Worse than the Battle of Selma?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 7, 2006

To the Editor:

The attacks on Mayor Perkins and various members of the Selma City Council over the past couple of weeks have become increasingly shrill.

I was struck by the letter from John W. Green accusing the mayor of not being Martin Luther King. This is true enough, but then our previous mayor wasn’t Mother Teresa of Calcutta either, or even Billy Graham. There is only so much that we can ask of our political leaders.

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But the letter from Rev. Cecil Williamson on March 3 tops them all. “If the city of Selma should last a thousand years,” Rev. Cecil thunders, “men shall yet say that this (Monday night’s council meeting) was her darkest hour.”

After railing against “tyranny,” he calls on West Selma to secede from the Union – oops, from the City of Selma.

When you think of all the natural disasters Selma has suffered through the years – the yellow fever epidemics, the floods, the coming of the boll weevil – it is hard to picture a city council meeting as the worst thing we have ever suffered. For that matter, it’s startling that anybody would rank the meeting on February 27, however unpleasant, ahead of the hour on March 7, 1965, when “Bloody Sunday” gave Selma a black eye from which our town is yet to recover.

But what absolutely astonishes me is that anyone as devoted to Selma’s Confederate heritage as Cecil Williamson would pass over April 2, 1865, when he’s talking about “darkest hours.”

Take a minute to think about the hours after Wilson’s Raiders broke through our city’s barricades and began sacking the City of Selma.

Can you imagine anyone being able to persuade the Selmians who lived through that nightmare that a city council meeting could be worse?

Now, I can imagine Cecil making a valiant effort.

“Don’t you cry, Miss Elodie!” he would say.

“It’s true that your home has been looted, your minister has been shot, your soldier son is a prisoner of war and half the town is in flames. And it’s true that our beloved Southland has lost its bid for independence. But things could be worse – we could be watching people tell lies at a city council meeting!”

But I can’t really imagine his succeeding.

Calm down, Cecil. Secession didn’t work so well the last time we tried it.

And the actions of an elected mayor and elected city council, however misguided they might be, hardly qualify as “tyranny.”

Maybe if both sides dropped their harsh rhetoric and stated their positions as calmly as possible, we could sort out our genuine differences and start making some progress toward solving our city’s problems.

Alston Fitts III