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Words from concerned citizens

Huntsville Times
Dr. Bill Goodson

Carrying Alabama on our shoulders will be easier someday, I hope

   "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child a long way from home."

   The plaintive words of that song comprised my mantra for the three years I lived in Boston in the early '60s. My psychiatric classmates read headlines in the Boston Herald that blasted the racist South with words like Selma, Birmingham and Bull Connor.

   They would point to the famous photo of jut-jawed George Wallace facing off with Nicholas Katzenbach in Tuscaloosa and ask me to explain.

   I was being initiated into the world of sectionalism, baptized in the waters of stereotypes, crucified on the Calvary of scapegoats. I sulked. I commiserated with my wife. I gloated secretly when the South Boston race riots erupted. I learned to jut my jaw. No doubt I was a setup for such a development. From the cocoons of Huntsville and Nashville I had wormed my way out and crawled forth to New England after medical school, wife and two daughters in tow.

   When a fellow psychiatry resident introduced herself and informed me she had done undergraduate at "Tech," I burst into a smile. "You went to Georgia Tech?" I cried. "No," she smirked. "M.I.T."

   I turned crimson. A la the Tide, not Harvard.

Country come to town.
  After our first year there, we were more comfortable. A new couple moved onto the hospital campus, and my wife went to welcome them. She took some vegetables from our garden.

   "Hello, I'm Elise Goodson. We live in the other gate house."

   "Hello. Nice to meet you," Hal said.

   "We thought you might like these." She held out the basket.

   "No, thank you. We don't need any."


   When she told me about it, I consoled her with, "He's from Cape Cod. They're the worst ones."

   Actually, we grew to be friends. People tend toward decency if given half a chance. I'm still from Alabama, and I try to be proud of it, try to defend it against its detractors, though my religious/political leanings run counter to the majority.

   The chip on my shoulder gets no lighter as the decades roll by. Soon it will wear out my rotator cuff, and I'll have to shift it to the other side. The news about the "Heart of Dixie" state doesn't seem to get any better. We duke it out with Mississippi for most of the dubious distinctions of the world. They may have us beat for most disgraceful football mascot (the Rebel), but they can't touch us when it comes to Supreme Court

   And then there's the constitution. Alas, THE constitution. It seems we have some real heavyweights in Montgomery. I wonder which weighs more - the Ten Commandments Monument or our constitution with all of its ridiculous amendments? The original wording surely lies heavy on the heart.

   So why do I stay here? Well, why do West Texans love their parched, scrubby landscape? Why don't Alaskans move to Southern California? Or vice versa?

   The easy answer is that I have roots here - family, friends, places I've known all my life. The cocoon thing again. I recall that "motherless child" theme and recoil.

   Methinks it's more than that. There is a distinct core of values here. I see a strong work ethic born of working the good earth. I see compassion that goes beyond the tithe and a check each year to United Way.

   I sense qualities of self-reliance and grit that keep us from depending too much on government institutions.
Alabamians have no monopoly on such traits, but we've garnered our share. So I am hopeful about the future. I want to stick around to be a part of it, to help make it happen.

   Then I can relax my jaw and let my shoulder heal and be merciful to my brothers and sisters who might suffer the misfortune of being from Cape Cod.

   Dr. Bill Goodson of Huntsville is a psychiatrist and one of The Times' community columnists for 2002.

  I have just moved back to Mobile from a 17 year exile in Louisiana.
   At one time I was a reporter in Mobile for WKRG Radio A hundred years back, a group of narrow-minded men with an equally narrow agenda, condemned Alabama to much of what this state has experienced this past century.
   We need to change.
   We are dominated by ultraconservative religious radicals. I left Alabama because of their near monopoly on ignorance. To be such a religious state we should enjoy a higher moral standard here in Alabama, but we don't and I dare anyone to prove otherwise . The entertainment value of people like Roy Moore and other 'pious' Alabamians is an embarrassment.
    We need to change.
   Our wage-earners pay most of the taxes and enjoy a paltry return upon that investment. I have heard about spending more on education until I am sick of it. George Wallace rode on the Special Education Trust Fund's coattails for 30 years. If its so 'special' why the hell do we have so many illiterate people in this state?
   We need to change.
   The legislature is essentially ineffective since it's energies are consumed by matters which do not interest most of that body until issues critical to local legislators come before either the house or senate. Much of the old constitution is rendered moot by federal law. I look forward to the day when Alabama no longer gloats about Mississippi being worse off according to some meaningless list or survey.
   We need to change. I support the call for a new Constitution by convention.

David C., Mobile Al

   For the life of me I cannot understand why anyone in his/her right mind would not want to revise the current Alabama Constitution. As I have studied the various news articles, watched specials on PBS and actually read sections of that "dinosaur" of a legal document, I am simply outraged! How can the opposition group, calling themselves Judeo-Christians, support a document that would continue to burden the "lest among us" with unfair taxes and a cycle of poverty.

   The men who ratified the 1901 were a bunch of rich, racist, power-hungry White men who sought to solidify their wealth and political power for centuries, and that is exactly what they have accomplished. Isn't 100 years enough? How can Alabama ever leave behind its imagines of ignorance, bigotry and a seriously under-funded educational system. We have entered the 2lst Century and our state government is operating under a legal document that was drawn up in the early 20th Century. A century where the rich and powerful ruled and "ruined" the lives of millions.

   The men and women serving in today's Alabama Legislature need to concentrate on doing the "right thing". If the men who drew up the 1901 Constitution were such honest "Christians", then we wouldn't be facing the current moral and fiscal nightmare. How dare the politicians of today seek to "repeat" history by hiding behind religion, bickering about procedures, etc. all in an effort to thwart or destroy the momentum to bring Alabama into a brighter and better future for everyone (regardless of race, creed or color).

   I am a Black Woman, I work hard, I pay taxes and I VOTE. I will remember all of the politicians who are currently standing in the way of the ALABAMA'S NEW FUTURE. I am going to work hard when ELECTION SEASON rolls around. I am going to mobilize family, friends, associates and others who believe, like me, that Alabama MUST move forward. I would love to see this state at the top of the nation's list for reasons other than an alphabetical listing.


   After reading about your organization in The Huntsville Times, I decided to write you to share my support for Alabama Constitutional Reform. You will be glad to hear that I have also written letters to Representative Patrick Jones and Senator Jeff Enfinger on February 25, 2001 to state my support for Alabama Constitutional Reform.

   Years of experience as a Systems Engineer has taught me that any system, whether it's a hardware system or a political system, will become inherently more costly, more labor intensive, and slower to respond as it becomes larger and larger. This observation is relevant to the Alabama Constitution debate because it is my understanding that Alabama has one of the longest, most complex state constitutions in the United States. Therefore, basic system engineering principles would lead me to postulate that it must be very cumbersome for our state politicians to get work done efficiently for the benefit of the people and the state of Alabama.

An engineer

   I would support constitutional reform only if it includes the following.

1.Home rule for all counties.
2.The right of the people to petition the legislature and have a referendum placed on the ballots.
3.Recall of elected officials.


   Recently, I have been following with interest the movement to draft and present a revised State Constitution. I agree that the document is overly complicated, antiquated, and in need of simplification.

   However, I am curious as to what areas of reform this organization supports...increased self-government for counties and certain municipalities; issues with taxation; etc. What about provisions for gunowners? Has the issue of how (if at all) to regulate gun ownership been brought up?

   At present, there are many problems with the Constitution of the State of Alabama - that is something with which I will agree. However, as an honest citizen of Alabama - who just happens to be a gunowner, I am curious as to whether this movement may eventually result in increased gun ownership regulations.

Response from ACCR Foundation, Inc.:

   Gun regulation is not an issue with ACCR Foundation, Inc.. Nor has this subject emerged in discussion at forums around the state. Some opponents of reform want to dredge every scare tactic they can muster to avoid the real issues, such as local self government. Expect to see more of that sort of thing as the pro-reform sentiment gains momentum.

   ACCR Foundation, Inc. trusts the people of Alabama to come up with a good constitution. That new document will reflect Alabamians' values and aspirations.

Submit your comments: Questions and Comments

Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 34
Montgomery, Alabama 36101-0034

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