Authored by George Lindemann
This past weekend I flew to Birmingham Alabama for my son’s first junior slalom kayak completion. Sam is a good kayaker; he has paddled since he was a toddler. I am canoeist. The main difference is that a kayaker’s paddle has two blades and a canoeist only has one. It’s much easier to paddle with two blades then one, but I suffered too many horse falls as a kid and my shoulders are not stable enough to use two blades. So, I paddle a canoe.
I have never been to a slalom competition. Nor have I ever been to Birmingham. I am not sure what I thought I was expecting from Birmingham. All I really know about the city is its history of race riots. I know that was a long time ago, but I am reading “Killing Kennedy” by Bill O’Reilly right now and segregation in the old south figures prominently. Sam and I landed, picked up our rental car and left the airport. I had a déjà vu or deja-feel. It felt just like when I crossed the border from Belgium into Germany for the first time in my early 20s. I remember thinking/feeling that I would have some revelation about Germans, something that would inform me more then my history books ever had. But, just like when I crossed the border into Germany, suburban Alabama looked and felt just like other midsize city suburban neighborhoods. No revelations for me!
Sam and I continued our one-hour drive to the river. We left suburbia traveling through beautiful farm land, cows, horses, chickens, corn…. I love driving though farmland. We don’t have many farms near where I live on Miami Beach.
…And, then I saw my first Roy Moore for Senate billboard. Wow, I forgot about him. I forgot he was from Alabama. I like very little of what he stands for. He scares me actually. And there was a lovely farm house with a sign supporting him! Well that sure woke me up. How can people who live in such an idyllic home support such a scary, dangerous character? Alabama is indeed different from Miami.
Sam and I arrived at the Locust Fork of the Warrior River. We parked our car and went to register for the race. As I walked by the competitors, the volunteers and the spectators I kept on wondering which ones had voted for Roy Moore. None wore Roy Moore hats or campaign paraphernalia. After a while, I stopped looking. That’s when I realized that everyone there seemed like normal pleasant people, with southern accents. They were there for the sport and couldn’t be nicer. They were normal people. Over the next two days I began to realize that that was indeed the point. I don’t agree with much of their political views. When I read about them I cringe. But when surrounded by them, in their hood, I realized that they were more like me than not.
Sam did great in his first competition. He finished second the first day and fifth the second day. In case you are interested, I didn’t come in last in my division! I beat a lovely elderly gentleman who missed the second to last gate. I wonder if he is a Roy Moore supporter?