The Three-Legged Milking Stool

I have  frequently thought of Southern culture in the United States as a three-legged milking stool.  In the privacy of our homes, those of us who were born and raised down south are able to toy around with such notions—something a damned Yankee would never be allowed to do openly out on our fair streets.  The United States of America has been struggling to destroy the culture of the American South since April 12, 1861, and by so doing, unify our country once and for all.  This has been done by successively kicking the milk stool hard enough to break off its legs.

The American Civil War, which largely destroyed the plantation culture of the wealthy southern elite and freed the southern slaves was the first leg kicked off the stool.  The Civil Rights Movement, which began when President Harry S. Truman desegregated the American military, ended by further freeing black men and women from the tyranny of Jim Crow in the late 1960s.  This kicked the second leg off the milk stool.  The last remaining leg on the stool was good old conservative southern religion, exemplified by Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism.  The first toe of the kicking boot slammed squarely into the last leg in 1925 at the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee.  It was the kick heard ’round the world, and it was a hard one that put a deep crack in the third leg.  It was followed by a serial assault of hard kicks on fundie sacred cows such as teacher-required prayer in public schools, forced Bible studies in public schools, creation science, intelligent design, teach the controversy, 10 commandments postings at government buildings, and so forth.

One last and extremely hard kick against the third leg of the stool may happen this week if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage—which Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals have invested extraordinary willpower, money, and energy into stopping—essentially portraying it as a do or die mission.  With their children already abandoning the numerous hypocrisies, ironies, and deviations from the path of Jesus that run so deeply and obviously in their belief system and churches, this may be the final blow that severs the last leg of the milking stool and sends the seat crashing to the floor—essentially bringing the very worst of Southern culture and its influences to an end and opening the gates wide to the final Americanization of the South.

This was the day the Republican Governor of South Carolina, the state of old separationist and nullificationist  John C. Calhoun, called for the final removal of the Confederate flag from the State Capitol in Columbia.  If this were a scene in a Shakespeare play, it might be deemed an omen of what is to about to come.  If so, it has been a long time in coming—a journey that began 154 years ago with the following song:

  Battle Hymn of the Republic

(original version)

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free
While God is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah.
Our God is marching on.

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