— Origin unknown"The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always — take any form — drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!"
— Emily Bronte, "Wuthering Heights"
Rick Bragg was talking about ghosts Thursday.
In his remarks to the crowd gathered for the Bailey Thomson Awards Luncheon in Huntsville, Calhoun County's very own discussed a pair of former occupants of his University of Alabama office at Reese Phifer Hall.
Bragg was talking about two giants who have since passed on — Clarence Cason, author of 90 Degrees in the Shade and a UA journalism professor who pressed for social progress in his native state, and Bailey Thomson, the journalist and professor who wrote with heartbreaking precision about the harm done to Alabamians by its state Constitution.
"They had their hearts right," Bragg said. "They looked after and cared for the people weaker than them."
Bragg wondered if Cason's and Thomson's spirit-like presence hovered over the office, pressing others to keep up the good fight.
It's an inspiration, yet it got me to thinking of something else. I was reminded of the words of another Calhoun Countian. Earlier this year, Jacksonville State professor and former U.S. congressman Glen Browder summed up the state of the state's constitutional reform movement in a column in The Star, "Turning reform on its head: A practical challenge for Alabama's constitutional reformers."
In it Browder wrote, "Frankly, I'm concerned that the reform mantra has gotten trite and tiresome."
Dr. Browder's prescription was less preaching and more electoral pressure. "I therefore propose that the constitutional reformers coordinate a disciplined alliance of progressive forces to directly impact the 2010 elections and to pursue a specific reform package during the following legislative session."
(For the full details of Browder's "CON-TRAC 2010" I'd suggest going back and reading the whole column.)
Haunt the halls of Goat Hill and candidates' campaign stops until lawmakers deliver a state Constitution that favors prosperity, fairness and local control. Ohhhhhh, kids, that's scary, as TV's Count Floyd might say.
What's proposed is not a Casper-like friendly vision, nor is it encouraging spirits like Cason and Thomson.
No, what comes to mind is a more menacing spectre, something to scare the hell out of Montgomery's power structure. Or at the least make Goat Hill's powerful wary of offending the ghosts.
Imagine a ghost-like vision of the millions of once and future Alabamians harmed by the 1901 Alabama Constitution. They would surround the state Capitol grounds, thickly bunched together until their numbers spill out across all of central Alabama. These men and women and boys and girls are the victims of a Constitution that favors the rich and powerful, and ensures that they remain rich and powerful at the expense of weaker brothers and sisters.
Waves of spirits of all races and colors pressed down and denied opportunities would wander about unmoved by assurances that someday, if the forces align just right, the state can do better. They would scoff at spook stories told by special interests that prefer centralized power in Montgomery, where a majority of do-nothings can be bought — or at least rented — for a reasonable price.
Would it be the dangerous fury of the ghosts in Tobe Hopper's Poltergeist? Would it be the quietly spooky "I see dead people" haunting of M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense?
Either way, it would put the state's lawmakers and governor on the straight and narrow, perhaps scare them into good behavior just as Scrooge was by Marley's ghost in A Christmas Carol.
Of course, that's a fantasy. A more practical (not to mention realistic) method would be to follow Browder's suggestions. He sees the living, flesh and blood voters all, systematically and with gentle pressure creating a voting bloc to bring reform to Alabama. That shouldn't be scary at all.