There’s an interesting piece here on the Syrian Druze ( still Assad-leaning, out of fear of something worse) which reminded me of an AJ Liebling essay on the politics of Louisiana, circa 1959. Extract:
Louisiana politics is of an intensity and complexity that are matched, in my experience, only by those in the Republic of Lebanon. The balance between the Catholics in southern Louisiana and the Protestants in Northern Louisiana is as delicate as that between the Moslems and the Christians in Lebanon and is respected by the same convention of balanced tickets. In Louisiana there is a substantial Negro vote of 150,000 that no candidate can afford either to discourage privately or solicit publicly. In the sister Arab republic, Moslem and Christian candidates alike need the Druze vote, although whoever gets it is suspected of revolutionary designs.
Apparently, the Shia weren’t a factor at the time when he was in Lebanon. This is from an essay length extract in the compilation Just Enough Liebling, which in turn is taken from his last book Earl of Louisiana, itself concerning the kingdom of Earl Long, brother and successor of the more famous Huey.
It deals with one of the less well recorded incidents in the history of the civil rights movement in the USA, namely the time when Earl got up on the floor of the Louisiana legislature and delivered a blistering anti-segregationist tirade. He was responding to an attempt by the local racist caucus to tighten up the appliance of the Jim Crow electoral laws in order to remove the local Druze as a factor in politics. The speech wasn’t exactly delivered with the anthologies in mind – ‘you got to recognize that niggers is human beings’ – but the response of the local Democratic establishment, led by Earl’s wife Blanche, was nonetheless revealing: they had him put in an asylum and drugged him silly.
What they forgot to do was have him declared non-compos mentis. Soon, a posse of loyal henchmen sniffed out Earl’s location and guarded him until he sobered up. Then he blasted his way out of the bughouse through the splendid tactic of sacking anyone who came near him with medical intent.
It was his last exploit. Earl died in 1960, shortly after his term as Governor expired. And shortly before that, he had Liebling over for dinner with some cronies.
“Fellas like Faubus and Reinach and Leander Perez and the rest of the rest of the White Citizens and Southern Gentlemen in this state want to go back behind Lincoln” he said. “And between us, gentlemen, as we sit here among ourselves” he said, arresting a chunk of fried steak in midair and leaning forward to give his statement more impetus “we got to admit that Lincoln was a fine man and that he was right”.
Then, as he turned back to the steak, skewering it against a piece of ham before swallowing both, he caught my look of astonishment and cried, too late, “but don’t quote me on that!”
Here’s a brief clip of Earl’s last stand. And if you haven’t come across any Liebling yet, put him on your list.