Buzzkill: haters’ ball

Rob Wilber

 Toward the end of a little ditty called “Jack and Diane,” John Cougar Mellencamp tells the listener he strives to “Let the Bible Belt come and save his soul.” For many years, this southern region has fancied itself as America’s conscience in a manner similar to Mellencamp’s image. The Bible Belt is considered by many as a good example of the type of moral foundation which can “save” our country from the numerous hedonistic and Jezebelian threats that have leaked their way into society. One of the influential voices within this subset of America is Pat Robertson, a man who said the earthquake in Haiti earlier this year was the deserved result of a pact the country made with the devil. With levelheaded, progressive social leaders such as Robertson, it’s hard to imagine where people can get led astray. In the last few weeks, two Southern high school proms have provided an interesting microcosm of the area’s mindset.

Reading this story in 1960, or even 1980, I would not have been terribly shocked at the decision. However, the fact that there are still places in our country, in 2010, that make these types of rulings is something that we should all be embarrassed by. If this girl planned on doing something as “lesbionic” as recreating the prison scene from Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” music video in the middle of the dance floor, I’d understand the outrage and controversy, but to cancel the entire event due to one person’s sexual orientation and choice of date is absurd.

Not to be outdone, this past week, Oxford High School in Alabama suspended a student for three days due to a violation of the school’s prom dress code. This was somewhat ridiculous in itself, but to top it off, the alternative punishment was to be paddled — an option which 17 other style-offenders opted for. Once again, we are in 2010. Did the school administration really find paddling to be the best option for dealing with these students? If they paddle kids for these sorts of offenses, I can only imagine the punishments for more serious transgressions. Proportionally, I would estimate cheating on a test results in the student receiving a Stone Cold Stunner, while parking in the wrong lot at school would lead to bamboo shoots underneath the offender’s fingernails. It’s pretty impressive that the South has been able to maintain this sort of disciplinary system in spite of every other part of America being able to find more reasonable ways to keep their students in line.

It is not a coincidence that Larry the Cable Guy and Bill O’Reilly are revered in the same locations where these ridiculous prom situations occurred. If people in this region continue to indoctrinate their values unto the youth via Christian fundamentalist fear-mongering, intolerance and violence, we are going to continue to have unnecessary social debates consuming our attention, while ignoring legitimate issues we have to face. One line after wishing for the Bible Belt to save him, Mellencamp adds: “Changes come along real soon…make us women and men.” Ironically, rather than change, it seems the region prefers that adulthood is achieved through narrow-mindedness and ignorance.