Lately, there have been a tremendous number of articles going back and forth about the stance of residents of the American south on issues such as race, LGBT rights, abortion, medical care, social care of the poor and the hungry, education, etc. There’s a litany of reasons why southerners get their feathers in a bunch. At the root of it all, in every debate, you invariably hear or read words such as “The south will rise again!”, or “They’re tryin’ to take muh guns!” or “I’m a proud southerner!” or some other thing like that. Some of the posts on the internet by “proud southerners” are absolute vile. They are littered with f-bombs, disparaging comments about the lack of intelligence… It’s so truly mind blowing, that I can’t really think of any good examples. I’m sure, given the right context and motivation, I could spew some baseless vitriol of my own, but it’s not how I choose to live moment to moment. I like to think of myself as someone who is a pretty happy-go-lucky kind of guy who tries to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and engage in meaningful debate. The image at the right though, absolutely gives me the red-ass, as we say here in the south.
I’m a southerner through and through. Born in farm country in Southwest Georgia, I went muddin’ with my friends in high school, have an unholy love of fried chicken and insist that iced tea not be served in a soda fountain. I am college educated, appreciate good music, research topics before I comment on them and do and say out of love for all in existence. I am not trash. There is, however, no denying the fact that the vast majority of the American south, throughout its history, has been the harbinger of all things racist, unequal, theologically incorrect and hypocritical where human co-existence is in question. It’s that way even today.
Take Alabama for instance. A federal court has ruled that same-sex marriage is legal and that Alabama’s ban unconstitutional. However, Alabama’s activist state supreme court is ordering magistrates to ignore the federal order. And even if that weren’t the case, the vast majority of voting residents in the southern states, where these bans passed in the first place, have declared LGBT persons to be unequal and by extension, second class citizens. I blame a culture of “southern pride” co-mingled with false piety and patently incorrect interpretation of scripture which has so long plagued the lands south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Let us look at something that is even more heinous. Remember the civil rights movement? Remember what we did and are still doing to the non-white residents of the south? Granted, things are not as bloody and lawless as they once were in the 60s, case in point being the act of domestic terrorism by “The Cahaba Boys” against the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. The messages we send though, are equally heinous. We vote down hate crimes legislation. We try (and often succeed at) amending state constitutions with discriminatory laws so that we can promote what we believe to be good and right and ordained by God himself. We pay immigrants cash under the table to do the jobs that we see as being beneath us. In the same breath and often with the same checking account, we then deny them citizenship and consequently access to education, services, medical care, etc. because of a warped sense of southern pride and backwards theology.
One of my favorite examples of the “south in peril” as I oft describe it, comes from 2010 after that year’s Iron Bowl game between University of Alabama and Auburn University. That game resulted in Alabama losing by 1 point to Auburn. To say that this has been a rivalry fraught with contention and strong feelings would not do it any justice. This is true when you take into account the fact that a crazed fan poisoned the old, historic oak trees in downtown Auburn as an act of retribution. To be able to truly wrap your mind around the mentality of the person who perpetrated this, check out this article.
I would really like to believe that us southerners, as depicted in movies like “Gone With the Wind” and “Steel Magnolias”, are just generally good people with good hearts and are often misunderstood. Having been a life-long resident of the south, having lived in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, I find that the American south more resemble movies like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “In the Heat of the Night” and “The Help”, even in 2015.
Yeah… I’m a southerner. I speak with a draw. I eat southern food and drink southern beer. I like baseball, the smell of fresh cut grass and farmland. I often bless people’s hearts and I am proud of who I have become as a person. I’m a proud southerner, but not proud to be from the south. I am ashamed of the history of the American south and the stance we take historically on matters of equality and basic human co-existence, domestically. We defend our opinions with interpretations of Holy Scripture that border on psychotic and are, at least, ill-informed. The stars and bars are a banner that represents this culture and glorifies it as something to be proud of. If one sees the banner of a rightfully defeated nation as a source of pride, then they are either trash as the internet suggest, or just goddamn stupid.
“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.” – Stephen Colbert (raised in Charleston, South Carolina on James Island)