I grew up in Mississippi, with everything that entailed.
I remember when the state legalized riverboat gambling in order to generate some tourist and tax revenue. People oohed and aahed as we watched the casinos get built, and once they opened people would travel hours to gamble or enjoy the all-you-can-eat crab leg buffets. Of course, like everything salacious in the state, these dens of iniquity became part of the whispers and sly comments made in barber chairs and hair salons. It was often said that if you needed to find a Baptist on a Friday night, you don’t go to their house, you go to the casino.
The suburb I grew up in forbade restaurants from serving alcohol, and liquor stores shut down at 8 p.m. Of course you could always find the people who called it a sinful habit on the other side of the city at the restaurants that did serve booze. God knows the number of kids in my town who would wreck their car in a DUI and have a nice new car the next week and not a word of it appeared in the papers. It’s just the way it was. That’s how it works in the South. The people who make the rules don’t have to live by them as long as they get to keep making the rules and have God on their side.
When it was discovered that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore was (allegedly!) molesting teenage girls during his time as district attorney, it was honestly unsurprising to anyone who knew the ways of the South. Rules don’t apply to you if you’re one of the good fellas. Moore had all the right credentials; a good education, money, a well-thumped Bible, and a history of telling those meddlin’ godless folks he wouldn’t betray his beliefs. The man was truly a cliché. A man who created an organization called Foundation for Moral Law opposed to everything except grifting over a million dollars from its coffers as well as the Confederacy and praised God for his victories and scheming powers for all his defeats.
Of course, Moore would gladly violate those same laws of God, the courts, and society when they suited him. Why else would he meet the 14-year-old girl down the block from her house and take her to his place where he couldn’t be seen or caught? One wonders how many poor people he sent to jail for molesting a minor. When Alabama politicians came out in defense of Moore, citing the Bible in ways so incorrect that had they been said by anyone else would have warranted a witch-burning, it wasn’t much of a surprise. The Bible for these folks is only good for keeping poors and blacks and gays and transgenders in their place and not for them. Now of course the fine folks at Breitbart are deploying their top minds to Alabama to find things to smear the victims of Moore and screaming, “Innocent until proven guilty used to mean something!” Oh, the irony of this about a state that made public lynching a picnic-worthy event.
No one who supports Moore is ever going to believe these women, or any woman who speaks up against one of these folks. That’s just not how it works here. Moore is the victim to these people — a man of God who fought to keep the queers, the Muslims, and those godless communist New York liberals from destroying their way of life is being persecuted, don’t you know? Innocent until proven guilty is only for the white folks from the right families with the money. Everyone else gets time on the county work farm, or “encouraged” to move out of town.
Even if we found photos of Moore naked down to his tighty whiteys with these girls, it doesn’t change anything. He’s still a man of god tempted by these trollops and hussies. Who lets their 14-year-old daughter go around looking like that? It doesn’t matter how she looked, the fact she looked any way at all tempting to a man is enough to make her a slut and a whore. Once Moore makes the appropriate amount of effort of praying and asking for forgiveness, and he gets a certified and bona fide letter from his pastor saying God’s forgiven him, he’s good to go.
Now, don’t go thinking that’s the way everyone in Alabama or the Deep South acts. Remember how I said these folks were the subjects of whispers and jokes? Well, they were. We were the not-so-rich, the wrong kind of Protestant, or even, I daresay, a Catholic. Us folks were white, black, and all shades of brown, the “confirmed bachelor” who worked at the hair salon or mall and were just loved by these folks as long as we knew our place when it mattered. It’s just that we are the ones who’ve been disenfranchised by the courts or election boards, packed ourselves up and moved away, or live in those communities that all the money moved away from, so who cares if they elected a black mayor (who’ll probably end up in jail or impeached for some sort of crime by the white DA anyway). When I talk about how I love the South, these are the folks I talk about. Not the Roy Moores, but those of us spreading the gossip over a beer smuggled over county lines into a dry county. The ones where the white kid with the nose ring can share a side eye with the black kid with the mini-dreads at the sheriff's deputy.
Roy Moore won’t withdraw from the race until it’s obvious that he can’t win and he can say God spoke to him to say it was OK. He’ll still blame godless liberals and Easter Christians — and Republicans all over the country who want a tax cut will keep saying that an innocent man was found guilty without trial. Of course that’s only true for an actual court, not the public. The public is not held to the standard of a court of law; the public is an angry mob drunk on Sterno. They’ll hide behind “if true” defenses until it’s too late and then they’ll turn on him the minute it’s convenient.
Yet for Moore, it won’t ever matter. He’s a man of God who’s being attacked by damn liberals or whores out to hurt an innocent man. He’ll still make money and gain power out of it no matter how it goes. My only advice for the rest of us is not to see this as a rational case for the rest of the country when it comes to sexual assault of a minor; the rules are different in the South. You should really forget it, Jake. It’s Alabama.
AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City, and a regular columnist for The Advocate. Follow her on Twitter @amanda_kerri.