A battle cry from the 'Volunteer County'
Editor's note: Vox Americana: Sixth in a series on public attitudes about war.
(Page 2 of 2)
Now, the Parkers are bracing themselves for the worst-case scenario: a year or more. "I'm hoping it's less," he says.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Still, they both support an attack on Iraq. "I think we have just cause," says Scotty. "[Hussein]'s had 12 years to comply."
Melanie, who teaches at Ashland High, agrees, offering a typically pragmatic view: "We were dating during Desert Storm," she points out. "I don't want to go through this again 10, 12 years from now. I want things to be taken care of and done with, so he doesn't have to go back."
While she's not relishing the idea of being a single parent for a year, Melanie knows she'll have lots of help. Her mom already takes care of Brody while she's at school. And there are institu-tional supports, as well. The First Baptist Church has sent a prayer group door to door, visiting those families with loved ones who have been deployed. And the Clay County rescue squad plans to offer its services to anyone who needs a hand - whether it's fixing a stopped-up sink or making a quick trip to the grocery store.
Indeed, like many small Southern towns, Ashland and Lineville are already tightly knit. They're places where, if a neighbor spots a strange car parked on the side of the road, they'll go investigate, says Robbie Lett. Rural in feel, the towns are actually dominated by two industries: a Tyson chicken plant, and several cabinet factories.
But the area's been losing young people in recent years. Mr. Lett notes that among his high school graduating class of 53, only 10 still live here - though most who stayed have done well: "One's a plant manager, and one's a police chief."
For the past two years, he's been running his own printing business in Ashland - making everything from signs to T-shirts. And while he's managed to stay afloat, he admits that his experience may be unusual. For the most part, he says, "if you don't know cabinets, or you don't know chicken, you're out of luck."
Wages are relatively low here, too, which is one reason so many families join the reserves. "It's a boost to their income," explains Anita Cotney, who's lunching with her daughter at Anita's Café (no relation) in Lineville, where the menu reads, simply: Meat. Vegetables. Bread. Dessert. $5.
Ashland's latest claim to fame is that it's the hometown of Alabama's new Republican governor, Bob Riley. Although he was elected nearly four months ago, Riley campaign signs still decorate the town square, a lingering tribute to Ashland's favorite son, who many delightedly call "Bob."
Heavily Democratic for decades, the region has been trending Republican in recent years, and the rise of Governor Riley seems likely to hasten that change. But it's possible to get a good political debate going - and not everyone is a wholehearted fan of President Bush and his handling of the Iraq conflict.
"He's too aggressive," says Ruth Carmichael, a retired teacher eating lunch at Anita's. She believes Mr. Bush has been overly bent on war, signaling that he'll go with or without allies, and failing to give other countries reason to support the US. "I don't think that's too smart."
Others say Bush hasn't been aggressive enough. "We shouldn't even stop [with Iraq]" says Phil Cornelison, a World War II veteran. "We should send [troops] right to the Pacific and take North Korea out."
Still, the prevailing mood here is one of plain acceptance. Most people here are too focused on the logistics of war - getting wills in order, adjusting to new routines - to spend much time questioning the mission itself.
"None of us wants to go to war. But it's a duty to protect our country, it's a duty to protect our community," says Ashland Mayor Norman McNatt, a major in the National Guard. Folks here know they have a job to do, "and they're ready to go today," he says. "They don't like to sit and wait."