversion ought to be a drawing card for the state. Where the Herald-Leader scrounges up these “reality-challenged” purveyors of non-thought is a mystery.

Patterson continues: When I spent a semester studying in England, the only reference that most Londoners had for this state was Kentucky Fried Chicken. Many thought of us as eating nothing but KFC. Is that supposed to prove something? Is he trying to say that Londoners are so dumb that they can’t read geography books…or that they don’t give a fig about Kentucky, which is the way most Kentuckians probably feel about London? Perhaps. Laughable!

In explaining how to make Kentucky appear great, Patterson had this to say: I did so by educating them on famous Kentuckians such as Muhammad Ali, who is the most recognizable public figure in the world… . The most recognized public figure in the world? Egad! Kentucky is to be judged on the basis of a resident who made his living literally trying to beat out other people’s brains? That’s what boxing is all about – the destruction of man’s main organ, the brain, that differentiates him from the beast and turns him into a bloody pulp. If he dies in the process…so what! That which is called murder out in the alley is called sport in the ring…and this is what Patterson says should point folks to Kentucky. The Herald-Leader is known for its celebration of this kind of garbage as well as its putdown of straight, white, conservative, Christian-right, Republican-voting Americans. More’s the pity.

So…Patterson thinks the winner of a beauty contest is the most notable news lately in Kentucky. Rubbish! The most notable news lately has to do with the nine Kentuckians killed in the war on terror in April and May, one of them, Sgt. Robert Ehney, buried just the other day in Lexington. One could hope that people with some common sense can see why Kentucky is a good place, not least among the reasons being those 45 graves, monuments to greatness. Patterson should get a life. Better…he should slink back under the rock, mouthing his hate speech as he crawls among his own.

And so it goes

Jim Clark

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