from the Huffington Post
The President's plane touched down at Tuscaloosa Regional Airport at 10 am this morning, local time.
That's Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA.
These are the moments that bring us together as a nation, and as people. Just like 9/11 did, before people used it to divide us. I lost friends when those planes struck the towers near my old office. We felt love and support from every part of the country back then. Hopefully the people of Alabama feel ours today. We are so sorry for your loss.
Back then the country singer Alan Jackson, who has his share of fans around Tuscaloosa, asked: "Where were you when the world stopped turning? Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer, and look at yourself and (at) what really matters?"
What really matters. We spend so much time vilifying one another that it takes a tragedy to bring us together. As bitterly divided as we get, most of us still care for each other in time of need. When President Bush spoke from the rubble of the World Trade Center, it seemed in that moment that he spoke for all of us - even those of us who questioned the way he became President. When President Obama came to Alabama, the hand he offered was our hand. The help he's sending comes through the government, but it comes from us. That's all a government really is, when democracy's working: It's just us. So hold on, Alabama. Your country's here for you.
People say that it takes a tragedy to bring us together, but maybe that's wrong. Maybe it takes a tragedy to remind us that we're always together.
Alabama's Governor, Robert Bentley, upset a lot of people when he took office by saying that people who weren't Christians weren't his brothers and sisters. ""So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother."
That ticked some people off. The President of the American Atheists said it was "outrageous" and added. "He is a governor, not a mullah." That's a reasonable reaction, but so's this one: Aw, that's just how those born agains talk. I had cousins like that. When the Governor says he wants to be my brother, that's evangelical talk for wanting me to join his church. But I've got news for him: He's already my brother. He may not find me in the next pew, but we're brothers. And another brother came this morning to tell him the whole family's here.
Now, Governor Bentley's a Republican and, like most Republicans, he'd rather cut government spending than raise taxes. And in the tradition of Dixie politicians from time immemorial, he pretty much told Uncle Sam to go hang in his inaugural address: "I will defend our right to govern ourselves, under our own laws and to make our own decisions without federal interference," he said.
Yesterday he asked for emergency federal assistance. A person could get indignant, I guess. Last time they did a study, Alabama was getting $1.71 in Federal money for every $1.00 it pays in Federal taxes. And interference was very much called for back in the civil rights days. But Alabama's hurting, and now's not the time to quarrel with my brother the Governor. Besides, I'm not indignant. If they get more money than we do, it's because they need it. That's the way a good government works. We all pay what's fair, and if someone else needs more help they get it. The Governor did the right thing by asking for our help yesterday. I'm glad he did, and I'm glad we can give it.
What's more, I respect Gov. Bentley, despite our differences. He wants to cut the state budget by 15%, but he laid out some ground rules in his first State of the State address: "Medicaid, which provides health care to approximately one million children, elderly and disabled people, must be protected." He also said that he wouldn't lay off any teachers or shorten the school year. If you insist on labeling everything as "left" or "right," that puts him to the left of a lot of Democrats in Washington. And politics aside, it makes him a decent man.
I do hope the Governor asks his Republican colleagues in Congress to think twice about their vote to cut funding for the agencies that protect people from violent storms. But he's my brother either way.
Besides, as a former musician, I have a special place in my heart for Alabama. Aretha, Otis Redding, Bobby Womack, Percy Sledge ... they all recorded in Muscle Shoals. Hank Williams was from Montgomery. The Louvin Brothers came from Henagar, up in the mountains. Their innovative brother harmonies influenced the Everlys, and through them the Beatles. Arthur Alexander was born in Sheffield, and he was the only songwriter who ever hit the rock and roll trifecta: His songs were recorded by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan. The great and too-often overlooked Eddie Hinton was from right there in Tuscaloosa.
And let's not forget Lynyrd Skynyrd. Once I was dating someone interesting - very interesting - and I took her to see Skynyrd and ZZ Top. I could tell by the look in her eyes she was having second thoughts about me. Really? Southern rock? But then Skynyrd started playing and she was yelling just as loud as as those bottle blondes in the tight stars-and-bars t-shirts ...
(Did somebody just yell "Free Bird"? Go ahead, wiseguy, but they're great. And you're damn right I married her. You don't let one like that get away.)