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Harris Blackwood: Too much anger keeps us from ‘doing something kind’
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

I’ve always been intrigued by NASCAR. At a race, you have 40 different drivers and theoretically, you could have a row of fans supporting each driver. That’s not likely to happen, but it could.

Every now and then, a little smack-mouth skirmish may break out in the stands. But most of the time, it is fairly good-natured.

In today’s grandstands of life, we have a variety of opinions. It seems we have allowed them to fester into an open wound with a fresh dose of stinging alcohol poured on it each day.

We used to cover that wound with a bandage of civility. Does anyone remember civility? It seems to have left us.

My first real job was shining shoes in the barbershop in Social Circle. I wasn’t great, but I could buff your wingtips where they looked pretty good to wear to church.

This was during the terms of President Richard Nixon and Gov. Jimmy Carter. Nixon, as you may remember, had his campaign folks up to all kinds of interesting tricks. Carter, who was governor, was doing all sorts of reorganization of state government and some folks didn’t like it too much. 

It made for some interesting conversations among the barbershop patrons in Social Circle. It was a little like NASCAR; there were a few differing opinions. The spark of the conversation was often a story in The Atlanta Constitution. Some of the fellows used the vernacular of Lester Maddox and called it “the fishwrapper,” suggesting that may be the best use for it.

But while there may have been a few barbs exchanged, it was civil. There was usually a wink or a nod to say that while I respect your opinion, I politely disagree. I wish I could have bottled that sentiment up and could give everybody a dose.

Marvin Griffin, a very colorful governor from the 1950s, tried to make a comeback in 1962. His opponent was the eventual winner, Carl Sanders. Griffin was a rough-hewn plainspoken man. Sanders was young and appeared well on television. Many drew comparisons to the young president at the time, John F. Kennedy.

Griffin pulled out the old reliable tool of politics: free barbecue. He held barbecues from Rabun Gap to Tybee Light.

When he lost to Sanders, Griffin offered one of my all-time favorite explanations: “A lot of folks ate my barbecue, but didn’t vote for me.”

Never did he suggest that any harm come to Sanders or his supporters.

Today, it seems that we are mired in a cesspool of anger. We are angry on the highway, we are angry with school, we are angry at church and we are certainly angry in the political arena.

A few weeks ago, I went to a meeting at a church my family attended 50 years ago. It is now a predominately African-American congregation. I told the audience, who was a group of senior adults, that walking back in that building brought back a flood of memories.

I remember one song we sang in Primary Choir. “Jesus helped the sick, Jesus helped the blind, Everyday he went about doing something kind.”

We sure forgot that one.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear Sunday.