The Southerner Journal

Defenders of Honor Stand Guard for Fallen Pine Bluff Soldier

Photos courtesy of Aaron Etue
Flip Out Photography, (870) 370-0826

MONTICELLO, Ark. — As promised, a flashback to last weekend when a group of Arkansans mobilized in Pine Bluff, Ark.,  to defend the honor of a U.S. soldier whose funeral was targeted by the Westboro Baptist Church. Thanks to Aaron Etue of Flip Out Photography, we can show you the scene.

First a little background in case you didn’t read the first post. Vilonia High School math teacher John Allison, a former Marine and friend, organized folks through a facebook public event to fight the hate of WBC with love toward the family.

Within 36 hours, 126 people pledged to attend and stand up for the honor of fallen Arkansas soldier, Army Sgt. Michael J. Strachota. Allison estimated more than 200 people (including the Patriot Guard riders) showed in support of Sgt. Strachota and his family.

“It was an awesome sight,” Allison said in a facebook email exchange. “That many people, most of whom didn’t know the Strachotas at all, standing in the hot sun to honor him and his family. Several elderly people stood on the flag line until they almost collapsed, but each time another person quickly came to their aid and another took their place in line.”

Rumors placed WBC protestors at the White Hall Huddle House — a call to boycott the business received lukewarm response on the facebook page — but Allison only knew of three who protested at 6th and Main, down the street from the memorial service. The heat also forced some people to stay home though they’d pledged to come. Allison said the crowd thinned once the mass began.

Etue shot these photographs for posterity, but luckily he is willing to share here. Click on the photo to see the full-sized image.

Moving Down the Road, Acknowledging Debts

SOMEWHERE ON I-81, Va. — Tell your mama, tell your paw … We’re heading back to Arkansas.

Due to transporting three dogs and two humans and the problems finding accommodations with Wifi along the way, the news links may or may not be posted tomorrow. If not, visit our sister site, The Locust Fork News-Journal. But look for us to return as soon as technology provides.

You may have noticed the photos of people reading with the news links. This idea came from reading Mr. SEC, the definitive site to read everything you wanted to know about Southeast Conference football and basketball. You may occasionally find sports-related material here, but we plan to concentrate on bringing you other aspects of the South.

As a tease of sorts, I expect to receive photos of the group who stood for the Pine Bluff soldier once I get home. If that comes through, expect to see them as soon as I can post them.


How Much Heat Can We Take Before We Attack Global Warming?

How to Save the Planet and Fix the Economy Too

The Big Picture

Just how hot does it have to get before the people of the United States finally acknowledge that global warming is happening? When are we going to stop arguing about it and start doing something to at least slow it down from getting even hotter?

We have known about this for at least a couple of decades. The science was settled on this back in the 1990s when I wrote a doctoral dissertation about media coverage of global warming.

There is no doubt that humans are causing the warming of the planet with our insatiable demand for electric power from the burning of fossil fuels, which causes greenhouse gases to build up in the atmosphere and trap heat around the planet.

What will it take to convince the corporations that profit from electric power generated by the burning of coal, natural gas and oil? What will it take to convince the Republicans? What will it take to convince the Christians?

Once again this summer, temperatures have soared over the 100 mark in the United States and around the globe, setting more records, just as we have seen over the past 20 years. From Philadelphia and New York, to Louisville, Kentucky and Birmingham, Alabama and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the heat baked the landscape like a plague.

At least 30 deaths were blamed on the heat, including nine in Maryland and 10 in Chicago, while officials said the heat caused highways to buckle in Illinois and Wisconsin. Thousands of mid-Atlantic residents remained without power for more than a week from deadly summer storms and extreme heat, including 120,000 in West Virginia and some 8,000 in the suburbs around Baltimore and Washington, D.C. In the Washington area, Pepco asked customers to conserve power, saying the heat was stressing the system.

This heat wave and an accompanying drought — and freak storms and massive power outages — will continue to spread over the next couple of months. But the Republicans in Congress and the states would rather try to defeat President Obama at the polls by lying to and exploiting their conservative constituencies than to tell people the truth.

Corporations like Southern Company, which controls Alabama Power and Georgia Power, would rather spend their money on campaign contributions to Republicans who oppose doing anything about global warming — or air pollution and water pollution for that matter — than to get onboard and try to help reverse the warming of the planet and the inevitable changes in climate.

As for the Christians, who tend to vote Republican, they just seem to figure that when the entire planet catches on fire, some god will snatch them out of the flames and save them and take them to another planet in the universe where they can live in what they call “heaven,” while the rest of us burn.

I’ve often wondered if these Christians, like our not so esteemed governor of Alabama Robert Bentley, really believe there are separate planets in the universe reserved for the white Christians and the black Christians? Is there another planet set aside for the brown Christians and the yellow Christians?

Since scientists have not found a suitable new planet to house any of us yet — or a way to travel there — would it not behoove us to try to slow down the warming of the planet, the melting of solar ice caps and the rising seas until we might find such a place?

Or is god a space alien like the Mormons believe? Yeah, that’s the ticket. Let’s elect a Mormon for president and put off doing anything about global warming for another eight years and see what happens. Morons.

If the U.S. Supreme Court had not handed George W. Bush the presidency in the year 2000, we could be a long way down the road of doing something about this by now. But no, we just have to keep on having a silly argument that drags on for years and serves no purpose except to make a few people richer, while the rest of our lives just continue to get worse.

Now I know a lot of people on the left, including a lot of environmentalists, are no fans of President Obama. But if everybody does not get onboard and prevent the election of the Massachusetts Mormon Mitt Romney to the White House in November, we may see the world end as we know it in our lifetimes.

At least science and merit are back to some extent in the federal government, although we’ve got a long way to go to get rid of all the bureaucrats Dick Cheney hired. Maybe we can do that in a second Obama term.

Otherwise, we might as well fool ourselves like the Maya did by committing human sacrifices and polluting their own water supply. Oh, but we learned this week that the Maya calendar doesn’t end on Dec. 21, 2012. Maybe it ends by the end of Romney’s second term? Let’s ask Nostradamus why don’t we?

Or, perhaps it’s time to stop fouling our own nest and to take responsibility for conserving this planet so there can be future generations.

If we would make up our minds to get on with a program to change this warming trend, it would not cost us jobs or hurt the economy. In fact, fixing the power plants we have and building new, cleaner ones would create millions of new high paying union jobs and save the economy.

And while we’re are it, if we really wanted to fix the economy, there are two other things we could do right away — if we could find the political will. Get rid of the ridiculous Cold War trade restrictions on Cuba, and legalize marijuana. Trade with Cuba could save the Southern states from economic ruin, and the taxes we could collect on pot would immediately save us a billion dollars on law enforcement and eliminate the budget deficit overnight.

I’ve got it. Why don’t we end the war on drugs and start a war on global warming? Would that help people understand?

We can do these things. But not if we cower to the corporations, listen to the Christians — or elect Republicans. We must first face reality in our politics.

Group Plans to Shield Soldier’s Service


An Arkansas high school teacher’s facebook page to “Preserve the Honor of Fallen Pine Bluff Soldier” plans to buffer funeral participants from a Westboro Baptist Church protest Saturday afternoon at Pine Bluff’s St. Joseph Catholic Church.

John Allison, a 44-year-old former Marine who teaches math at Vilonia High School, started the page Friday afternoon; by midnight, 62 of the more than 1,800 invitees confirmed they would attend with an additional 31 maybes. (UPDATE: Those attending topped 100 by 10:30 CST this morning.)

The stated goal of attendees is to keep the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., from disrupting the memorial service for fallen Arkansas soldier, Sgt. Michael J. Strachota of the U.S. Army. Strachota died June 24 in Afghanistan, a week and a half prior to a scheduled home leave on July 5.

“Please join us to peaceably make certain these disrespectful hatemongers are far enough removed they cannot disrupt the service or upset the family and friends,” Allison writes. “Help us prevent this so-called church from dishonoring this man’s honorable service and sacrifice.”

A press release indicates WBC will preach “in respectful, lawful proximity” that God kills American soldiers as punishment for sin. The flier uses incendiary language about military personnel, including the phrase, “Thank God for IEDs.”

In stark contrast, Allison provided five ground rules for those providing a “shield”:

“1. This will be a peaceful undertaking. We are certainly not here to cause a scene that will cause more of a disturbance than WBC. Our goal is not to shout, scream, or strike those gathered with WBC.
“2. Do not bring weapons of any kind: no guns, knives, mace, pepper spray, or anything else you might be tempted to use as a weapon.
“3. Our goal is to get enough people together to shield those attending the memorial service from the WBC protesters.
“4. Flags, crosses, crucifixes, other symbols of patriotism and religion are welcome. If you wish to make signs, they should have only positive messages honoring the courage and sacrifice, nothing derogatory or demeaning toward any person or group. Remember, we are there to help honor Sgt. Strachota, not to protest or make a political statement.
“5. We have now learned the Patriot Guard will be at the service also. They do this all the time at military funerals across the country so we will fall in with them and follow their lead.”

According to the Patriot Guard Riders’ website, the motorcycle enthusiasts “standing for those who stood for us” will also be in attendance. The group warns participants to hydrate; the Weather Channel predicts it will be 95-96 degrees by the 1 p.m. start, though the 46 percent humidity will make it feel like 104.

(EDITOR’s NOTE: Allison and the reporter attended Northeast High School in the late ’80s.)

TV Land Honors Griffith This Weekend


Regional Differences Drive Church v. Beer Tweets

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

OLNEY, Md. — Not to be missed during this time of our national heat stroke, provides a regional breakdown of differences indicated by tweets concerning “church” or “beer.”

Betcha couldn’t guess which terms pops up more often in the South, could ya? Should we be surprised that it so closely corresponds to those areas where alcohol is still BANNED although Prohibition was repealed in 1933?

courtesy of

Will the South come into the 21st century in my lifetime? Doubtful.

Happy Birthday, America!

But PLEASE be careful in the dry areas, i.e. we’d like to wake to green instead of black come Thursday.

Save the BEER!

Truly a disaster waiting to happen …

Racing Against the Thermometer

‘Opie’ Remembers ‘Ang’

Editor’s Note: See also:

Ron Howard: What I Learned from Andy Griffith in the Los Angeles Times

Ron Howard says co-star Andy Griffith was a leader, a mentor and coach in the New York Daily News

The South Mourns 20th Century Icon

OLNEY, Md. – The South — and the world — mourns today following news of Andy Griffith’s demise.

The 86-year-old came into our homes more than half a century on this newfangled contraption called TV. He made us laugh, a LOT, and brought the down-home goodness of Mayberry into the American conscious.

Sure, Andy Griffith played roles other than Andy Taylor, but no other role suited him so.


I started watching “The Andy Griffith Show” when my mom married my dad, Leroy Sitton, in 1977. Dad worked for the Arkansas State Police. I’m – still – a redhead. And Ronny Howard actually knew to spell his name with a “y.” It all rolled from there. In hindsight, I’m only surprised that it took until the 8th grade for Patrick Grogan to nickname me “Opie.”

Although I didn’t live in Mayberry, I learned a lot from watching Sheriff Taylor and the gang.

Watching Aunt Bee arrive to help with Opie in “The New Housekeeper” showed me acceptance may be hard, but love can overcome anything.

Watching the citizens of Mayberry’s hostility to a fella who knew everything about them in “Stranger in Town” showed me folks have NO IDEA about the long reach of media, which is particularly relevant in these days of facebook and twitter.

Watching Barney Fife take over as sheriff in “Andy Saves Barney’s Morale” showed me absolute power can corrupt absolutely.

I could go on, but I’m sure you have your favorite episodes.

Surprisingly, television allowed Griffith to portray a single dad in an era where single parents were frowned upon. By the time I came around, single dad-hood wasn’t a big deal as we received daily doses of “Family Affair.”


Otis puts himself back into his kennel.
The show made such an impact on me, we named our dog Otis after Mayberry’s town drunk. At first glance, this might seem to be a slight. But what else could we name the dog after he continually put himself in his kennel whenever he messed up?


Sunday would have been dad’s 74th birthday. In a way, I find it fitting that Andy Griffith died the week that marks dad’s birthday, my folk’s anniversary and the nation’s Independence Day.

The only way it would be more fitting would have been for “Ang” to pass on July 4th. But then again, he never was one to hog the spotlight.

We’ll miss you, sir.


Editor’s Note: A previous version left out the word “on” when discussing the reader’s favorite episodes and also contained an AP style error. All apologies.