April 3, 2015 | by Johnathan Coody

(Ed. note: In lieu of a new song this week, here’s an excerpt from a book Coody is working on. Enjoy.)

I was sitting in a church pew one Wednesday night in the mid 1980s. It was hot and Brother Bonier, the normal preacher wasn’t there. We had a guest preacher as many Southern Baptist congregations will on Wednesdays or revival weeks. I was maybe 8 or 10. “Nothing much new about this old fire and brimstone spewer,” I thought as I quietly contemplated the meaning of eternity. Having been saved from damnation at 7 years old meant I didn’t really sweat it too much. I was washed in the blood and my name was on the roll. Church meant grass-stained khakis from pre and post-service football and intense emotional catharsis. A precocious pig farmer’s son, I had pretty much solidified my belief structure by this point. Everything was Black/White, Good/Evil, Heaven/Hell, Tombstone/Red Baron…I had a firm grasp of who I thought I was.

As the visiting pastor made emphatic declarations about salvation and the devil’s trickery, I wondered how much control we really had. I wasn’t aware of firing synapses and fuel-injected neurotransmitters yet. It was the Good Lord’s handicraft and it was not to be questioned. We all knew what eating apples from the smart tree got you… kicked out of Eden. So we believe(d). We believed what was contextually appropriate. Somebody might get crazy and go Methodist or something, but that was about as wild as it got. They sprinkled and had women preachers, which is okay if you’re down with heresy or whatever. Me personally, I wanted heaven, just like every other rural soul in that little red brick church that night.

After a pregnant pause, a device used by master showmen and effective Southern Baptist preachers, the withered sage delivered the line that shook me. He was talking about the poor state of our sin-sick society and he said, “…and now they’re letting our kids be dragged down in skool by niggras.”

All subsequent messaging was lost on me as I was left to sort through my first case of juvenile cognitive dissonance. What do good people do when their belief structures are challenged? They become instantly defensive. That structure took a lot of time and effort to build and besides, it’s what the rest of the town is built on. You weren’t an outlier were you? An unspeakable who had backslidden so far that damnation was imminent? Absolutism was the required local mentality. I had played football that very day on the grounds of Parker Mathis Elementary with Frank Hines and Otto Thompson. We shared in the glory of broken tackles and dew stains before the morning bell rang. I beatboxed in front of the class while they slipped NWA lyrics by an unwitting teacher for the bemusement of all. We weren’t so different, I thought from experience.
What’s a pig farmer’s son to do when he finds himself outside the lines of local norms and accepted decency? Cursed with the trait of abstract thought and a restless mind, I became other.

You see, me and supply side economics are the same age. We grew up together. I was a Reagan baby, born in 1978 in Brooks County, GA, right outside Valdosta. I gained consciousness to a society in decline. I enjoyed the remnants of the great society that my grandparents had built. My grandpa built bridges for the CCC when Roosevelt pulled all the destitute dirt farmers off their barren fields and put their hands to infrastructure and a decent quality of life. I remember a thriving southern community with industry and promise. You could have a living-wage-providing job without a high school diploma. Then came NAFTA and the degradation and devaluation of the American worker. Suddenly, Beach Island Knitting and Quitman Manufacturing weren’t around anymore to provide jobs and sponsor t-ball teams. Small town America closed up shop and pledged allegiance to Walmart and the enslavement of the population.

Again I ask, what’s a pig farmer’s son to do when he finds himself outside the bounds of acceptable thought on social structure? He gets called a “librul” or a “democrat” and all interaction with him is suspect. “His Daddy didn’t raise him thataway.“ We like our high school football down here. Valdosta High School is the winningest high school football team in the country. They also had segregated proms until about three years ago. People need a team to root for. If I’m a democrat I need to subscribe to this collection of beliefs I’m being sold by the paid actors the owners install in office to give us the illusion of choice. If I’m a republican, I have to subscribe to this whole set of beliefs that come pre-packaged by the owners wrapped in a veneer of moral elitism. I just can’t do it folks. The racial animus in the South will be healed when and only when civility is returned to society by widespread prosperity. Divide and conquer has worked too long. We’ve tried the religion of greed and are currently witnessing its product. It’s easy to turn one group of poor people against another group of poor people. You just tell them that they’re the source of each other’s problems. All the while you secretively reap the rewards of their sweat, heartbreak, ego-death, and demise. We’ve chased that carrot for too long. I say put down your yokes and party. That Monsanto carrot probably tastes like shit anyway.