Have you ever encountered a Southern man who knew how to apologize?
This isn’t entirely a rhetorical question. I find these men are few and far between, especially in the abundant arrogance of politics and government. What happens when Southern women don’t play the damsel in distress role? Looks like we’re about to learn. Now, we find ourselves in Georgia being held hostage by a bunch of men whose mammas probably tried as hard they might, yet they never quite fully absorbed the lesson of apology and alternatively, we have at least one woman who shall be rubbing their noses in it. What future that holds for our state remains to be seen, yet I know for one, the tension is escalating quickly.
The Georgia GOP had ample opportunity prior to the passage of SB 202 to draft succinct and convincing talking points before its passage. You see, that’s the benefit of being the majority party- you hold all the cards and play them at your own will. And the Majority Leader’s office (I worked for a previous Senate Majority Leader) drafts a version of these talking points that’s then literally copied, pasted, and emailed out to all the constituents on each legislator’s email newsletter list. It is fast, consistent, and when executed well, serves to maintain control of the message.
And what does one do when one has a negative message to share in politics?
Get in front of it.
Fortune favors the bold, friends, and if you’re hemming and hawing, you will need to get out of the proverbial way.
State Representative Park Cannon is a woman who is both pretty fearless and far more bold than many of the aging frat boys at the Capitol. She also seems to have a better understanding of optics and reading the room than anyone I’ve met on the GOP side. My bet is, as a queer, petite, Black woman, she’s had to navigate situations of power and conflict ar more in her life than those in her opposition. You get really good at reading rooms of power when you’re the smallest and youngest in them, because you have to- it’s your only means of success. For reference, I’m 5’3 (without heels) and 150ish lbs. Rep. Cannon is both thinner and more petite than myself. While I do not know her well, I will never forget encountering her on a walk in Freedom Park, as she was sign waving to a crowd. My now husband and I assumed she was campaign staff. Nope. There she was, waving her sign, talking to folks, gaining her eventual victory the old retail politics/ hard way of meeting voters where they were.
But that’s just theatrics you say! She is just using political theater to achieve her message. Yes! And she has done it very well, in a very short amount of time, I’d say. Earned media is pretty difficult to attain, and baby, she’s got it!
By the way- I know there are female state Troopers at the Capitol. Were none of them available when she knocked? Maybe there might be an opportunity to consider for hiring purposes in the future, yes? Maybe those in the Capitol might need to rethink the decor that adorns the walls as well? Perhaps? Bueller? Bueller…?
There is a level of self awareness here that Cannon is demonstrating that the majority is not only not, but (I’d argue) never even aware of with which to begin. I know some of the signers in the picture personally, and while every person presents their own unique bundle of praiseworthy and challenging attributes, I would generally say the two I know probably were genuinely unaware of the implications of the picture in their now infamous background.
Does this make it ok? No. But when we know better, it is our responsibility to do better.
And yet, here we are with the Governor and Speaker doubling down in the same Trumpian toxic masculinity vein blasting the MLB’s decision and refusing to admit they were caught with their proverbial pants down. My Facebook newsfeed is FILLED with surrogates encouraging folks to “read the bill” (without ever providing the link, btw), and glossing over some of the facts through a feeble attempt of wordsmithing any idiot could see through. It would be more sad than irritating if it wasn’t putting my rights on the line.
Their ridiculous hard line stance has created this brilliant gap for Stacey Abrams to fill with her requests of the Democractic base to avoid boycotts. Her requests paint her in the moderate light that is the very counter of all the Republican rants in the last gubernatorial race regarding her “extremism”. It’s incredibly brilliant, and illustrates that one need not have a title nor elected office to have actual power in our state. The reality is, Abrams has always been pragmatic and strategic. “Extreme” was the GOP theatrics that tapped into the latent racism that is sadly so prevalent in our state.
So where do we go from here?
I learned a long time ago that while Southern men don’t often verbalize apologies, they may try to make amends in other means. I have a friend whose boyfriend never apologized for an argument they had, yet brought her a bundle of perfectly dressed birds he’d killed on her doorstep. Flowers are nice; fully dressed prey is a time-intensive expression of true love and heart-felt humility.
I hope my state leaders find a way to metaphorically dress some birds in this situation. They need to take the time to do some soul searching that leads to bringing their A game forward. Their hard line stance is effectively creating a pathway for Abrams’ level-headed leadership that they so abhorrently say they despise. It will take bold leadership though, and to be honest, I’m not sure if any of the male leaders in Georgia have the stones to do it. Here’s to hoping the ladies do.