[UPDATE: The AP now reports that Sparkman's body was found in what could potentially be "drug country," aka in the general vicinity of serious marijuana cultivation sites (which, to give an idea of their magnitude, account for the lion's share of the so-called southeastern U.S. "pot belt.") and general methamphetamine trafficking. Nevertheless, an ugly, brutal and homegrown tragedy. Says Sparkman's mother, "I have my own ideas, but I can't say them out loud. Not at this point ... Right now, what I'm doing, I'm just waiting on the FBI to come to some conclusion."]
After having lived in the non-Louisville parts of this state for a time, I’ve had the opportunity to live beyond the psychic barrier that separates us, Louisvillians, Kentucky’s alleged city slickers, from the state’s more rural denizens and their respective way of life. Even though the tiny, landlocked hub of UK basketball zealotry, Lexington, retains some urban trappings — some buildings rise higher than 5 five stories; homeless people lounge and beg; the downtown cops love their Segways — the mood there and in the outlying villages is decidedly sleepier, more conservative and, therefore, more typical of the commonwealth-at-large.
The farther outside the city limits one travels (and it never takes that long), so does the prevailing atavism of its people ebb and flow with the undulating pastures of the Bluegrass. Rural poverty, unaffordable health care, a frightening lack of higher education and the very real possibility of slaving away at an interstate gas station don’t paint the brightest economic future for far too many Kentuckians. What’s more, the subsidies and penalties imposed upon Kentucky farmers have reduced a major component of our culture into a subsidiary of Big Agribusiness. And we won’t even touch mountaintop removal mining, y’all, or the perpetual quagmire of our state legislature.
But such criteria don’t rationalize the hanging of 51-year-old part-time census worker Bill Sparkman, whose body was found hanging from a tree in rural Clay County nearly two weeks ago: A Laurel County resident, elementary school volunteer, Boy Scouts of America employee and single-father… did we mention the cancer survivor part?
Sure, the AP reporter who helped break the story has expressed “very serious concern” that the murder was politically motivated — a theory thus far corroborated by the FBI’s ongoing invovlement in the case and that Sparkman was warned by a retired state trooper to basically watch his ass around libertarians (did we mention the “word ‘fed’ scrawled into Sparkman’s torso” part? No?) — but the facts of the apparent slaying remain unknown for the time being, so to suggest a full-blown connection between tea-bagging conservative ditto heads and the murder of an honest man is premature, sloppy and a touch inhumane.
However, if we acknowledge such inartful musings as pure speculation for the time being, a few interesting areas of dialogue open up:
 Kentucky is no stranger to politically motivated assassinations of government officials. On the morning of January 30, 1900, newly minted Democratic governor and alleged vote-rigging shithead William Goebels was gunned down in a burst of gunfire outside the state capitol in Frankfort. Oddly, various conflicting reports — plus the judicial partisan circus that followed — make it somewhat difficult to pinpoint what actually happened. Of the 16 individuals indicted for the crime (including former governor William S. Taylor, whom fled to Indiana, became lawyer and was pardoned by the next GOP governor nine years later) only 3 were successfully prosecuted. And in the aftermath of the shooting, Democrats and Republicans couldn’t even agree on where to hold a special session of the General Assembly to, you know, figure out what in fuck to do now that the governor took a few slugs; no governor has been assassinated before or since, what to do? Ever the bipartisans, Democrats set up shop in Louisville, while Republicans banded together in London, Laurel County’s seat. So it would suggest, then, that the only thing that ever changes is the number of bullets.
 If it is indeed motivated by a tea bagging libertarian… what then? Is it just an isolated incident (…), another Southern gothic tragedy to fit a 24 hour news cycle, or are we heralding the political evolution of white male postal rage? I can’t imagine Kentucky being 20 years ahead of any curve or trend, but there’s something about it that speaks to a larger, older ugliness. How much blame can we really lay at the spittle-coated microphones of the Glenn Becks and the Michael Savages, demagogues who merely push a paranoid worldview that already exists in the pastoralia of London, Kentucky and beyond? Or do decades of virulent anger on our airwaves manifest themselves in ways we’d rather not examine? In any event, we’ve given Nancy Grace plenty to talk about for one month.