Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wild Surmises

There's a lazy tendency on the part of some people whenever a story regarding Alabama goes into prominence in the news: they fill in whetever facts might be present with cartoonish stereotypes of unlettered Bubbas and Missys  doing picturesque, outlandish, and sometimes brutish things.  And immediately jumping to the conclusion that, if it's Bama-related, then it must be second- or even third-class.

Actually, Alabama does a number of things right.  It has several higher education institutions that are really good, including the football-prominent ones, namely Auburn and Alabama.  Actually, UAB, UAH, UNA, and USA have good programs where a student who works at it can get a good education.  Its cities are largely liveable and affordable.  Its residents work hard, live well, and behave reasonably well.

Even the stereotype of the Bible Belt is overdone.  While things are not as wide open, they're hardly closed.  It only takes a visit to Pleasures or the Flora-Bama Lounge, or Gulf Shores to see otherwise.

Actually, most of the time, people from the north and west don't think about Alabama very often; and that may be just as well because when they happen to do so, they don't make much effort to get the facts.

Case in point: the Amy Bishop story.  The facts you can pretty much get online, although I might mention that her case is yet to go to trial.  However, when it first broke, there were all sorts of wild generalizations by writers and bloggers:

1)  This is the result of the Southern Culture of Violence and a high level of local violence;

2)  The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), where it happened, is a "second-rate" institution in a backwater.  In fact, it's a well-regarded regional institution heavily emphasizing science and engineering in a high-tech city characterized by one of the better educated populations.  [The hasty concluder was a faculty member at Northeastern University, which is not exactly a household word in itself, either.]

3)  Some managed apparently to mix up UAH with the University of Alabama and its football prowess!  Hint: at UAH the major sport is ice hockey!

4)  There was a lapse of accountability in terms of seeing this possibly from happening. 
however, in fact, the Huntsville Police Department and UAH had no warning of possible danger because authorities in another state either covered up previous episodes of apparent violence by the alleged shooter, or failed to identify those as such.

So, maybe whenever Bama-related stories come up in the future, those who comment on them should pay more attention to little nagging details, and get the true facts right.  Perhaps the Panamanians could help out by shooing those wild surmisers off of those peaks in Darien!

Anyway, we'll get by in Bama.  I'll have a beer at the Flora-Bama, and eat lots of nice barbecue.