Remain Calm! All Is Well!!!: So, This Is It???
Posted August 16, 2012on:
I have been more or less on the couch nursing my sinuses for the past few weeks. While the infection seems to be under control, the pressure and generalized ickiness remain. I have had a lot of time to read, since I’m accomplishing little else, and one of the books I’ve just finished is a real humdinger. Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession was written by Chuck Thompson, who usually is a travel writer, and is based upon his travels throughout the South.
Now I have heard everything. I have basically spent my entire life in the South, except for visits to my father’s family in New England, a two-year period of time during which my father was assigned to a military base in Pennsylvania, three years in California after my first marriage to a naval officer during Vietnam, and a chillingly memorable year spent in Ann Arbor while my first husband got his Master’s degree, and two years in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, I have spent approximately 56 years in the South, which should qualify me as something of an expert. During those 56 years, I have heard many, many Southerners speak of wishing to leave the Union, but this is the first time that I ever heard a Yankee come straight out and say that he agrees with them.
Salon has published an AlterNet interview with the author. in which he explains his rationale. Clearly, the nation fought a brutal war that killed over half a million men, and left much of the South in ruins for generations. When I was a young child, my great-grandmother, who was a small child during the War, was still alive. She had some pretty vivid memories of both the War years and those of Reconstruction and had no difficulty in sharing them with her great-grandchildren. Many towns in Georgia (including Atlanta) still have the firemarks from Sherman’s march, and have no intentions of ever removing them. Many other towns have monuments to the Confederate dead, and in some instances the name of every young man who marched out and never came back. Suffice to say that some of these towns, particularly in Georgia and the Carolinas, are in no rush to forgive and forget, and I’m quite certain that the North isn’t in any bigger rush to foster understanding. Also remember that there was no Marshall plan for the South – it took almost a century for us to recover. Mr. Thompson would remind us that Southern (de jure) segregation ended with the assistance of federal troops, while he appears to have forgotten that Governors of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts had their hands full while ending Northern (de facto) segregation. This is unsurprising, as a review of my granddaughter’s American history book devotes a chapter to the former and fails to mention the latter. Omissions like this can annoy even the most liberal of Southerners, such as myself.
The Salon piece lays part of the blame for this chilly relationship squarely at the feet of the Northern media:
Chuck Thompson: I am being serious. I understand that the meta arguments here that call for secession can be received as somewhat absurd in some corners. I acknowledge that it is probably a remote possibility. Within the framework of that argument I think there is a lot of room to highlight a lot of these problems and a lot of these frustrations that you refer to. One of the goals of this book really was to more or less articulate — to put some facts, figures and research behind — a lot of this frustration of Northern and Southern liberals, of which there are many. I encountered many Southern liberals while conducting my research.
There’s this seething frustration people have. There’s this kneejerk reaction to blame the South. The sort of Northern media strafing of the South for a lot of the nation’s ills is a longstanding tradition. What I wanted to do was to get away from the traditional stereotypes of the dim-witted, mouth-breathing, Southern racist redneck and really look at what’s going on today. Find out why people are still having these issues with the South, and put some hard research and some facts and figures behind this general unease with the influence that the South has on the rest of the country.
I agree, that is pretty annoying. Bill Clinton once said that the presence of a Southern accent automatically deducts 100 points from your IQ. A redneck is a native Southerner, and that’s a term of endearment where I am from. I don;’t personally know anyone who lives in a trailer, yet they appear to be the only people ever interviewed on national television by the Yankee media. Apparently the rest of us are just not particularly interesting. I honestly don’t think that I am a racist, and I grow bored with having to explain that as well.
The South is über-religious. There are many Evangelicals, many Pentecostals, and also many mainstream Protestants, Catholics, and Jews as well. The town where I grew up had some snake-handling churches, but those are for the most part isolated to mountainous areas. The rest of us have pretty much managed to find the Lord sans serpents, and our religious services are likely the same as anywhere else in the nation. In fact, I would bet that we now have more in common politically and religiously with the Midwest and some of those square states out west than the Northern states do, and here is where I beg to differ with Mr. Thompson.
The book views the South as the states that seceded, but feels that Texas should stay with the Northern states for the sake of the economy. Seriously? After Governor Perry suggested secession during his political campaign to wild cheers and applause, does Mr. Thompson really believe that Texas would wave bye-bye to ol’ Dixie and join the North for the sake of the Yankee economy? Therein, sir, lies the rub. The South lost the War because the North was the manufacturing center of the nation. I would gently suggest that this is no longer the case, and what pitifully little manufacturing occurs here is more likely to be found in the South these days. I also dispute that the food-growing states of the Midwest would lash up with the new Northern states, as they are more philosophically attuned to the South these days. Also, most military bases are located in the South, and I would be willing to bet than a large number of active duty military personnel come from the South. Should Mr. Thompson’s theory actually move forward, there could be some unanticipated blowback. Not to mention that this time around, there is actually something in the Constitution that prohibits secession.
Both Mr. Thompson and the AlterNet moderator were gracious toward the people of the South, and I do thank them for that. We do enjoy music, barbecue, and good company. We are passionate about families, friends, and football. We do tend to be polite. And, they are correct in their assumption that many Southerners speak of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid with the same loathing that Northerners employ when discussing Jeff Sessions and Haley Barbour. I honestly don’t know what the solution might be, and I’m not certain that a divorce is the answer when you consider how screamingly ugly division of assets might become. Perhaps some extended couples counseling in order to attain mutual respect might just be in order.
When I was in school, high school and college bands unapologetically played “Dixie”. It was played right after the National Anthem, and we remained standing. We did not attend school on General Lee’s birthday. We recited the Pledge to the Confederate Flag right after the Pledge of Allegiance. It was the old South, and I guess if we secede, I’ll at least know the drill when it starts up again. Now, I may have to philosophically become a citizen of the North, but I promise that I will promptly expatriate right back home. It’s just too damned cold up there, you can’t find a decent Red Velvet cake,football just isn’t the same. and y’all talk kind of funny. No offense intended, of course – oh, and bless your hearts.
If at first you don’t secede………
This is an open thread.
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