First of all, everybody just get off Congressman Steve Cohen's back about his tweeting to his daughter during President Obama's State of the Union Address. There's not a politician in this country who is more progressive, dedicated, and hardworking than Cohen. The man never stops and is a machine of good ideas.
Have you ever heard of "soring" Tennessee walking horses to train them? This is how the ASPCA describes it: "The training method known as 'soring' involves the deliberate application of pain-causing chemicals, cuts, or foreign objects to a horse's limbs or hoof pads to cause such agony to the animal's front limbs that any contact with the ground forces the horse to fling its leg back up into the air. Additionally, trainers may attempt to mask soring by 'stewarding' Tennessee walking horses, which conditions the horses to remain still by beating, torturing, or burning them."
Even though the practice was outlawed in 1970, a lot of trainers ignored the law and continue the practice. While many politicians did nothing about it, Cohen has fought relentlessly to make sure measures are in place to strengthen the law. He also got legislation passed that makes it a felony to be so cruel to pets that they die. He and his staff go way, way out of their way to help 9th District constituents on a lot of other issues as well. So leave him alone. Let him tweet anyone he wants. At least he wasn't tweeting about what he had for lunch or what he thinks of Lady Gaga or how he feels about Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher breaking up like millions of other twits do.
Now then. When I read about the Ku Klux Klan emailing the Memphis City Council saying they are going to have a thousands-strong protest in Memphis later this spring in response to the council renaming Jefferson Davis Park, Confederate Park, and Nathan Bedford Forrest Park before the state could prevent them from doing so, I thought the paper might have to rename this column "The Rampage."
I was thinking, why Memphis? Why another black eye? What will the rest of the world think about us? But the more I think about it, the more I think, bring 'em on. Let them come in all their hooded glory and make utter fools of themselves and let the media come from around the world to show what poor excuses for human beings they are. It would be great if they were all herded into one of the parks. The city could put a temporary fence around it and then block off the streets so that hundreds of thousands of Memphians could surround them and laugh at them. We could perhaps even get in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most citizens in the world laughing the longest at a protest. It could be a giant party with live music and parades and floats all around them in their makeshift outdoor cage. And we could have a grand finale that would include driving an 18-wheeler into that Nathan Bedford Forrest statue and toppling it like that statue of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and get it OUT of Memphis once and for all.
What, you say? That would be ignoring history? That would be dishonoring a Confederate war general who was so kind as to keep families together when he bought and sold them as slaves? Who ever said that the only way to recognize history is to have statues and parks? There are things such as history books for that — well, except for in Texas, where they cut out that little part about slavery. Where's the outrage about that among the history buffs who want to keep statues and parks honoring slave traders? I think the "whitewashing history" argument is about as lame as it gets. If that's the case, why don't we have a James Earl Ray Park with a big statue of him holding his rifle? That's history. Why doesn't Los Angeles have a Charles Manson Park with a statue of him? That's certainly part of that city's history. How about a Jeffrey Dahmer Park and statue or George Wallace Park and statue? Oh, wait a minute; there probably is one of those somewhere in Alabama.
I'm all for the parks here being renamed, and I am proud of the city council for doing it. The names themselves are a bit bland, but there's plenty of time to rename them Isaac Hayes Park, Al Green Park, and Elvis Presley Park. Or Stax Records Park, Sun Records Park, and Hi Records Park. Or Parallel Park or Do Not Park. Whatever. Anything is better than the names they had. And I hope now that Confederate Park's name has been changed, the city council will permanently remove those ridiculous Civil War cannons and put some great outdoor art there. Leave all this slavery history in the books, and let's move on. In fact, we ought to have a Steve Cohen Park.
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...