Chronicles has a leisurely—almost Southern—production schedule, which means that you should be reading this just about the time the dogwoods blossom. I’m writing it, though, as 1989 draws to a close, ending a decade that, all things considered, could have been worse. But lest we wax too smug about the success of voodoo economics and Star Wars diplomacy, let’s consider some recent, revolting developments on the cultural front.

The big news in the art world last year was the attempt by my state’s senior senator to impose fascistic thought control. This was the sort of language generally used to describe Senator Helms’s proposal, inspired by a couple of particularly raunchy examples, that taxpayers’ money not be used to support obscene art. As it happens, when I was in DC last August, I snuck off (in the interests of science) to see Mr. Mapplethorpe’s notorious photographs—and I wish I hadn’t. When Jimmy Walker said that no girl was ever ruined by a book he revealed his contempt for books, if not for girls. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, these photographs add up to a book that could sure bend an impressionable young mind out of shape. Even I picked up a few images that will be with me for a while.

In fact, I think Jesse wimped out on this one. He just wanted to deny funds to this exhibit; me, I’d shut it down and put an armed guard on the door. Thirty years ago these photographs could not have been publicly displayed in any American community, and I don’t think our country’s a better place now because they can be.

When it comes to state support for sadomasochistic homosexual art, give me Georgia State Representative Billy Randall’s bill to make Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” the official rock and roll song of Georgia. (One clause of the bill reads: “WHEREAS, a wop bop a loo bop ba lop bam boom.” Representative Randall is 45, a dangerous age.) Last I heard the bill had stalled, which is a shame: Georgia ought somehow to honor the best-known poet from Macon since Sidney Lanier.

The other big First Amendment news last year, of course, was the decision by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals that pre-game prayers at Douglas County (Georgia) High School football games violated the separation of church and state. Time reported that fans in Sylacauga, Alabama, responded with mass chanting of the Lord’s Prayer at the start of their team’s first three games (which the team won). In Escambia County, Florida, preachers with bullhorns led the crowd in prayer. And in Chatsworth, Georgia, fans turned their radios to full volume as the local station broadcast a prayer. “There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” the station manager told Time.

In Montgomery, pre-game prayers at the municipal stadium were led by the Honorable Emory Folmar himself. Mr. Folmar, mayor of Montgomery, is a colorful character known to many of his subjects as “the Mayortollah.” About his habit of traveling armed, I once heard this joke:

Q: Why does Emory carry a nickle-plated revolver?

A: So it won’t rust in the shower.

Down the road at Tuscaloosa, campus police at ‘Bama are also ready for whatever comes along—for now. A study commission has concluded, however, that their purchase of automatic shotguns and semiautomatic pistols was “unnecessary and unwarranted.” According to the student newspaper, The Crimson White, the report also criticized the campus police for setting up a SWAT unit. This kind of negativity would never have been tolerated when the Bear was running things.

But that’s the Second Amendment. Getting back to the First, maybe we can forgive the ACLU a few excesses for its defense of the right of junior high students in Durham, North Carolina, to wear rebel flag patches on their jackets. Such patches were banned by administrative edict, you may recall, as “likely to cause trouble.” Last fall, after a successful suit in district court, the flags were readmitted to the classroom. So far they’ve caused no trouble.

That can’t be said for what Bridget Fonda did with the same flag in Shag or for the flag bikini worn by another character in that movie, which desecration elicited spirited protest from at least one member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Personally, I thought the bikini was rather fetching, but if we have to do something about it, I have an idea. I read that a Tennessee legislator has introduced a bill that would levy a fine of $ 1.00 on anyone convicted of assaulting someone who is burning an American flag. Well, let’s punish ripping off a Confederate flag bikini with about the same severity. (Incidentally, these Tennesseans take the flag-burning threat seriously. Servpro Industries, of Gallatin, offers to fireproof your flag to three thousand degrees.)

Of course the young Miss Fonda’s indiscretion is nothing compared to her aunt’s. Some folks down here are still not ready to forgive old Jane her trip to Hanoi. The catalog of D&G, a Columbus, Georgia, dealer in “militaria,” offers bumper stickers that read “Boycott Jane Fonda, American Traitor Bitch” and—I’m sorry, folks, but this was America in 1989—something called “Hanoi Jane urinal targets.” Reminds me of the Mapplethorpe exhibit.

Here in Chapel Hill, home of vasectomized beavers, another blow was struck against speciesism late last year when buffalo-rights advocates, calling Buffalo Bill a “butcher,” got a sculpture of his head and those of three buffalo removed from the lobby of the post office. The work had been lent by a local sculptor in connection with the issue of a new 15-cent buffalo stamp. Had the artist been receiving federal funds, perhaps someone would have spoken out for her First Amendment rights.

I hope you don’t get the impression, incidentally, that Chapel Hill trendinistas are the only Southerners who care about animal rights. I mean, you can’t top the undated clipping from the Jackson Clarion-Ledger that recently trickled in, headlined “Insult to Dog Linked to Slaying.” That’s concern. It seems that Mr. Jerry Wade, 28, of Calhoun City, Mississippi, made rude remarks about a dog belonging to Mr. David Powell of Derma—specifically. Wade said he “could get a [expletive deleted] off the street to whup [Powell’s] dog”—whereupon Mr. Powell shot Mr. Wade once (but that was enough) with a .38 he happened to be carrying.

And lower down the evolutionary scale, in Matthews, North Carolina—no, let me start that over. In Matthews, North Carolina, crustacean rights were vindicated when a man who had paid $270 for a 21.4-pound Maine lobster, estimated to be 147 years old, freed the critter. When television coverage evoked a flood of phone calls asking for clemency, the buyer (according to the AP) reportedly said “Oh, to heck with it.” “Lobzilla,” as the Large One had come to be called, was shipped back to Maine at the expense of a Washington-based animal-rights group, there to enjoy his old age back in the deep.

Returning to the civil liberties of putatively human beings, the Invisible Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan may be taking the North Carolina Department of Transportation to court. North Carolina has what is called the Adopt-a-Highway program: if your club or company agrees to clean up litter from a stretch of roadside, a sign goes up attesting to your public spirit. More than 4,500 groups now clean up about 10,000 miles of road, but the Department of Transportation drew the line when the KKK applied. One reason the Knights were not allowed to be points of light, it was said, was that people would deliberately throw trash on the highway to make work for them. (As far as I know, no one suggested that the Invisible Empire could have an invisible sign.) To show the kluxers that there was nothing personal about its decision, the transportation department also turned down applications from a Chapel Hill rock band called the Sex Police and a Raleigh lingerie shop called the Bra Patch. (Maybe the pun only works if you have a Southern accent.) Anyway, stay tuned. As I said, this one’s probably headed for the courts.

Speaking of things that shouldn’t burden our legal system, an associate professor of education at the university where I teach surveyed female graduate students on their experience with “sexual harassment” and found what she interpreted as appalling levels of ignorance. According to the newspaper account of her findings, fewer than 3 percent of these women thought they had been sexually harassed, even though 30 percent had been “subjected to suggestive stories told in their presence” and 26 percent had heard “sexist remarks regarding either their behavior or their career options.” Apparently these women simply didn’t realize that this stuff is sexual harassment, not just boorish, ill-bred behavior. For that matter, neither did I.

Nor did residents of a women’s dormitory at Western Kentucky University, it seems. Male students offered them a “tuck-in” service that included milk and cookies and a bedtime story—in fact, a choice of stories, traditional or “hot” (clipped from Penthouse Forum)—and what do you think they chose? Yep, every single one.

Meanwhile, back in Chapel Hill, the “Lewis Streak,” in which young men from Lewis dormitory once a year strut their stuff for the residents of several nearby women’s dorms, came under fire. According to the Daily Tar Heel, “University officials fear it undermines efforts to stop date rape and sexual harassment on campus.” The dean of students was quoted as saying this particular act of self-expression “is no longer acceptable in this campus community,” and that it presents “much potential for personal injury as well as for the infliction of emotional distress.”

OK, guys; here’s my plan. You take photographs, see, and blow them up to life size. Then you, like, carry them past the dorms, and if anybody objects, it’s art.

By the way, I apologize for calling the staff of Southern Exposure “a somber band of aging New Leftists.” I am reliably informed that the magazine is now staffed by a somber band of juvenile New Leftists.