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FLN: What else about the Southern character should be mentioned...

EMERSON:

Well, the Southern character is voluble and outrageous and lascivious and he's essentially violent. You know that four times as many crimes of violence are committed in the rural South as in the North. And when a Southerner's insulted his testosterone rises twice as high as a Yankee's does when he's insulted. And as Southerner's they said, "What would you call justification for killing somebody?" And he said, "In defending my home, anybody comes in my home, I'll kill him." At twice as many said that. Or an insult. How do you feel about being insulted? "Well, watch out, now. Now this is Mother's Day. If you talk to a 55 year old Southerner sitting on a chair in front of the feed bin and say something rude about his mother, he'll climb all over you like a thunder cloud.

FRADY:

That's not peculiar to white Southerners.

EMERSON::

I'm not saying it's not peculiar to them. I'm saying it's a characteristic of white Southerners.

MATHIS:

Except that this is a way that Bill Clinton is a great departure from that card. You don't get that tough guy, I'll tear you apart, boy don't come around here anymore in Bill Clinton. That's one way that he is not stereotypically Southern.

FRADY:

But he had to negotiate his way up in that kind of society with that kind of a tribal male ethic.

POWELL:

That's part of aspiring upward toward the values of the old South tradition of the upper class and leaving behind the cotton farm sort of roots.

EMERSON::

John Shelton Reede says, and quotes a couple of other scholars as saying that the herding instinct is responsible for a lot of this. These people that came from the fringes of Britain were herdsmen, and when you've got a bunch of sheep or goats or cows or something, if anybody takes them away from you, you're an instant pauper. There everything went all at once. And herdsmen have to be fierce and they have to have reputations for courage and violence. Well, they may be many other things that contribute to it, living outdoors nine months of the year, hunting and fishing and climbing trees and all the rest of it. Southerners live very close to nature and they are emotional, responsive and tend to be fierce and protective. After all we had the Indians snatching up our wives and children, back a hundred years ago still.

FRADY:

But immemorially, I think it's been a culture and a society that has always belonged more to the earth than to machines. And Clinton is an aberration on that quality. He is not indisposed to systems, policy think and it's like that Southern character, that Southern nature, that Southern past is undergoing a certain permutation in that species of Southerner that Clinton is.

MARLETTE:

He's a robo-Bubba. I think that Bill Clinton is a transitional figure from the Old South, from the old confederacy to the new South. The techno-cyber Southerner. The Robo-Bubba.

FRADY:

Maybe there's been a certain psychic impoverishment in that improvement or that domestication.

EMERSON::

May not even be an improvement.

MARLETTE:

It's the same thing that's going on in Atlanta, in Greenville, and in Birmingham.

FRADY:

It's a phenomena of the South having been mightily laboring since at least the `50's, the early `60's to somehow transmogrify itself into an emulation, and imitation of Pasadena. Or Cleveland or the rest of the country. And there has always been this almost touching lust in the South for progress, for industry. The land of cane in the South is consisted of a horizon of smokestacks.

MASON:

Nature is the enemy as well as the friend. The South has been agricultural, and has been bountiful but it's also been hard. And I think our nature being so full of snakes and bugs and bears and kudzu, I think the upshot is the only thing that will stop kudzu is a Wal Mart. Or a shopping center. And in part this denial of nature... I think the war is between nature and the opposite of nature, which is paving it over and denying it. And leaving our roots and leaving the land and forgetting how food is grown.

MATHIS:

But again, the South wants so desperately to prove that it's a-okay. That it's really an all right place to live. That it's as good as the rest of the country. It has a terrible inferiority complex. You know you may not say that, you may not feel that, I don't feel inferior, but I'm talking about as a collective region of the country it's always trying to prove itself, and disprove and disabuse people of the old myths. It's always working at that.

EMERSON::

Until '38, the South didn't get back the real wealth it lost during the Civil War. Until 1938.

MARLETTE:

I think the South definitely has a sense, and again it's rooted in having been burnt down. And having our silverware stolen. And being invaded and humiliated and this is the only part of the country that has experienced that and it gives us a chip on the shoulder, a second classness, something to overcome. Not that, it also was a great advantage. When people condescend to you it's a great advantage as Sam Irvine demonstrated in the Watergate hearings. And I think Clinton has learned to use that. But I think definitely, I saw this in New York when Clinton was moving toward the nomination in the New York primary. I was in North Carolina at one point, considering all the candidates, and I liked Clinton but I was thinking of all the others, and I was thinking the downside, until I went to New York and I felt that irrational hostility from the press in New York City towards Clinton because he was a Southerner. And Southerners are the only people who it's okay to still kick around. There is no cultural diversity.

FL: What is the attitude toward Clinton?

MARLETTE:

Well, I think that Clinton has an awareness of this. One of the things that I think is a great gift of his is he has a consciousness of these phenomena. He understands how this works, and makes it work for him, and plays on it, and also is a product of that, and had to overcome being the Governor of Arkansas.

EMERSON::

Let's accept the fact that he must have persuaded somebody because he got the vote. I mean that wasn't' rescinded the next day. There's a certain amount of lost ground.

FRADY:

But that wouldn't have alleviated him of that lifetime's condition of being an outsider.

EMERSON::

I think there's a tremendous amount of pride in the South too behind all of this. We were poor, we were whipped, we were thrashed, everything else. But the South is a very resilient, remarkable, ornery, tough state. And we're going to be heard from and continue to be heard from.

MASON:

There's something about Clinton's confidence that is so strong and that to come out of Hope and Hot Springs, Arkansas and to imagine yourself the President of the United States, there's something rather naïve about that. And I think that it's born out of provincial context, this belief that you can do something so extraordinary and people around you might think, "Well how could you believe something like that when we're only in Arkansas." And I think that probably the same could be said about Jefferson Davis, the notion that he could run the Confederate Army and win the war. And this kind of naïve...

FRADY:

But he's the world's most ferociously bright student. Diligent student.

MASON:

The positive thing is that it takes that kind of energy and optimism coming out of provincial roots to really achieve that. Because somebody cynical and sophisticated and is quite worldly in his background is not going to make that effort.

MARLETTE:

Also I think that Bill Clinton embodies this Southern characteristic as Faulkner put it, "the capacity to endure and to prevail." Which is part of, the South absorbed blows, absorbed blows and is now prevailing economically.

MATHIS:

Now that we have portrayed him as this real Southerner, let's get to this real hard fact that the South despises Bill Clinton. You look at any poll. He's not going to carry the South. He didn't before. He doesn't do well in the South. Why is that? He is both a child of the South and he's this weird hybrid thing too. He has betrayed what Southern men are about. Military service, protecting home and family. He has that charm, that Southern charm, that up North they like to call slick.

EMERSON::

A little Rhett Butler kind of charm.

MATHIS:

Yes, absolutely. Rakish, roguish, kind of charm about him.

FRADY:

Maybe more an Elmer Gantry.

EMERSON::

Well, we're talking about our respective heroes.

MATHIS:

But he is also part Northerner after all. Educated at Georgetown, went to Yale, all the way overseas to the Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford. And standing in Red Square as a student. That's not somebody that someone in Moscow, Arkansas can relate to. So you see, he's not whole Southerner. He's true Southerner but he's not whole, 100% Southerner. He's been diluted somewhere along the line.

EMERSON::

That's why the rest of the country likes him so much.

MATHIS:

Well, that's why the rest of the country can tolerate him. They say, "Oh after all, if he had just stopped at the University of Arkansas I don't know what might have happened. But after all, he went to Yale. After all, he went to Georgetown. He must have something going for him." That's the thing that makes him okay to the rest of the country, and freaks out the South about him cause he's got this outsider stuff in him.

POWELL:

Clinton is a Southerner in form but the content has changed. In the structure of his personality and the form, in his style, he's Southern still, deeply Southern. But the content has changed and it's unfamiliar to Southerners.

FL: What's the emotional connection to that?

POWELL:

Well, one of the ways he's still Southern it seems to me is that he's like a Southern Baptist preacher. And the church is an environment that sanctions emotion in men. And in the preacher you have someone who is a model of empathy, and persuasion, and coaxing, and reaching out a hand persuading you to come forward to the point of view of the minister, which is the point of view of Christ, that you must yield.

MARLETTE:

But what I see that you're talking about, which is very much a part of our heritage as Baptists, is the winning souls. What I've experienced with Bill, I always see in the President's eyes, in that engaging, in that hugging, in that embracing that goes on. And the being there with you and for you and feeling your pain, and whatever else, I always notice that there's a moment when he recognizes that he has you. That he has won you and then moves on. And it's like a checking you off the list.

MATHIS:

A quality that both the Clintons have, is this ability to both be sincere and at the same time step outside themselves and see how it's going out there. There are times I can swear I can see them thinking, "This is playing great. They are loving this. They're eating it up." Now that doesn't mean that they aren't earnest in what they're doing, but they are also very well aware of what it's looking like out there.

MARLETTE:

I keep saying that this is a transitional figure as they move from the preeminent question, "What must I do to be saved?" to in this age, "How am I doing?" is what you see within... It is an awareness, this may be the television generation, our generation, but it is a definite kind of... I think that Bill and Hillary are kind of the bacilli of this age and of our generation, the boomer generation. They are kind of carriers of the dis-ease of our time. And it's that point in this generation where narcissism intersects with obsessive compulsion. And kind of is expressed there. Now I see this in myself. I see it in all of my friends.

FRADY:

But that's a permutation or two beyond what it was traditionally like to be a Southerner and a Southern character.

MARLETTE:

That's what I mean. It's something that's in transition now.

EMERSON::

But the way he reaches forward with enthusiasm and interest in the other person is authentic and convincing. And he may move in quickly but that's his job to move on quickly. But you know...At the moment he passionately believes. He's really interested. He's been interested in students, he makes more friends with students. His great friend was the porter at Oxford. He's had, you know, he plays that sax and sings "Harmony", hey that's pretty engaging.

MATHIS:

Bob Dole in my view, is the manual typewriter. I learned to type on the manual typewriter. I loved it. I found it reliable. I knew, I learned how to operate it well. Where the keys were, how to change the ribbons, returning the carriage and all of that. Manual typewriters represent a great time in American life and everything. And they still work. A manual typewriter will still get the job done. Bill Clinton is the laptop. Does that mean I hate the manual typewriter because I prefer a laptop now? No. It's just that the laptop is more evolved and it reaches into the next century more. But I still love the manual typewriter. And what I think a lot of people are going to have to make a choice between is, do you stick with that manual typewriter which nobody has anything against, or do you go to the laptop which is moving into the next century.

FRADY:

But they really have, the two of them, Clinton and Dole, different styles of feeling. The one is much more open and exuberant. Dole, perhaps, is a little more freeze dried, harsh and starchy.

MATHIS:

I think that Bill Clinton is the perfect Southerner in a way at this time. Here he is, he can cry, he can feel, he can let you know that he feels. He can get weepy. He can get huggy and lovey and all that. That's part of his generation. In fact that was encouraged. That if you were a liberated man, if you were a real man, you freed yourself of all those pretenses of not having any pain or not having any agony or having any sorrow. And you let that go. Bob Dole came along at a time like my father, where a real man didn't cry. He took it on the chin and kept going. So you're not supposed to not only feel the other person's pain, you don't even feel your own. You don't even admit to your own.

EMERSON::

Well, you know we've been talking sort of loosely about the Southerners having something like a Mediterranean strain. They're voluble and they love to talk. And they never have any money and they didn't have a lot of big theater or drama or anything, an occasional church tent show came down. Southerners depend heavily on concentration, depend heavily on conversation and amuse themselves that way, distinguish themselves that way, and mesmerize their friends and relatives and it's a high art. Southerners literally pick up like magpies little bits of color and light and whimsy and nuance during the day and they try to weave them together into some sort of decent piece of pageantry at night. And they talk on the front porch cause it's too hot inside. No air conditioning. I mean you'd have to go down to the Star Light Theater to get air-conditioning, so Southerners naturally, the weather drives them out, they live intimately with the weather, the weather's all around them. When they go out at night and look up at the stars, look at the moon, and observe everything, insects. Nothings too small for a Southerner to concentrate fiercely on.

But conversation is sort of the art form that they're most convenient with, conversant with. It's so accessible to them. And they can't understand these taciturn people from these great windy plains where you have to lean at about 45 degrees in order to get anywhere. You have to fight to survive. Southerners throw themselves down in a meadow or sink into a chair on the front porch and start rocking. Talk to their neighbors and friends, passers by, and everybody else. And then they used to pick up by comedy circuits up North that they say, just a regular, routine, run of the mind, Southern conversation sustained us. As Frady says here, I rarely agree with anything he says, when he says rhetoric is the only thing that kept us alive after the crushing defeat in the Civil War. Southern rhetoric has been an estimable force. Everybody, in national life too, as well as in Southern life. We just manage to get by by talking.

FRADY:

But you had to believe in that rhetoric and believe it was real, not just a ceremony.

EMERSON:

Not just a ceremony. And listening. And the other side of this is listening. You got to have some people who will talk and listen by turn.

MARLETTE:

Well, you have to listen because you may miss a good story. I mean you learn from that.

EMERSON:

And you're going to tell that story yourself over at the seed mill.

FRADY:

Language is, has been like a telephone call. Language has been for the Southerner like breathing, like oxygen.

EMERSON:

That's right. Breathe in and breathe out.

FRADY:

Let me anchor this to Clinton first of all. But the cause of this desperate importance being placed in language, and language itself becoming the reality in place of an otherwise perhaps insupportable, unbearable reality, one tends to believe in it furiously. And when you say it, you're believing it. It's real. And you may be saying something a day and a half later that it does not contradict as a radical variance with observations and meditations that you were talking about the day before. But in that moment you completely occupy and inhabit that rhetoric, that oratory.

MATHIS:

Except that I think that what you believe in at the moment, necessarily, is the power of what you are saying, not necessarily what you're saying. That's why the Southern tall tale is such a great tradition. You know it's a lie.

FRADY:

Let me suggest a little Damascus Road enlightenment on that. It's not good rhetoric if you don't believe it.

MATHIS:

I absolutely don't believe that. I think that you can make a compelling, bewitching presentation of something you believe in not the least bit. And what is so seductive is to watch the power that you have over people that are falling for it.

POWELL:

I was going to come back to this earlier when you were talking about the way that you perceive the Clintons being able to assess the effect they're having. But to me that doesn't seem new. That seems to be the evangelist. The evangelist doesn't stay the minister to you after he's won your soul. The evangelist has done his work when he's saved you. When you have seen the light he has to move on. There's other souls to save. So I don't see that as some new perversion. It's the evangelist's way. It's the zeal that moves you onward. And there is seduction in that. The invitation to the unsaved, to come forward, to yield, to surrender.

FRADY:

Somebody ought to have difficulty making that transfer, though. That Clinton is in fact embarked on the kind of political revivalism, political evangelism to the republic.

POWELL:

What I'm talking about is, the forms get internalized in you in your upbringing. What you see modeled for you, what you soak up, what becomes part of who you are. Not in a conscious way, in the structure of your personality, in your response to the world. And when you grow up a Southern Baptist there is this pressure to evangelize. If you take seriously what you hear in church as a child, and you understand that the burden of other people's souls is on your shoulder and that it is up to you to go out and find the words to go out and win those souls, then you're going to grow up, if you throw away the content, you still have that form if you are a serious child who embraced it. And so you may find secular ways to be an evangelist, but you internalize them.

FRADY:

But Clinton did not begin as a Southern Baptist. He lately came to that religiousness, didn't he, when he was teenager?

EMERSON:

No, he was always a Southern Baptist.

No what I was going to say is, if you are a good talker you listen to everybody's response to what you saying. It doesn't mean at all that you're phony. It's your art, it's your portrait, it's your music. It's an instant creation with the tools that you have available to you and if you can chat to people around you, and if you do believe in what you are saying in a metaphorical sense, at least.

POWELL:

Clinton's speech about Martin Luther King is the perfect Baptist sermon because it's about how do you get to the Promised Land. How do you get to heaven. And in the speech the Promised Land is not heaven after life, but it's the land of peace and justice here on earth that Martin Luther King dreamed of. But how do you get there? You don't get there by good works. You don't get there incrementally by accomplishments. You get there by a revolution of the spirit, a conversion of the heart. There are government can do, there are things you can do, but that's not going to save you. What's going to save you is looking within and making sure your spirit is right. That will save you. That will get you to the Promised Land. And the structure of the speech is just like a Baptist sermon. It starts with the good news, here's what you're doing well, you're sort of on the right track. But here's the bad news. The bad news is, at the heart of things is all wrong and unless that's made right and you can't get the Promised Land until you've had that revolution of spirit. There's this invitation at the end of the sermon to come forward, to have this invitation of spirit. And there's a lot of moves in that speech that are classic Baptist sermons.

FL:< The whole bell curve of the crescendo.

POWELL:

The pitch and then the quieting down so that you can coax the person to yield to it. But also there's the moment in the speech where he says, "What if Martin Luther King were here today? What if Martin Luther King could look around and see the terrible things the culture has come to, what we've done?" That's a real classic Baptist move. Usually, what if Jesus were here today? What if Jesus were walking beside you? How would he feel about what he saw?

FRADY:

But you know the difference though between the Southern Baptist or the Southern Protestant Calvinist sensibility, and Clinton's message and gospel is that Clinton does assume that deliverance, and regeneration, and redemption can come through government action and policy, and that the internal revolution or recreation of the heart, or recreation of one's very individual nature, which is profoundly, I think, in the Baptist religious ethic, is not enough. It also takes institutions and agencies to effect this regeneration.

MATHIS:

But that also comes from the dictate of Christian duty. That you have a charitable spirit, or a compassionate spirit and you go out and help and serve other people as well. It's not just an act to get you into heaven. It's something that you are required to do to prove your own Christianity. And if you are in government then you use whatever tools you have to enact that caring. If you're in government you use government to do it.

MARLETTE:

I think that the Baptist background prepared him for this age that we live in, the post-Christian age where the secular task he has before him.....We live in an age where people cannot feel. They have a hard time. The loud music is an attempt to feel something. People piercing their bodies, and pierce as an attempt to effect themselves, to feel something.

But I see that there is a basic difficulty that we have as we approach the 21st century in we are cut off from ourselves and cannot feel generally and Bob Dole's generation expresses that where that was a virtue, to be cut off. But I think the Clintons' generation, our generation, is even more, we are just more skillful at disguising it. And we are learning how to give an impression of a human being. No that is even more profoundly sinister and scary. How do you, let's do an impression. Now we are going to be sincere, now we are going to be emotional. And we are watching ourselves and monitoring ourselves and we have learned this from television and it's that essentially passive position. But it's something that our souls have been drained from us, and now this is something that I see in my generation and in Bill and Hillary Clinton.

FRADY:

And that reflects what's happening in the South?

MARLETTE:

Yeah. I do think it reflects what's happening in the South. As we are...

MATHIS:

The South is losing some of it's identity.

MARLETTE

The South is losing some of it's identity and the homogenization, the urbanization, all that.

But... I think there was an unawareness, basically, in Bob Dole's generation or that my father's generation --that there was a cut-offness of feeling, but that was seen as virtuous. And there was nothing wrong with that. What's interesting to me and scary about our generation is that we have gotten conscious that does something screwy. It makes a Richard Nixon. Being that cut-off from feeling. And yet, our response is to try and give an image of feeling, but with this kind of obsessive, narcissistic, self-absorption, navel-gazing, therapeutic America.

In my comic strip I have a character who is First Family Therapist. And is Secretary of Feelings. I think of that with the Clintons. It's not that there's true emotion, or feeling, or passion, but it is more sophisticated ways and means of keeping emotion at a distance and taming it, and controlling it. And it's really about control. But we are just much more sophisticated about it.

EMERSON:

When you see Clinton playing a saxophone and you see a person wrapped in a web of magic, it's very, very familiar. It's not just narcissistic. It's melodic and it connects you with the universe, you're communicating with the outside world. His musical interest and his musical talents are very appealing to me and do seem to be strikingly Southern to me too. But think of the self absorption you see in a saxophone player, particularly a saxophone player. And this is not a wicked or an unholy or a separating sort of thing. It's separate in that it's an artistic sort of creation. It's not separate in that it's bringing everybody else into the aura of this thing which has it's, there's a triparty thing working there.

MARLETTE:

There's a healthy narcissism, as well as a neurotic narcissism. And that's true of everything creative. You know the thing that strikes me about race, my memory of Clinton's acceptance of the nomination in Madison Square Garden. What I thought was so subtle and so indicative and expressive of his comfort with race is he didn't make a big deal of it. All he had to do was to mention Fanny Lou Hamer and it conveyed to people who were sophisticated about the struggle of race in America, they knew where he was coming from. He didn't have to kind of give an image, it is second nature. I think that's one of the advantages he has as a Southerner. Races do mix in the South, races interact. There is a comfort with it. It is not an abstraction.

And Bill Clinton is of, I think, the generation, the post civil rights, affirmative action generation where it is for him a natural thing that you don't have to kind of blast trumpets around it and announce it. It simply is. That's what struck me about his acceptance speech for the nomination. He signaled more in simply mentioning Fanny Lou Hamer about where he was coming from on race, and everyone knew. And every black person in the Garden understood the depth, simply by how he dealt with it.

EMERSON:

You know the black association that all of us have had is simply a back beat to everything that happens in our lives. This is a very profound thing and it could be an irritating thing. But this is a profound thing. Nobody's said what a debt of gratitude we should have...

MARLETTE:

The gratitude we should have for the fact that is has been played out, and the difference is played out on the surface visibly, and clearly, not buried.

FRADY:

But you know in many ways the white Southerner remains the creation of the black Southerner. That he hold in violence and abasement, and style for feeling. Over their relishments in life and over their long past, it's as if they were locked in a common experience together. That however much compounded of, sometimes of, violence and meanness, in the course of that experience they really became two halves of a single people.

And much more like each other than they tended to be like either whites or blacks in the rest of the country. They became a single people. It was to a degree an acknowledged sort of cultural common law marriage between whites and blacks in the South, but no less. Made up of savagery sometimes. A lot of times out of a discomfort on the part of whites, realizing this intimate kinship that they had with blacks. But as Johnny Ford, mayor of Tuskegee, black mayor of Tuskegee, Alabama, says, "Sure there was a lot of meanness. But at least it was personal."

EMERSON:

When you see a white person from the South meet a black person from the South in a cocktail party in New York City, there's an instant sympathy, an empathy and they look at everybody around, as dismayed and outraged and "Boy this is going to a [unintelligible], how bizarre." The truth of the manner is they have much more in common than they have with that bunch of Yankees surrounding them at that cocktail party.

MATHIS:

But let's also be very honest about this too. That once again the Southern courtesy, and Southern kindness', and Southern politeness is a cover for a lot of dirt that's going on underneath. Just like Southern religion. Churchgoing is a cover for all kinds of things that are going on back home that are certainly aren't very Christian. So is the whole race relationship. Yes, there's the old saying that in the South we don't care how close you live to us as long as you don't get too much power. In the North, we don't care how much power you have as long as you don't live too close to us. Well, I think that really in the South there is this neighborhood of black and white, no matter how we try to have the tracks and whatever. We're all living in the same place and we're all living pretty much the same way. And so we exaggerate whatever differences we can find to try and make that line as bold as possible. And therefore it becomes a very mean line sometimes.

Now, Bill Clinton grew up in Hope, Arkansas. Started early in Hope, Arkansas. He likes to talk about how his grandfather told him, "You know you don't treat black people badly. You don't treat them any differently." I think he's probably romanticized his grandfather. His grandfather was a creature of old South Arkansas, where the Klan had a foothold. He probably did not use the "N" word, he probably was not rude to people, but he probably did not embrace black people in the way we think about true integration nowadays. Bill Clinton had the sensuality to live life through his pores. He soaked it in. He believed what he saw with his own two eyes, what he heard with his own two ears, what he could feel with his own two hands, and being an intelligent man, made sense of some of those old things that they said about black people and saw, no, this is the way it really is. And because he's intelligent and modern and times were changing, is a disciple, the new world, that doesn't have these hang-ups about black people. His grandfather gave him a good start in a grandfather that didn't teach him to hate `em. But his grandfather did not teach him to love `em. I'm convinced of that.

FRADY:

There never would have been a Carter, much less a Clinton, if there hadn't been a Martin Luther King. And he transformed the South, redeemed the South so it became the sort of region out of which a national figure could assert itself. King made Clinton possible. Made Carter possible. Made Clinton possible.

MATHIS:

I'll say this. Bill Clinton is certainly comfortable in the company of we black people in a way that I think Jimmy Carter came near, but never nearly as close. Bill Clinton is like an honorary brother in a way. He's got some true soul about him. And furthermore he has also put his money, so to speak, where his mouth is. Early on his appointments of black people in positions of power that theretofore had been all white and many times all male, was astonishing at the level, it was past a token level. You knew that he had to be going after the quality of the person because the numbers were so great after a while. I think black people, especially black Southerners, have had to live, I was talking about eating hens feet, we've had to learn how to make food out of scraps, we've had to learn how to make clothing out of remnants, and housing out of mud and whatever like that, so there's not a lot of pretense here. The luxury of being pretentious is not ours, has not been ours historically. We're pretty earthy, down to earth, the way it really is, salt of the earth people. And Bill Clinton, who's natural tendency is to relax and to let go and to be himself, can't find anyplace that makes him feel more at home than among black people.

FRADY:

And you know if that bond is there between Clinton and black Americans, that's a circumstance of no slight importance in a country where the fundamental schism remains racial alienation, racial estrangement.

MATHIS:

What everybody's been able to ascertain is that Bill Clinton is honestly, earnestly, naturally, for real, comfortable among black people. And I thing that is because of, again, the Southern condition whereby so many of us live together and live alike, no matter how hard we try to pretend otherwise. And part of it is, there he was growing up in Hope, Arkansas. His grandfather, he likes to tell this story, taught him not to nurture any prejudices, not to use foul words against black people, not to mistreat black people. He likes to I think romanticize his grandfather as kind of the hero who brought him out of any inchoate racism he may have had. And that his own mother, by the way, admits to having some of. But I think that it was just, Bill Clinton grew up in a transitional time, the world was beginning to change, we were coming around, the civil rights movement. He was a young man. He got out there in it. He remembered what granddaddy told him about not to hate. But I don't believe granddaddy told him to love and embrace necessarily, I think he learned that from just seeing with his own eyes and hearing with his own ears what the real story was and coming to his logic about it. And now he's the kind of guy, I believe, who is again, largely because of his Southern roots, is inclined to let loose, and let down and drop the pretenses and black, the black world is home to that, is home to that. I mean we can be [unintelligible] black people with all kinds of degrees and jobs and whatever, but when we come back home, we've got to drop that stuff and be down because there's not going to be, it's not a doily society. It's, you know, go fix your own plate and come sit down at the table. And we sit and eat, elbows and all. It's just the niceties that have been there, the pleasantries are luxuries that you have.

Black people's history is the history of struggle and survival. And when you're trying to survive you don't say, "Oh my God, we don't have nice art to put on the walls." You worry about getting walls. I mean the niceties of art are the garnishment in life. It's the icing on the cake. You got to get the cake first. And so I think Bill Clinton feels real comfortable there because he doesn't have to put on any pretenses at this point. Now is that to say there are no uppity black people, no sophisticated white people? Not by any means. But our culture, our subculture has been one that says don't play games with me, don't bring that BS in here. I know who you are. And you can be who you are, and you better be who you are. And Bill Clinton knows that and he's at home. And it's also very forgiving because we also know about, we've had to come face up with our own sins and our own weaknesses and everything. So we're not surprised that some guy may have fooled around on his wife, and we're not surprised that maybe he drinks a little bit on the side and things like that. That doesn't surprise us so much. We know what real life and the real world is. We know what the ideal is, we know what we want to be. We know what the preacher tells us to be, and we know what we told everybody we are. But we also know what the real world is and how we really are. And when Bill Clinton turns out to be like that, why, he's one of us. And so he's accepted there, and he knows that and he feels it instinctively. He lets go and when he lets go, all the contrivances are gone. And his soul starts talking and it wins. He give a great speech. He does convert people. He could pass the collection plate around because his soul is talking. Not his head, not his handlers, not the polls, not a focus group, his soul's talking again. He's home.It took one more thing. College is enough. Competition in the modern world is enough. Let's take this big thing out of there. You don't know what that takes off of you. To not have to deal with that is amazing. The work you can do and the progress you can make when you're not trying to fight that crap is amazing.

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