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Born May 18, 1953; got saved at Truett Memorial BC in Hayesville, NC 1959. On rigged ballot which I did not rig got Most Intellectual class of 71, Gaffney High School. Furman Grad, Sociology major but it was little tougher than Auburn football players had Had three dates with beautiful women the summer of 1978. Did not marry any of em. Never married anybody cause what was available was undesirable and what was desirable was unaffordable. Unlucky in love as they say and even still it is sometimes heartbreaking. Had a Pakistani Jr. Davis Cupper on the Ropes the summer of 84, City Courts, Rome Georgia I've a baby sitter, watched peoples homes while they were away on Vacation. Freelance writer, local consultant, screenwriter, and the best damn substitute teacher of Floyd County Georgia in mid 80's according to an anonymous kid passed me on main street a few years later when I went back to get a sandwich at Schroeders. Had some good moments in Collinsville as well. Ask Casey Mattox at www.clsnet.org if he will be honest about it. I try my best to make it to Bridges BBQ in Shelby NC at least four times a year.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Furman new Prez, Selma and Trey Gowdy

       I was in Selma last Saturday to see President Obama and Bush and honor some Furman folks as I explain in a blog below. On Monday I read online the New Yorker piece by George Packer on the significance of it all. Great piece as I texted a Furman friend who is a former book page editor for the Charlotte Observer.
      Read the piece. To cut to the chase it says because of the likes of Trey Gowdy and his tea party republicans, particularly of the fundamentalist stripe, the Voting Rights act of 65 could not be passed in today's Congress.
      Two recent books and their reviews of the last two years add weight to Packer's conviction. Joe Crespino's Strom Thurmond's America and Princeton's Robert Wuthnow's Rough Country drive that point home. More specifically for the Furman conversation this coming Monday afternoon of March 16 on Furman and the Community, is the Thomas Powers review in the print issue of Octboer 9, 2014 nybooks.com.
      It is ironic and coincidental New Furman President Davis was at Baylor, like Furman a historically Baptist affiliated institution of higher education about the same time as Trey Gowdy and Ron Paul. Powers makes the point Texas Baptist fundamentalist have shaped the Tea Party that now has almost grinded goodwill attempts for a more perfect union to a halt. While I have strong reservations about aspects of the recent conflagration in Ferguson, the Lee Atwater memo in Rough Country doesnt look good for the political inflections of Trey Gowdy's politics. Like the SAE chapter at Oklahoma, Gowdy and his Tea Party Baptists James Lankford of Oklahoma and their Methodist brethren Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Bama House Speaker Mike Hubbard have some explaining to do.
   Now the conversation is not so much about race, but as Atwater's memo points out and a recent Garry Wills piece in New Yorker on the Tea Party wing of the GOP accentuates, the race politics of the 60's have morphed, refined and been perfected in the wedge issue politics of abortion, church state matters--see the template in the Baptist struggle of the 80s and 90s--and the daily Roger Ailes miasma on Fon Fox News. Christine Stansell  had a great piece focussing on the politics of abortion in New Republic a few years ago, saying they were a template for other isues in a strategy chocked ful of "mendacity". Mendacity, not a Furman value institutionally codified when I was there in the early 70s.
   Back to Upstate S.C. The specific case Wuthnow makes for Texas and his reviewer Powers drives home is affirmed generally in Crespino's look at the politics of Upstate S.C. Another good source in the conversation is Wahalla native Mark Powell, now Stetson English proff and his political thriller Dark Corner.
     Jeff Rogers grand lecture in the Furman collection What REaly Matters outlines the best of the Baptist tradition. For me it is no coincidence Gordon Blackwell, the son of a Baptist minister politics most resembled that of Furman's great gift to the nation Richard Riley. Blackwell endorsed Max Heller for Congress over Lee Atwater's Carroll Campbell. Now may be the time for the Furman community to encourage the likes of Furman trustee Baxter Wynn to define a different Baptist Republican vision for the Country in an L.D. Johnson contradistinction to the pettifogged vision of FBC Spartanburg's Gowdy.
      While I was at Furman, Harry Dent's daughter was there. Cyndi Campsen and her husband were Freshmen my senior year and their daughter, a Furman grad is a recent Miss South Carolina. Le Atwater's Daughter Salley is recent grad and Mike Hubbard's son is a Freshman at Furman now. So my take is not the only one to be part of the conversation.
     And the Furman Chapel is named for generous benefactor to the University, Charles E. Daniel, Richard Nixon's best friend in the Upstate.
     But my point is there is no way I can see Trey Gowdy as the incarnation of Furman values in the public square from the teaching of L.D. Johnson, the legacy of Gordon Blackwell and Max Heller, the journalism of Marshall Frady or the green sustainability of David Shi; even my Harvard grad friend of the summer of 1970 in Gaffney, Roger Miliken Jr who served a term as President of the Nature Conservancy.
     Furman in conversation with Wofford and Converse can turn up a moderate Republican, a blue dog democrat of some sort to nudge the country back on course and displace Trey Gowdy's lesser vision and politic.
    Furman does great things in the public square. The Heller Service Corp and the network with Triune Mercy Center are but two initiatives that have gotten national attention. But it needs national representatives that better represent those initiatives over the worst witness of Lee Atwater as revealed in Rough Country, or Mike Hubbard in a cover story last Summer in New Republic about the New Racism.
     I'm convinced the stakes are huge. Last year Charles Marsh, a Baptist minister's son with rots in Laurel Mississippi had a Knopf published biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Marsh now teaches at UVA. On page 341 of that book, Bonhoeffer, one of the three Christian martyrs busted in Westminster Abbey--MLKing and Oscar Romero the other two--talks about the " politics of stupidity."  Find that two page passage and read for yourself for full effect. A similar mindset now has taken hold of Upstate S.C. and placed the likes of Trey Gowdy in Gongress.
      Furman and the challenge of liberal arts education in Upstate S.C. is Enormous.

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