Everyone gets dirty in a pie fight

Published 4:10 pm Friday, September 30, 2011

Linden, Alabama: A town of bigotry. A town where racism is alive and well. A town the Civil Rights Movement forgot. A town where fire hoses and dogs are as much of a part of the LPD’s arsenal as handcuffs and caution tape.

Sound familiar? Yep.

Sound accurate? Not by a mile.

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A paintbrush in the hands of an artist can create wonders.

A paintbrush in the hands of a four-year-old can make a mess.

A typewriter – or, in our day and age, a computer – is mostly similar.

The brush used to paint Linden as a town divided by racial inequality uses broad strokes to say the least. The paint it uses is the bile that actually creates racial inequality.

The Linden High School Patriots take their schedule into familiar territory for the month of October:

On the road.

The best team in 1A has yet to play a snap on their own field. Why? That is open to interpretation.

Non-local media have done a fantastic job of pulling and playing the race card; seeking out and pressing the hot button at every opportunity.

Is race at the center of this issue? Absolutely.

It’s at the center of this issue to a very small, yet very vocal segment of people on both the black and white sides. Those same groups seek to find race in every issue, and race issues to those same two groups can rarely be resolved.

For all his faults, and there were tons of them, Jimmy Hoffa may have summed up what we have before us best of all. “If a guy’s close to you, you can’t slight him. You can’t slight that guy. A real grievance can be resolved; differences can be resolved. But an imaginary hurt, a slight – that (person) is going to hate you until the day he dies.”

That’s not the kind of tension – to “hate” someone “until the day he dies” – I know from Linden.

But then again, I live here. Not in Linden, but not far from it.

I spend more than a few hours a month there. I listen more than I talk and I refuse to fan flames that I know are far too easy put out.

I decline to practice a scorched earth philosophy. Again, I live here.

The “problem” – the one that has kept the best football team in Alabama High School 1A football – off its football field this year, has been festering since August. What’s not floated to the surface is the solution.

At some point, we have to be done with talking about the problem and start looking for the solution.

We have to stop helping a starving artist paint a portrait of a racial fantasy that simply doesn’t exist.

We have to stop looking the other way while this public perception nightmare unfolds on our front porch.

At some point, we have to dig deep down within ourselves and find that special piece that forces us to find the high road when it’s a lot easier to be drug into the trenches.

The reality, the life outside the artist’s frame, that exists is a lot less sexy.

Two groups of kids, who – inside the typewriter – are driven apart by race, have routinely come together on Thursday and Friday nights in the fall to watch one another play.

Two groups of parents, who – inside the typewriter – are pitted against one another in this strife, actually share the same pains and challenges, the same worries and, in most cases, the same employer, and routinely swap stories at the grocery store and gas station.

Linden’s not a town divided by anything other than this pie fight over a football field.

There’s most assuredly a slight, an imaginary hurt, on both sides of this issue. It’s the result of a situation both parties have inherited, and one that I doubt either fully understands. It’s tindered with a supreme lack of communication and has been ignited by an ample supply of misleading information.

There’s your problem, ladies and gentlemen.

Its not a check. It’s not a fee. It’s not race.

It’s not black. It’s not white. It’s not burnt orange and white. It’s not red, white and blue.

It’s poor communication. It’s a slight. It’s the inability to put a slight behind us and move forward to improve communication. Everything else, the real grievance, can be fixed. It all can be resolved, but both parties have to stop spilling the ink that has stained one of the nicest small towns in Alabama.

That “guy” Hoffa refers to in this case are your neighbors, Linden. It’s your black ones. It’s your white ones. It’s your Patriots and your Longhorns.

Dragging them across a vigilante artist’s canvas leaves paint on everyone’s hands, but the subjects of the print are the only ones who suffer.

It’s gone on long enough. There’s your problem. Be done with it. What’s your solution?

Jason Cannon is publisher of the Demopolis Times.