Friday, September 09, 2005

What would you tell your children about the South?

""Now I want you to tell me one thing more. Why do you hate the South?"
"I don't hate it," Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately; "I dont hate it," he said. I dont hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark. I dont. I dont! I dont hate it! I dont hate it!" --William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom (302-03)

Growing up in Lubbock, Texas, with Southern parents, I always loved being Southern. I remember watching The Dukes of Hazzard and taking some measure of pride in the Stars and Bars painted on the roof of an old muscle car called "the General Lee." It was with even more pride that I used to talk about how I'm distantly related to that Virginian general.

Yet, beginning with my introduction to William Faulkner in high school, and continuing through my education, I have questioned that pride. I find myself now in Quentin Compson's place, in the midst of a painful tug-of-war between wanting to take pride in the place I call "home," and feeling a profound... well, disgust... for what it stood for up until those dark days in the year of Our Lord 1861-5, and in truth, for long after as well. On top of that, in the last year or so, I've come to the startling and somewhat painful realization also that the Southern rebellion and war against their own country was an act of treason. That may seem obvious in itself, but I'd never been pushed to attach the corresponding noun to it. A person or party that commits treason is a traitor. "The War of Northern Aggression" looks a little different when you think about it in that light.

And I suspect many of you Southerners have had these feelings as well. I think both of these pulls --pride and revulsion-- are undeniable. There are exceedingly few Southerners I've met who don't feel some sense of pride in saying they're "Suthun." And I'm sure we've all bounced around the idea that maybe the Civil War wasn't really about slavery, but rather about states' rights, or economics, or differences of lifestyle, or whatever. The problem is that those arguments don't hold water; as one friend of mine astutely noted, they all eventually lead back to slavery. Or you could argue that maybe the South would've eventually developed equal rights on its own. Yet, that thesis is thoroughly discounted with 2 simple words: Jim Crow.

Thus, the question: what do you tell people about the South? What would you tell your children about the South?

4 comments:

RaiderRed said...

Fuck em' if they can't take a joke!!!!

Chris G said...

First of all, that first response was pretty inappropriate huh?

Well Derek, this blog promises to be a very interesting one. I'll be checking on it regularly ;)

In no way do I agree with many of your opinions; however, I do respect you and still see you as a good old friend of mine.

I'm sad to see that you have been brain washed by those yankees :P just kidding, no one get your feathers ruffled.

Now to my answer for this interesting question. I'm going to show my kids the great characteristics of the wonderful people that live in the south TODAY. All the friendlyness, compasion, love, work ethic, morals, respect, etc. that people grow up with here is awsome.(no matter what race) We'll never get away from sterio types, but I've visited several cities in the northeastern U.S. and there is generally more bitterness, resentment, and anger in people compared to people I've met in the southern states.

I'm not avoiding the topic of the civil war, everyone has a history and it is very important to know and understand that. At some point society moves on and evolves to become completely different than centuries before, and we have to recognize that. It seems many people would like to keep the wounds open and not move on. (not talking about you Derek, just people in general)

Andrealg said...

Hey now, Lets remind mister Chris G, he married a Yankee. haha

El Ranchero said...

Glad to see you're gonna be checking in here, Chris. You certainly don't have to agree; after all, if everyone did then this wouldn't be very interesting, would it?

I like your answer, too. Showing the difference between what the South was and what it is is a good way to address that. Your point about "old wounds," is one that we can talk about. What do you mean by that? I ask, because it seems to me that a number of Southern practices drudge the past back up, like continuing to fly or exhibit the Confederate Flag, which is still a pretty popular symbol in many places. It seems that Southerners still want to celebrate their past, which is something I don't think is wrong, but it is certainly a... complicated... past.