The Civil War ended nearly a century and a half ago, but some people either don’t know or have forgotten that. At least that’s true with John Fleming and some of his followers in North Central Louisiana. Perhaps the surrender of the South didn’t get this far for some folks. That’s because John Fleming, newly elected Representative to the Congress from this area had many supporters who applauded his extreme right-wing views and his McCarthy-type attacks and booed anyone who disagreed with them.
Fleming delivered his message to 150 to 200 attendees in a standing-room-only crowd at the Natchitoches Arts Center on February 16, less than a month after Barack Obama was inaugurated as President of the United States. Fleming also agrees that states shouldn’t have to conform to the kind of laws they don’t agree with, should retain their money, and that the only reason that doesn’t happen is because of the socialist agenda and tight controls put forth by liberals.
Perhaps those in attendance at Fleming’s presentation neither read their history or who have a revisionist view. Those who can recall the salient facts, however, will recall that the chief resistance from the South came initially not over slavery but federal control over banking. The South maintained its rights to manage its own money. Later the region emphasized its inalienable right to own slaves, a policy that came to be rejected by those new states that entered the alliance that was to increase the territory and expansion of the United States.
The War was won by the Union, but much of the South retained its attitudes towards absolute local control and limited federal intervention. No where has that been more pronounced than Louisiana, the heart of the Deep South. Even public education had to be debated because of the wide sympathy for local control of education. So separation in cultural and political ways was set many decades ago, and those same notions of local rights that were part of the drums for war were heard at the Natchitoches Arts Center in Natchitoches, Louisiana in mid February 2009.
Representative John Fleming met with a cross section of his supporters and others to review his month-long experience in the Congress since being elected in November. Most people in attendance supported what he defined as “conservative” views.
In the primaries of 2008 Fleming took out a series of attack ads filled with stereotypes of Barack Obama, strong anti-Obama commercials, directed at the candidate for President as opposed to Fleming’s opponent. Fleming is a physician from Minden, Louisiana, an area known for its ultra right views and a territory that went solidly for John McCain for President. At the outset of his presentation Fleming reported proudly he has been married to the same woman for 30 years, has four children and a grandchild, and is a born again Christian. That put him solidly in the Bible belt bayous where literal translation of the good book and intelligent design and creationism are a part of science instruction.
The new Representative reviewed what he has done so far. He voted against the SCHIPP bill, he said, because it allowed children of parents making up to $90,000 to receive help, far more than he believed was necessary. He proudly reminded people that all the Republicans but three in the Congress had voted against the stimulus plan because it wouldn’t create jobs and wasn’t immediate. Fleming states that he supports cutting taxes for business as the mechanism for turning the economy around.
The health plan issues presently being presented by the Obama team Fleming described as “social engineering” and said that Obama’s changes are the first steps towards rationing and socialized medicine in a fashion that would remove choice for patients.
He’s against any gun control, stem cell research, or abortion for any reason. Nancy Pelosi, he declared is a liberal socialist and continued to refer to the Democrats as that.
According to Fleming, the Fairness Doctrine, aimed at giving equal time for both conservative and liberal views to be presented in the media, was a way to undercut the free speech of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.
Sylvia Morrow, Council Woman of Natchitoches, was the only person in the assemblage to counter Fleming. Others there either stayed silent or agreed with what he had to say. Morrow was booed loudly by many members of the audience when she asked about Fleming’s position in relationship to cooperating with Obama, whom she said was trying to reach out to Republicans. One person, observing her isolation and the anger directed towards Morrow for her simple questions about Fleming’s position, clapped loudly for her and was greeted with silent, angry stares and questions asking, “who is that” in hostile tones.
If Louisiana’s South wants to rise again, it was rising in Natchitoches, Louisian with bluster, anger and resentment, led by Fleming who could have been competent to commandeer vigilantes in another time and place. At one time his type of directives and opinions became foundation for war, something that apparently Fleming’s ancestors have maintained and that continue as a sentiment in this region. At least it was in the person of John Fleming and the responses of his supporters.