Monday, September 12, 2011

12 SEP 11: Fighters, Fools and Frauds

A military presence covered part of downtown Columbus on 11 September this year. In fact, you might want to avoid part of Front Avenue for the next couple of days -- because the fighting vehicles on display for the Maneuver Conference trade show probably will be slower than your car.

A current Colonel and a retired Fort Benning Commanding General spoke Sunday night at a "memorial concert" in the RiverCenter. But the patriotic program had a surprise twist, with unexpected closing remarks from a Columbus State University professor. It was almost like he was auditioning for the editorial board of the Ledger-Enquirer.

"This is hard," C.S.U. Political Science Chair Thomas Dolan admitted to the audience as he began -- but then he said it's "better" for our country that party-line bickering has returned to Washington. He explained it shows the strength of the U.S. Strong all the way to the Chinese poor farm, I suppose....

Dr. Thomas Dolan declared ten years after the terror attacks, the fears faced by this country are "fairly benign" - especially compared to the Cuban missile crisis of almost 50 years ago. Young people may not realize in 1962, "nuking popcorn" almost meant destroyed farms.

Thomas Dolan noted a crop of conspiracy theories have developed since 11 September 01, despite the video evidence. He said "fools and frauds" do a disservice to those who experienced that day - such as a man who claims Flight 93 actually landed safely in Cleveland. Instead of "Let's roll," he prefers "let's rewrite."

Thomas Dolan said it's still OK to have a sense of anger about what happened ten years ago - but we "don't need to invent events and enemies" in the wake of that day. Plenty of that seems to happen on reality TV shows every week.

The comments by a Columbus State professor threw a thought-provoking curve into a RiverCenter program filled with remembrance and flag-waving. A good crowd seemed to attend the free program - helped by buses from at least two Columbus retirement homes. They'll be working on essays comparing 11 September 01 with Pearl Harbor today, before it gets too late.

After opening ceremonies including the national anthem, Columbus State President and emcee Timothy Mescon introduced a "visionary and impactful leader." The name of Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson brought a whoop from someone in the audience - someone whose city job apparently is safe for now.

The mayor described the quiet tone at the dawn of 11 September 01 - and then the Columbus State University Singers did a marvelously flawless job with a difficult song. Randall Thompson's "Alleluia" has no accompaniment, and is splendid when done well. When it doesn't.... well, my high school choir teacher came very close to throwing his baton at us on several occasions.

(The song includes the single word "Alleluia" almost from start to finish. So it was strange years ago to hear a man in an Atlanta church choir ask one Sunday night: "What's the point?")

The next musical selection found a string quartet of Columbus State graduate students in a mezzanine box, playing Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings." The playing was close to perfect technically, but one musician clearly could be heard pounding the beat with his foot. That person either needs to wear sneakers, or join a Dixieland jazz band.

The RiverCenter stage was filled throughout the program with Fort Benning's Maneuver Center of Excellence Band and the C.S.U. Wind Orchestra. They joined in "Armed Forces on Parade," with the conductor turning to the audience and saluting several times. Why stop there? Lawrence Welk sometimes danced with members of the audience, too.

The most puzzling piece on the program for me was a selection by Edward Elgar. For one thing, he was British. For another thing, it was a movement from his "Enigma Variations" - so come to think of it, maybe it should have puzzled everyone in the audience.

Emcee Timothy Mescon described the Nimrod movement by Elgar as one depicting friendship. After the concert, I discovered it's commonly played at memorial services. But the name Nimrod has a negative connotation in the Bible - and the music was so nondescript that I wondered if The Gap Band bailed out of performing "You Dropped a Bomb on Me."

The 75-minute program had an inspiring ending with an orchestral version of "America the Beautiful." The instrumentalists were joined by the Columbus State Choral Union - a small tribute to the union halls which used to sit on the other side of Ninth Street from the RiverCenter.

All in all, the memorial music was presented very well. And the last speaker was just unpredictable enough to make everyone go home buzzing. That's the chance people take when they hold patriotic events at a college - someone might show up and try to make everyone think a little.

-> We even thought about 11 September 01 in terms of poker. Read about that at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: We're clearly getting back to business after the weekend tributes....


I know yours is a humor blog and you are into jokes. You have made that clear to me on more than one occasion. However, you talk about people having an "deep-seeded agenda" (sic) not funny at all. Since your comments were in response to my email, I would like to know exactly what deep-seated agenda you think I have when I respond to comments made by you or others on your blog about me and the work I do as a community activist?

Brother Love, Director

Grassroots Unity Movement for Change

Let me begin by thanking everyone who has set me straight on seeds and seats. From now on, will everyone accept the phrase "deeply-embedded"?

But anyway: more than five years of e-mails from C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon (yes, I checked) show he's primarily an activist for change from an African-American perspective. He made this clear in a 24 July message criticizing Columbus Councilor Jerry "Pops" Barnes. The Courier declared it was "time for Barnes to go," barely six months after he won re-election.

Recent history has shown a record of racial inequality in the South. There are plenty of serious issues, and the G.U.M.C. Director has addressed them often here. In fact, the next joke he writes to me may well go down as his first....

But sometimes I wonder if the G.U.M.C. Director's efforts cross a line from issue-centered to personal. For instance, I thought of him several times during Sunday night's program at the RiverCenter - especially when I happened to meet a, uh, buddy of his in the foyer. But no, I did NOT bring up the name "Brother Love" to Jim Wetherington.

"I'm retired now," the former mayor explained when it comes to silence from public issues over the last eight months. I offered him a chance to comment on current city affairs, but Jim Wetherington said: "Let the people in charge handle that." If he didn't even speak up for Councilor Judy Thomas, is that a good sign?!

But I digress: plenty of people have pushed unceasing agendas on this blog over the years. There was the "Is Our City Safe" series, by a police officer who wound up fired. There's the drive to reform or revoke a Russell County town. And Jeremy Hobbs probably would want me to mention his Columbus Council campaign website....

Bunky Clark (for some reason not going by "McClung" these days) addressed such movements in passing, by reading a poem during Sunday night's program. It includes the line that as people prayed ten years ago, "we became one faith." Obviously this was written before someone proposed an Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan.

We'll hold one other e-mail for another day, and wrap up the weekend with these other events....

+ Former Columbus Councilor Wayne Anthony gave his final sermon at Asbury United Methodist Church. He's being transferred to a church in Lake Park, near Valdosta - so consider what might have happened had Anthony won the mayor's race last year. For the first time, we could have seen the separation of church and city.

+ WXTX reported three south Georgia police officers were arrested in Phenix City on burglary charges. The Americus Times-Recorder revealed one of the suspects is the Montezuma "Gang Officer" - so it's no wonder she might have felt compelled to take two others with her.

+ The Atlanta Falcons opened their season by getting shellacked in Chicago 31-12. I did NOT watch this game, because I've suspended all football viewing until I review an article suggesting I stop watching "American football." The Australian version looks a lot more like a disorganized madhouse, anyway....

+ Rodney Crowell scored his first two Georgia touchdowns, but the Bulldogs were scarred by South Carolina 45-42. If this keeps up, some people will demand Sanford Stadium add de-fence next to de-hedges.

COMING SOON: Columbus's monster of the lake?!....

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