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Monday, August 21, 2006

Thoughts for Northerners:

I consider myself a Southerner first and foremost. It is a term I wear with pride, while realizing that our history is every bit as ugly as those from the North would like to pretend they don't have. I'm proud to be a Southerner, and I'm proud of the food and culture I grew up with, especially the food. When I'm talking about Southern food, I'm not talking about this "everything deep fried" crap, though that is an important part of it. I'm talking about gumbo, and collard greens with ham hock, and biscuits, and good buttermilk cornbread. I'm talking about, yes, fried chicken, and sweet potato casserole, biscuits and gravy, and chicken and dumplings. For a more convenient example, just go to your nearest Cracker Barrell restaurant. Though locations outside of the South may not get it right, at least they'll have the right idea.

We're often portrayed in popular culture as dumb hicks, or inbred rednecks, or as racist troglodites. Just for fun, why don't I list a few such people from my native beloved/hated Alabama: Harper Lee, W. C. Handy (one of the grandfathers of Jazz), George Washington Carver, Truman Capote, Rosa Parks, Helen Keller, Condoleeza Rice, Booker T. Washington, William Edward Campbell, Hank Aaron, Courtney Cox, and Jim Nabors. Also, the University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Medicine is one of the most highly respected medical schools in the United States. But we're all just hicks. To my friends outside of the South, if you happen to come across a Southerner who seems slow, or stupid, or clumsy, or just apparently has trouble understanding what you want, there are a few people who fit that description, but more likely, it's just our way of politely telling you that you're an asshole. Toodles.


Snave said...

The South isn't totally redneck, not by any means. I think this is because the South has experienced an influx of Notherners over the last few decades, and this has led to better... HA! JUST KIDDING. REALLY.

The South is one of the most prosperous regions of the U.S., and people should not be led to believe otherwise. The positive influences are many, and many of the people you listed who are from Alabama are/were great Americans in my book... and those are just the ones from Alabama.

I don't think the South is entirely populated by dumb hicks and/or rednecks. It has its share of such folks, but so does the area where I live (eastern Oregon). There are urban rednecks as well in places like NYC, Chicago and L.A. "Redneck" is not an exclusively Southern, or even rural term.

I'm proud to be from the Pacific Northwest, but that doesn't necessarily mean I am a tree-hugging latte-sipping socialist elitist. Up this way, we have all kinds of people, from dumb to bright, from racist troglodites to enlightened professorial types, from lefties to righties, to average Joes and Janes. I'm not sure what being a Northwesterner actually means, whereas people from the South seem to tend to know what being a Southerner actually means. I think that as a region, the South has a stronger sense of identity than many other areas of the U.S. Some of this regional unity may be left over from events that happened long ago, some of the regional unity may be due to widespread influences such as the Southern Baptist Convention... which is an undeniable influence... but for whatever reasons, the regional identity is undeniably there, and Southerners can take pride in that.

Ahhhh, food! Gluttony is also one of my favorite of the seven deadly sins, right behind sloth. I love anything "Cajun". I like the gumbo I have tried, but I doubt its authenticity. I would love to visit the South sometime and try some of the genuine articles. My grandma might not have been from the "deep south" (she was from Missouri) but she sure knew how to make some great dumplings. As for the area where I live, there really aren't any regional dishes of note that would help to identify our area. Steak and a baked potato? Fried chicken? Burgers? Maybe in certain parts of the NW, Mexican food is an identifier, but hell, that was imported to this area and didn't originate here.

Same thing goes for music. The South is one of the birthplaces of Jazz, for example. The Northwest hasn't given birth to anything as momentous as Jazz. Seattle gave birth to Grunge, I guess, for better or for worse. Re. literature, I'm not sure the NW has given us authors of the stature of Faulkner (Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi), Tennessee Williams (Miss.), Eudora Welty (Miss.), Harper Lee (Ala.) or Flannery O'Connor (Savannah, GA). I guess I need to look and see if there are well-known authors from the NW besides Raymond Carver and bestsellers J.A. Jance and Philip Margolin... I'm not sure if the latter two were born and raised in the NW or if they migrated there. The NW seems to be an area things and people have migrated to.

As for history being ugly? I tend to think MOST history is ugly if the truth is being told. You're correct in saying the North has as much ugly history as the South.

But why do we have to view things still as North vs. South? What is it that makes for the rift, even 140 years after the end of the Civil War? Kevin Phillips touches on some of those things in his book "American Theocracy". I don't think he comes across as anti-South; he does describe how much influence the South has on current American politics. But that's more stuff for another time...

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

As much as I hate to admit it, I think it does have a lot to do with the Civil War, though not necessarily for the obvious reasons. Racism will never be fully eradicated, because hatred is a part of the human condition and some people, sadly, have yet to realize there are much more valid reasons than skin color or religion to hate people. That said, it's a very small issue compared to the current problems of the day. Mobile, which isn't too far from where I live (as if anything in Mobile or Baldwin Counties are too far from each other), has a highly-respected mayor who happens to be African-American. Already, Mayor Sam Jones is better liked in their City Hall than his predecessor, who happened to be Caucasian. From what I've seen in the less than year he's been in office, I can't think of a better person to be at the helm of the largest city in Southwest Alabama. But I digress.

I think the reason the South has such a strong common cultural identity is because we are the only part of the United States to have suffered a wartime defeat on our own soil. And, for better or worse (mostly worse), the South was its own nation for about 4 years. I'm sure you'll find such strong regionalism as well from Texans, as the same was true of them during a different point in our nation's history. We do have a common culture, one that is still evolving and will continue to do so. On the whole, I think the evolution has been positive in the last several years, though the lack of discipline and courtesy of the young people today is something I find alarming. If the spawn who are the children of today are the future of tomorrow, we are well and truly beyond fucked. Or maybe I'm just getting old.

1138 said...

Or both MC

You've got a bit of your history wrong in places, but it's too late in the night to quibble about it.