"And so it was that later,
"As the miller told his tale,
"That her face, at first just ghostly,
"Turned a whiter shade of pale."
— "A Whiter Shade of Pale," Procol Harum
Tripping the light fandango and turning cartwheels across the floor isn’t what it used to be when the British rock band Procol Harum recorded “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” a single that sold a whopping 10 million copies in 1967. The song made little sense to most folks at a time when strange lyrics often fueled the anarchy of acid-blown minds. Was the song about racism, being gassed, a hangover or what?
Speaking of which, I tiptoed through the minefield of social media recently for a take on the destruction and plunder of stores by rioters on King Street near the heart of Charleston’s world-famous historic district. If dead people actually do roll over in their graves, former Charleston Police Chief Reuben Greenberg did so last month when a multitude of loony-toons and looters did a number on restaurants and stores while seemingly nobody stopped them.
I was an editor in The Post and Courier’s newsroom 31 years ago when Hurricane Hugo hit town. I can still hear the chief’s voice thundering through the police scanner advising his officers on what to do with looters: “Don’t arrest anybody. Beat ’em. We have nowhere to put them.” Looting was not a problem
then or ever during the Greenberg era.
If another statue is erected in Marion Square, a casting of Chief Greenberg directing traffic while wearing his trademark roller skates would fit the bill. He was black and Jewish and the top cop for 23 years in the city where the Civil War began. “He’s an historic figure in this historic city … the quality and the credibility of his police leadership made him a national figure,” Mayor Joe Riley said of Greenberg following his passing. Mayor Riley has since retired, and it’s obvious his shoes are too big for filling by his successor, who appears to have sat with his fiddle while King Street burned.
Anyway, after reading way too much millennial malarkey on Facebook the other night, I posted a comment — one of 1,200-plus from across the political spectrum — about the removal of Vice President John C. Calhoun’s likeness from among the spires of the Holy City skyline.
“The entire peninsula is a historic district. Every piece of it contributes to the whole,” is all I said before I was dismissed as irrelevant by an angry, 22-year-old antifa aficionado. “OK, boomer!” he snarked — which is anti-fascist prattle for “Shut the (expletive) up you old, white, racist goat of privilege who has systematically ruined the lives of millions of people of color ever since Columbus ran aground on a Caribbean isle and thought he found India.”
The nonsense about being an old goat, etc., doesn’t bother me in the least. I’m more concerned about the common use in public of some of the most vile curse words by fools, some academicians and so-called progressives everywhere it seems. The debasement of all things historical and the general acceptance of all words crass in what passes today for intelligent commentary is little more than rhetorical rot. What turns me a whiter shade of pale is the way such garbage is dumped upon the inhabitants of a rich and powerful land by the rumbling herd of systemically propagandized sheep.
John M. Burbage is a veteran journalist, editor and co-founder of Evening Post Books. He lives in downtown Charleston and grows organic vegetables on his farm in Hampton County, He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.