Swimming In My Head…

diving in the deep end…

Vernon, Alabama – It’s where I want to summer

On occasion, we’re lucky enough to see a piece of literary mastery that truly dazzles us with the amazing.  I saw that amazing piece in the New York Times on November 10th in an article entitled “For South, a Waning Hold on National Politics”.

The author, Fred Fessenden wrote a great article.  The dazzling parts were the comments that some of the residents of this tiny rouge-collar hamlet protruding from the globe in awkwardly backward northwestern Alakuntry – I mean bama.

Let’s start with Gail McDaniel – she commented:

“I am concerned.  The abortion thing bothers me.  Same-sex marriage.  I think there are going to be outbreaks from blacks.  From where I’m from, this is going to give them the right to be more aggressive.”

Oh dear, dear Gail, you’re concerned?  I can’t imagine that in your thriving metropolis of 2,390 you could possibly be concerned or scared of abortion and same-sex marriage.  Your 7 places of worship must be doing a fine job of indoctrinating your residents on the pitfalls and wrongness of sex outside of wedlock and homosexuality.  And since you’re probably of the opinion that homosexuality is a choice and just as simple as conversion, you may want to hold one extra riddance ceremony after the new guy is sworn in. That should stamp out the ‘mo’ problem in Vernon.

You can rest assured that the black man that will soon be running the country will probably have infesting Vernon, AL with the things that concern you, as his top priority – right before fixing our national economy that’s affecting the globe (not the one on your fireplace), working on the housing crisis, and tending to this war in Iraq that was initiated by our very white ‘W’.  Don’t quote me on this, but I’ll bet Vernon Alabama is as high on his radar as Afghanistan (no, that’s not the thing you’re crocheting for Christmas).

Oh, and don’t let me forget…if the abortion and ‘mo’ thing concerns you because you’ve seen it on tv, well don’t you worry, after February of next year you won’t have to watch anymore.  You can remove those cute little metal wands resting on top of your box and watch the snow because the rest of us are going digital.

But Gail, what I’ve really been waiting to say is that I’m one of those “blacks” that is probable to be on your so-called aggressive watch list.  And I’m completely offended, but let me tell you why.

I thought it appropriate to research Vernon before I made any snap judgments – you know, like you did.  And when I compared my lot in life to that of a Vernon resident, I totally get why I have a right to be aggressive with a black President.  Let’s see:

Your “median family income is $24,381.00”.

Impressive.  But I should warn you that one of the cars in my 2-car garage cost me about $13,000 more than that and the other one cost about $20,000 more.  Hold on to your knickers…I’m probably going to get aggressive.

Your “property taxes on a $100,000 home with a homestead exemption are $259.00”.

My property taxes on one of my homes is $5,000 with a homestead exemption.  Hold your breath…I’m gettin’ angry.

“Approximate cost of 1,800 sf home with 2-car garage – 5 to 10 yrs old: $65,000 to $75,000”.

My 3,000 sf home with 2-car garage – 5 yrs old: $400,000+.  Ouch…startin’ to fume.

“Community recreation programs: Roller skating, Public Swimming Pool, City Park, Backstreet Opry, Fishing, Hunting, Walking Trails.”

Oh my dear lord, my ability to in-line skate around my gated community, or swim in my in-ground pool (that’s in my back yard), or chill in my hot tub is trumped by all of the goings-on in your community.  That’s it – I’m overheated.

Gail, to sum it all up, it’s really sad that you believe that suddenly blacks will now have the right to be more aggressive and possibly upstage your long-running right to be stupid.  If you have a cell phone…my bad, this is Vernon we’re talking about – take your home phone and dial this number: 1-800-BUY-ACLU.

Dare I forget to mention Mr. Don Dollar, the Administrative Assistant for Vernon City Hall who said:

“This is a community that’s supposed to be filled with a bunch of Christian folks.  If they’re not disappointed, they should be at the alter.”

Donny, poor, pathetic Donny, all I can say is: be a good little Administrative Assistant and get me some coffee while I make grown people decisions about running a company.  And get some concealer from Gail – your crocodile tears are making you look like Jonah while he was digesting in Orca.

November 11, 2008 - Posted by | Really? | , , , , ,


  1. I’m concerned that arrogance will not help us turn around such views. Instead it may breed more resentment. While these views quoted in this article are offensive for all of us, they reflect a reality that will not be changed by taunting. We didn’t get this far by taunting, but by loved and calling for others to be better.

    Comment by Johnny | November 12, 2008

  2. Johnny – Thank you for your comment. I respect your opinion. I should clarify however that arrogance is probably the wrong description for my response.

    I completely agree with the fact that speaking back to ignorant people in terms that they’ll understand may indeed breed more resentment. However, the only thing that would speak louder than words are actions.

    Unfortunately, the two people quoted in that article will never know someone like me or the thousands of others like me. I don’t owe them an apology anymore than they owe me one. They’ve stated their opinion and I’ve stated mine.

    Interestingly, I like your approach. Maybe you’ll have the ability to change some minds by doing things your way. For me, it helps to get things off my chest especially when I can recognize the ridiculousness of it.

    Don’t know whether you’ve ever lived a day in my shoes and I certainly haven’t lived a day in yours, so I cannot criticize your methods, but I can definitely defend mine.

    Comment by deek1973 | November 12, 2008

  3. So I had to look up Vernon, AL myself. First of all I was surprised to learn that it is considered urban. There are only 241 black residents of which 19.4% of the males and 25.4% of the females are unemployed compared with 4.2% white males and 12.7% white females. Mind you there are 1638 white residents. Out of these residents only 111 males have a college degree and 114 females. Of the 1067 houses only 576 are owner occupied and 383 are rented. That’s 40% of their population that rents. Majority of their residents are under the age of 25 and have never lived outside of Vernon or even the state of Alabama. The few people that have immigrated there are mainly from the South. So why exactly did the New York Times decide to ask their opinion on the state of our nation? They are so worried about the non-Christian blacks becoming ever so aggressive like they’ve done over the centuries going into other countries and taking over and enslaving others… oh that’s right, my bad, those are white people. And the Crusades and how many other holy wars were fought by whom? Oh yeah, we only care about the extremist Muslims now. And let’s not forget that our black president was never raised in a black household because his mother was white and married to an Indonesian and then he was sent to live with his white grandparents and went to white schools including Harvard, but the black people are only going to see he’s black and now become more aggressive. Really? If anything I hope more and more blacks realize that if there is a glass ceiling we can break through it and we can be educated and successful. If that’s how we become more aggressive than I say so be it.

    Comment by Al | November 12, 2008

  4. Thank you for stepping up and showing those narrowminded bigots for what they are. I live in Alabama — about 3 hours from Vernon, and I can assure you that we’re not all that ignorant. I live in Huntsville, the town that put man on the moon. We are intelligent (average education level is a master’s degree or slightly above) and multi-cultural. Because of the universities, the research park (2nd largest in the US) and the space program, our citizens are from all over the world. After 9/11, we didn’t have anti-Muslim reactions because we’ve been living with Muslims for years. They are our co-workers, our neighbors, the parents of our childrens’ friends. Many of them came to this country to escape the tyranny of Saddam or Khomeini. They are no more terrorists than I. I mean, I’m southern, I’m white and I’m Christian so I must be a member of the KKK, right?

    Comment by Clark | November 12, 2008

  5. Al – Or should I call you statistician…? lol. You are absolutely right. The bar has been raised and it is my sincere hope that people will recognize that. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Comment by deek1973 | November 12, 2008

  6. Clark – Thank you so much for your comments and message! I almost feel like I need to write another post that highlights what you’ve shared with us about Huntsville.

    I’m always impressed with people like you who can obviously show the world that despite being surrounded by some very backward individuals, there is another side to our country…especially the south.

    Raising my glass to Clark and Huntsville – wishing you all much happiness and prosperity!

    Comment by deek1973 | November 12, 2008

  7. Clark and I are probably neighbors. Hi, Clark.

    Yes, Alabama has a long, sad history of racial intolerance, but that NYT article seems to want to continue the stereotype of the Southern Bigot. I live in Alabama by choice — I like the weather — and I ask that you not judge the entire state by the ignorant ramblings of folks this reporter found in the parking lot of the Shop-N-Save. Just like Evangelical Christians can support just about anything by looking in the right place in the Bible, it’s also possible to back up ignorant assumptions if you find the the right ignoramuses.

    Ignore Vernon. Since I live in Alabama and I’d never heard of it, you’re safe to do so. Its residents certainly don’t speak for all of us.

    Like Clark said, Huntsville is a very diverse, very multi-cultural community. So why did north AL go for McCain? It’s hard to say for sure, but I’d bet our large military base and defense industry contracts had more to do it than the color of Obama’s skin.

    I think it was very lazy reporting that led this author to his thesis and support. Why investigate deeper when you can just dredge up old stereotypes and paint a new face on them? I would have liked to have those two quoted scholars back up their statements with some data — which would have proven far more illuminating — rather than depend on the citizens of Vernon as “proof.”

    Ugh. You aren’t the only one disgusted with that tiny town…

    Comment by Kimberly in Huntsville | November 12, 2008

  8. Kimberly in Huntsville – I hope that you know how much I appreciate your comments as well. I’m always pleased to learn about anything progressive.

    Both you and Clark have taught me some facts about Huntsville that I did not know in the past. I can assure you that my original rant was decidedly directed at Gail McDaniel and Don Dollar for their absolutely ignorant comments.

    I like your suggestion of just ignoring them…but I will say that I’m slightly frightened of people that say things like that and believe it’s reality.

    Our country seems to be showing a different trend which is somewhat encouraging, so I’ll stand side-by-side with the rest of you to do my part to make it a better place.

    Raising my glass yet again to Kimberly in Huntsville and wishing you all the best.

    Comment by deek1973 | November 12, 2008

  9. Hello there. Once again chiming in from the Huntsville area; however I was born and raised in Vernon, Alabama. I am in no way defending the comments made by the “townspeople” at the “shop and save” but do not want my hometown ridiculed in such a hideous way. Some of us actually did go to college and do not have the narrow-minded, stagnant views of others. I have been out of the state and country many times and have actually flown on a real airplane (note: sarcasm). Ignorance breeds ignornace and the article did nothing positive to educate the masses. There are GOOD people in that town. If the author had gone looking for biggots in any state, he would have found them. I know that Alabama has an, at least, unfortunate racial history, but the Times smearing was a very unfair, biased view. It is unfortunate for a wonderful town.

    Comment by nik | November 13, 2008

  10. Hey. Just going to let you know, please don’t think EVERYONE from Vernon is like that.

    Unfortunately, I live there. My sister actually informed me about the article and I found this via searching google. I agree with everything you said.

    The people you mentioned are pretty much brainwashed hypocrites, as is most of the town. It’s a small community, and most would rather sit around doing the same routine every day than to actually take the time to understand that there is a world out there, much less that other people have feelings.

    Thankfully, I plan on moving within the next few months. And, truthfully, I voted for Obama =p was probably one of the only ones here to do so. All of my friends shunned me for it, but eh. I ignored them.

    Comment by Chris | November 13, 2008

  11. I was searching for contact information for Mr. Dollar and this blog entry came up in the results.

    I took a look at it and I wanted to point out that when you link to articles on The New York Times website, you need to use the “permalink” rather than the actual URL of the page itself.

    The pernalink can be found in the “share” menu just to the right of the first paragraph in any of their articles.

    Using it guarantees several things. Among those are:

    1) The link will never expire – even after the page is archived as it becomes an “old” story.

    2). Anyone who follows the link and doesn’t have an account on nytimes.com won’t be asked to log in or create their account on the site (no account is needed with permalinks).

    Comment by Scott | November 14, 2008

  12. Nik – Thanks for the comments! It’s refreshing to hear that you know Vernon from the inside and are sharing the good side.

    I can understand why you might feel that the NYT article was a smear…As you can see from my post, I prefer to clear up inconsistencies.

    My question to you is how many people like Gail McDaniel or Don Dollar are there in Vernon? It troubles me because Gail is supposed to be a business owner – someone who should theoretically be a pillar in the community as I’m called on to do as a business owner.

    Even worse – Don Dollar – the Admin Asst for City Hall. A government position and he feels that way?

    I think the significance of the two that were highlighted is that you would expect that the demographic that they represent would be a little more enlightened in 2008.

    Comment by deek1973 | November 14, 2008

  13. Chris – Thank you for commenting! I wish you all the best with your move and really respect someone like you who can stand by what you felt was the right decision despite the non-support of your friends.

    Comment by deek1973 | November 14, 2008

  14. Scott – Thanks for the tip! You’re absolutely right about the permalink and as a person who has 5 blogs running right now, I should know that.

    Truth is, it wasn’t intuitive to find the NYT permalink info, so I was lazy. But, it’s fixed now and I appreciate the reminder. Take care!

    Comment by deek1973 | November 14, 2008

  15. deek1973,
    I would just have to ask you to judge people on an individual basis. My mother and some close family and friends in Vernon do not share Don and Gail’s view. I would also say that they are NOT typical examples of pillars in the community, at all. I still would generalize the population as conservative but not bigoted. I have to still hold hope, because this is an entire town of people who educated me, grew up with me, and dotted every day of my existence for 18 years. And once more, it is not how I was raised at home. My point is that, although hard to digest, these two do not represent my hometown demographic. I have to wonder how many legitimate arguments for McCain the author skipped over. ?

    Comment by nik | November 14, 2008

  16. holy cow…is it too late to canel my reservations for my summer trip?

    Comment by wutupdogg | November 15, 2008

  17. …cancel my reservations…

    Comment by wutupdogg | November 15, 2008

  18. nik – Once again, thank you for keeping an open dialogue going. I hear you as it relates to the general consensus of the Vernon population.

    I don’t know that I personally want to test your theory out by visiting, but I’ll take your word for it.

    The only question I have for you as it relates to legitimate arguments for McCain is, based on the demographics and setting in Vernon, it would be quite difficult to understand arguments in favor of the Republican candidate save for some of their core values that are based on religion, not issues that are truly affecting the general population and/or race.

    Otherwise, the Republican party as it stands today has not recently helped individuals with economies that mirror that of Vernon.

    So, when you strip away all of the promises that the Republican ticket made that would really only benefit the wealthy when all was said and done, what was the argument for John McCain?

    It certainly wasn’t Palin, the health plan proposal would hardly benefit middle to low income families, continuing to fight the war for an indefinite period of time would only continue to drain the country’s resources, he never really answered the question of how he would truly help places like Vernon, AL…so one can only wonder why so many of the residents there were so supportive of him.

    Comment by deek1973 | November 15, 2008

  19. wutupdogg – not if you used the Expedia.com gnome.

    Comment by deek1973 | November 15, 2008

  20. he does come in handy every now and again, doesn’t he?

    Comment by wutupdogg | November 15, 2008

  21. Just because 2 people from Vernon, AL say something you didn’t like…………don’t judge the rest of the town. That only makes those of you who responded negatively just as ignorant, guilty of discrimination, and lacking of better judgement. I mean come on state your opinions……but direct them to the 2 who deserve to hear them and don’t punish the whole town.

    Comment by Vernon Resident | November 15, 2008

  22. Another View…
    Derek, I hear your excitement about Obama winning the Presidential race and your disgust with the racial comments that were quoted in the article. I know you also know that you went too far in your comments, but are proud that you spoke out.

    Here are a few more thoughts. In the original article six people from the area are quoted. Two women made negative racial comments (Gail McDaniel and “a woman”). Mr. Franks who seems to just be against Obama, two businessmen that stated they were concerned about his possible Muslin connections, and Don Dollar, who voted against Obama for religious reasons. That makes the votes against Obama: 2-racial, 2-anti-Muslin, 1-against, and 1-religious. From here you quote Gail McDaniel and Don Dollar in your article and equalize their comments.

    My thoughts: To be (mathematically) accurate and draw conclusions from a population of 2390 (the residents of Vernon) you must use a sample greater than 40 to be 95% assured that your conclusions are accurate. Your sample was too small (6) to determine if all the people “are backward”, are “absolutely ignorant”, and “a town to be ignored.”
    A side comment to Al. To compare the total college graduates to the total population is somewhat skewed in that 40+% are under the age of 22 and are not old enough to be college grads.
    Mr. Dollar’s comments are not racial but are based on his religious beliefs. I cannot see where it could be concluded that his comments are racially biased. There is heavy concern in our area that someone who supports funding abortion efforts, is for same sex marriages, and has a mentor that is more racist than Gail McDaniel is someone who may set the country on a course very different than his beliefs.
    I am part of a group of people that are called Helping Hands of Lamar County. In the last three years we have completed 76 projects through May 2008. This can be verified at the following address http://friendsofhalecounty.com/Lamar%20County%20Projects.html
    If you were to go to that address you would find where we brought a first class opera to Vernon, bought thousands of books for the school library, supplied 9 classrooms of desks to the local elementary school, paid for students to go to Birmingham to see Phantom of the Opera identified the special needs students, bought appropriate Christmas gifts, wrapped them, and delivered them. We also have bought bicycles for the very needy and help victims with clothing and food needs.
    And guess what……Mr. Dollar has been a participant in our group as well as helping in numerous anonymous ways on his own.

    Vernon is not what has been portrayed. It has its faults like any other community. But the efforts of some of its residents reflect their beliefs to love their neighbor with actions not just words.

    p.s. In Alabama we had nine churches of White and Black memberships burned to the ground in 2006. That was national news. But did you hear who rebuilt those churches? No. And why you didn’t hear is because it would have negated future smear articles that sell newspapers. You see we Whites and we Blacks came together and rebuilt bigger and better churches without any fanfare.

    Comment by Law | November 20, 2008

  23. I would like to start off by saying I happen to be one of these narrow minded Vernon residents you enjoy ridiculing so much. I voted for John Mccain not because I’m a racist, or because he’s got a funny name.
    My deciding factor was his lack of experience. Our country is headed toward the worst crisis since the Great Depression and WWII. Now I may be proven wrong, but I don’t think Obama has the experience to guide us through these turbulent times. As a key employee of a small business his unclear tax policy on small businesses also worries me. As far as the comments from my townspeople in the article, I don’t agree with what they said, but that is their opinion. I’m not going to throw them under the bus as bigots because it is convenient. They don’t deserve to have their names dragged through mud for expressing their opinion. I almost hate to bring this up since this story has been run into the ground. Barack Obama stated in an interview with Bill O’reilly that holding him accountable for the views of Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers when he knows thousands of people is unfair. I agree with this point it is unfair. So are you going to condemn an entire town based on the views of only three people. That to me is narrow minded. Until you have visited our town I don’t see how you have any right to condemn it. Even though we are branded as backward and ignorant I would rather have my way of life over any other. Since stats are so popular here look at Vernon’s crime rate, I can walk through my town at night and not have to worry about a thing. We don’t even lock our doors, I have never taken the key out and locked my truck. There is not one homeless person in all of Vernon and I’m proud of that. I wouldn’t trade that for any comfort in any big city. As far as the economic status of Vernon, our recent decline is due to jobs being shipped overseas. NAFTA has had a large role to play in that, also the second highest business tax rate in the world doesn’t help. Our biggest employers are moving to Mexico for cheap labor and less regulation. Concerning the author’s comments, I don’t agree with President Bush 100% but he has kept us safe since 9/11. That is worth something to me. I will still be able to watch television after February, I have Directv that is already digital. I am also equally offended by your sarcastic remarks so we are in agreement there. As far as income I make about double the average income, and most everybody I know can afford clothes and basic necessities. About your arrogance with your material possessions, I am not impressed. My family owns a successful metal-forming business, and one of our forklifts cost twice as much as your most expensive car. Our property taxes are low because things don’t cost as much here. I could probably build a home as nice as yours for half what you paid. If paying more for less floats your boat, so be it I’m happy for you. One of our machines in our plant cost as much as one of your homes does. So to get to the point we’re making it alright. We even have running water now. As far as recreation is concerned I cannot roller skate to save my life. I usually avoid community pools, but as a mazing as it seems I have owned an in-ground cement pond. I am also an avid hunter, would rather listen to my dogs run a rabbit than almost anything I can think of. Calling a man you have never met pathetic is a real good way to ease tensions among people. Mr. Dollar does have a point though I must point out. I will probably be ridiculed for this, but so be it. If a person lives their life by the good book at all times. there are things Obama stands for that one cannot support. An example is, abortion Obama is pro-abortion if one lives their life by the book, as most do here there is a rub there. I do not want to argue religion, as I am not a deeply religious person, but I do have a set of core values that I hold very dear. Our ways of life are very different, I don’t ever expect you to understand the way I think, or me understand yours. I don’t understand how you can ridicule people and a way of life as being ignorant and narrow minded, then take the exact same approach and attack those people. We have a word for that it is hypocrite. I’m just rambling on so I will stop now. The opinions expressed in this conversation are unnerving to me. They only illustrate how far we haven’t come. Opinions and statements like these are what causes the widening gap between people. True equality can only be achieved through understanding and trust. Not vicious attacks, or bickering back and forth over petty differences and material possessions. With that I will end my commentary with a last thought, we still have a long row to hoe.

    Comment by Al | November 21, 2008

  24. Al – thank you for your comments. I don’t have too much to say to yours because I’m not interested in discussing political policy anymore – just uniting with my fellow citizens to work with our leader to fix the mess that we’re in.

    I will say this though for clarification…I didn’t call YOU narrow-minded. You may want to re-read the post. You attached that label to yourself.

    Secondly, I never called YOU a racist nor anyone else who voted for John McCain. If you’d take the time to ask me, you might be surprised to know that I actually liked and still like John McCain.

    I think both you and Law are mixing issues – I did not write the NYT article which seems to really be the source of your anger, in that it portrays Vernon as an entire region that has a problem with the election.

    It’s all immaterial though…you’ll have your opinion and I’ll have mine. You can state yours and I’ve stated mine. As long as we respect one another, we have no issue so I wish you well, as we all have a long road ahead of us.

    Comment by deek1973 | November 21, 2008

  25. […] that I’ve recently been receiving by some Vernon, AL residents in response to my post “Vernon Alabama – It’s Where I Want to Summer.”  There is a difference between sarcasm and arrogance – you be the […]

    Pingback by Vernon, Alabama - It’s where I want to summer, Part Deux « Swimming In My Head… | November 21, 2008

  26. Mr. Law, In case you wanted to check up on my statistics here is the website – http://www.city-data.com/housing/houses-Vernon-Alabama.html. If 40+% are not of college age than 60-% are… still more than half. I do applaud what you and the people of Helping Hands are doing in your area. I believe education and cultural diversity is the only way people will ever be able to live peacefully and with understanding. I grew up in a city that at the most had 13 black kids out of a school of 1200. I had kids tell me to go back to where I came from, that their parents were part of the KKK, that I wasn’t allowed to come over because I was black. I have also been spit on and called the “N” word. I’ve had black people call me “oreo” because they feel I’m not black enough. I have white friends that call men wearing turbans “towel heads” and muslim terrorists without realizing they’re Sikhs. My husband is a Ford F-150, deer hunting, country loving white guy who’s family lives in small town rural areas in Pennsylvania. On a daily basis I try to get my white friends, black friends, Indian friends, and Latino friends to get to know each other instead of making stereotypical judgments about each other. Unfortunately they’ve all grown up and live in areas surrounded by people that are just like them so they can’t understand where other people are coming from. Vernon may be a great place to live for the people that live there but lets say there was a influx of blacks and Muslims that decided to move there. Would the doors start getting locked? Would the community’s mentality still be about love of neighbor or would prejudices over rule? It has been my experience (which ranges from major cities to farm living and mountain living) that prejudices win.

    Comment by The origininal AL in this blog | November 21, 2008

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