Steve A. Stone
An early Mardi Gras in Mobile?
By Steve A. Stone
January 9, 2024

Dear Friends and Patriots,

Happy New Year! Or, words to that effect.

2024. Gee, if I’d known I was going to live this long I’d have taken better care of myself. Not really, but I definitely would have concentrated on having more fun than I did. I spent the best years of my younger days underwater. When I look back on that I have to wonder … WHY? But, enough of that.

My personal life is not even a smidgeon of what I want to discuss today. Instead, I want to talk about something I witnessed in Mobile today. Because I am who I am, first I’ll discuss a bit about Mardi Gras in Mobile. Maybe you’ll understand; maybe you won’t. Let’s see.

Most people think of New Orleans whenever they think of Mardi Gras. It’s true New Orleans is the city that gets all the attention, but historians of such things will admit Mobile was the first town in America to celebrate Mardi Gras, not that other place. It was a while back; 1703, to be exact. It’s not important at all – it’s just fact.

Mardi Gras is tied to the Lenten Season on the Catholic calendar, but the whole two-week period definitely has little to do with anything religious. It’s pretty pagan, really. Mardi Gras day has been tamed down a bit in recent years, but for most of the past 300+ years Mardi Gras day was sort of an “anything goes” kind of thing. That’s where the differences between Mobile and New Orleans come in. Mobile’s Mardis Gras often got a bit wild, but was always like an afternoon garden party when compared to the extremes of the day in the New Orleans French Quarter. Even so, there has always been several things in common between the two cities – who parades, who attends parades, and why.

I’m not going to do a complete history of parade societies. If you don’t already know and are curious, there are whole books written about them. I also won’t dwell on the social divisions that differentiate the paraders from the parade attendees. That’s in the books, too. I only want to point out one aspect of all that. It’s encompassed in the traditional cry of Mardi Gras parade goers in both cities – “Thow me something, Mister!” You hear that in both cities during every Mardis Gras parade. It’s a plea; a beg. Those who shout it are begging the paraders on the floats to toss them trinkets, toys, candy, beads, and the parade society coins known as doubloons.

THROW ME SOMETHING, MISTER! Yeah, that’s what Mardi Gras is about. It’s about the people who don’t have much, who line the streets begging for gee-gaws and other worthless stuff from people who have more. There’s a symbolism in that scene. The paraders are royalty. They’re high up on their floats, which symbolize royal coaches. They toss their trinkets to the people below, in much the same way the royals of Europe did whenever they deigned to have a holiday parade. The Mardis Gras trinkets, and especially the doubloons, are very much representative of the low-value coins that royals would toss to the outstretched hands as their carriages were drawn down parade routes. The people who wait with outstretched hands – that’s where things get real. They aren’t symbolic. The people are still the very same people as were seen along parade routes in the 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries in Europe. They’re just regular folks looking for a spectacle and a small hand-out. In more modern terms they’re looking for a day off from drudgery, a good time, and a “freebie.”

Today, in downtown Mobile, I witnessed a Mardi Gras scene. It wasn’t advertised as such, but that’s what it seemed to be to me. It’s what I’m here to tell you about. The things I wrote about before – that’s just to help get you in the right frame of mind.

Today the Mobile County legislative delegation held a public meeting. It was open to any citizen, and was live-streamed on the Internet. The advance meeting notice I received last week stated it was to “ … review and discuss legislation that would be proposed in the upcoming legislative session in Montgomery.” But, that’s not what it was truly about.

There were 10 representatives present. One was missing. I won’t identify any of them here. Their identities are a matter of public record. Who was who, and who was what isn’t nearly as important as what was said and why.

The first item on the agenda was review the treasurer’s report of contributions to defray the delegation’s operating expenses. The second was to announce new legislation to be brought up in the State House. There were two new bills mentioned, with almost no accompanying details. At that point one of the Reps began to speak about the way the county delegation itself was represented. That’s when the meeting got interesting. That’s when I realized there was a pretext to the whole thing; that it was going to be a stage play, not a business meeting.

The delegation is split into two factions. Obviously there are Republicans and Democrats. There are also whites and blacks. If I understand things correctly it’s also true that all the Republicans are white and all the Democrats are black. I’m not sure the lines of division could be any clearer. But, those facts made things harder to comprehend, not easier.

The Democratics of the delegation were airing a grievance. There were several who mentioned a previous 25-year period when the chair of the delegation was shared between a Republican and a Democrat, but that was no longer the case. Today the chair is held by a single Republican. The Democrats expressed their discontent with today’s reality and stated in no uncertain terms that if they can’t co-chair the delegation they don’t intend to vote on any bill initiated by a Republican. I heard them state that all the bills they knew of were things they agreed on and thought were worthy, but until they were “given respect” and allowed to co-chair the delegation they would not vote with any Republican on any bill.

One of the Republicans (who just happened to be my district Rep.) began to speak as if he was reading my thoughts. He said he thought it was shameful that partisanship would come before the needs of the county and city; that the Democrats would take good bills and hold them hostage to get their way over such a trivial thing.

There were many protests of love in the room. That part was almost comical to me. When you hear politicians talking to each other about how close their friendships are, how much love they have for each other, how they go to each other’s homes, and know each other’s spouses and children … the theater of it tends toward comedy. I suppose that’s just what they tend to do instead of swearing at and calling each other names. Which stings more – a punch in the mouth or to have someone swear their love for you while they infer you’re a dog and just stole one of their favorite bones? You decide.

The meeting lasted all of an hour. Easily half of it was occupied with several versions of the same lament. Rodney Dangerfield would have loved it. He would have been laughing and slapping his knee at the things he would have heard. I had to just sit still and try not to make faces.

The best soliloquy of the morning was made by one Democratic Rep. who stated that the position of Chairman was almost entirely ceremonial; that the chair had no authority or power that any other member of the delegation didn’t have; that the whole position was largely meaningless, then followed up by stating to not give a Democrat the title of Co-Chair was a sign of disrespect, and until he and his fellow Democrats were properly respected, the Republicans could expect no cooperation. He reiterated the statement that another had made, to the effect that he was in full agreement on the bills that were on the table, but would never vote for any of them until the Democrats got what they deserved. “All we want is to be properly respected.”

What I heard was clear. The Rep. admitted the position being sought was mostly ceremonial, carrying no additional political clout. The dispute was over a title, nothing more. But, it’s being made to be about “respect.” Until that perception of respect is addressed the Democrats don’t intend to vote for any bill that the Republicans in my county favor. They intend to sacrifice the interests of their constituents until one of their number is anointed as Co-Chair. You get that, don’t you? A symbolic sign of “respect” is more important to them than any real need of constituents.

There were a couple of mentions of a meeting held in Montgomery where the Mobile delegation was assembled on short notice to vote for the position of delegation Chair. It was that meeting where the vote was to have a single Chairperson instead of co-chairs. The descriptions given of that meeting didn’t include enough specifics for anyone in the audience to comprehend what actually occurred.

Today’s meeting was advertised as a public discussion of legislation, but that was just pretext. It was obvious the Democrats had set the stage to air their grievances in public. While I was listening my mind went to a different time and place. When I was in the Coast Guard Reserves, well over a decade ago, we had a document that went around to everyone called a “USCG Hurt Feelings Report.” It was something that looked like an official complaint form. It had a legitimate-looking document number on it. But, it was all meant to poke fun at people who were overly sensitive or who were habitual complainers. Today’s meeting was a live, public Hurt Feelings Report.

I admit, though, there is an aspect of today’s meetings that exemplifies a much larger problem in the country today. In the case of today’s setting there was an unspoken word that was hanging in the air – race. No one brought it up. No one even tried to hint at it, but it was there. The word used over and over again was “respect.” The obvious thing that was pointed out was one party in the majority that was exhibiting a lack of respect by not agreeing to cede something to the minority party. But the minority party, in this case, were all racial minorities. There was an obvious discomfort in the room that was due to the unspoken, not even hinted-at aspect of race. I felt it, but was glad that grenade wasn’t tossed. My thought is – if that bomb was thrown it would have blown up the entire room. I was happy the Democrats showed that much restraint.

I left the meeting in an irritated mood. I figured out halfway through that everyone who attended or tuned in via the live-stream were being used. The Democrats were using a public forum to expose an internal delegation beef. And, they were doing something that anyone who ever attended a Mardi Gras parade should recognize. In addition to registering the complaint over their perception of a lack of respect, the remedy they sought was “Throw me something, Mister!” They demanded a consideration they know has no value. The title of Co-Chair is worth nothing. It has no power. It’s meaningless and a throw-away.

Have you figured it all out yet? Do you get how the scene I portrayed above is replicated all over the country? It’s local, state, and national. It’s something seen with Congress, where Democrats hold needed bills hostage until their demands are met. Today we see Democrats everywhere operating in lock-step. The needs of their constituents come second to the need of the party to exercise power and dominance. They don’t care if the thing they demand is worth nothing – if they can get Republicans to back down and let them have what they ask for, then they count that as a win. It’s all about power and who blinks first.

Read George Washington’s Farewell Address. Everything he predicted about partisan politics has come true. He and the other founders gave us the best possible start – politics at its best. Today we witness politics at its worst.

Make of this what you will.

In Liberty,


© Steve A. Stone


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Steve A. Stone

Steve A. Stone is and always will be a Texan, though he's lived outside that great state for all but 3 years since 1970, remembering it as it was, not as it is. He currently resides in Lower Alabama with a large herd of furry dependents, who all appear to be registered Democrats. Steve retired from the U.S. Coast Guard reserves in 2011, after serving over 22 years in uniform over the span of four decades. His service included duty on two U.S. Navy attack submarines, and one Navy and two U.S. Coast Guard Reserve Units. He is now retired after working as a senior civil servant for the U.S. Navy for over 31 years. Steve is a member of the Alabama Minority GOP and Common Sense Campaign. He is also a life member of SUBVETS, Inc., the Submarine League, and the NRA. In 2018, Steve has written and published 10 books.


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