Thursday, August 6, 2009

Don't Look Away

This is partly inspired by Karen De Coster's commentary on an amazing piece of tediously conventional, anti-Southern trash.

At work this week a couple of co-workers were discussing their hatred of the Southern States. They talked of how awful and backward it was there, and how neither of them would ever want to live there. It was simple, unadulterated prejudice. I mean, there are things to dislike about the States of the old Confederacy, such as the current infatuation of Southerners with all things militaristic and the attachment to fundamentalist Christianity, but those are minor complaints compared to what's wrong with the rest of the country.

One of my friends recently moved to Birmingham, Alabama. She really likes it, and she is not a Southern girl by birth or anything else. We just got off the phone and she reported to me how nice the people are (for the most part) and how both blacks and whites treat her differently than the people where she used to live (outside the South). She was recently in a laundromat and ran out of money for the machines, and an African-American woman came up to her and said, "Here, Honey, I'll give you the change for your washing machine", and she did too.

From my own experience in dealing with people across the country as part of my job, I have to honestly report that the nastiest, meanest, angriest and hardest to deal with are those damn Yankees, and I'm talking about people from states like New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. When someone gives me trouble, it's usually a person from the Northeast. Southerners, on the other hand, are the exact opposite. They are invariably kind and courteous, and even when bothered by something, they are bothered in a pleasant manner. In fact (and I'm not exaggerating) I've never spoken to someone from North or South Carolina, Alabama, or Georgia that hasn't been warm and friendly to me. The one exception is Florida, but I'd guess that's for its own reasons, including the many Northern transplants and retirees from states like New York that live there (and a lot of them are New Yorkers who've come to Florida with that nasty disposition intact).

As far as segregation and racism goes, I've seen more of it outside the South than in it. As a child, I never recall seeing black kids in school (and yes, I went to public schools almost exclusively) until, that is, I moved to the South with my mom and her second husband. Suddenly black kids were everywhere (they made up at least 50% of the elementary school I was enrolled in at the time) and for the first time in my young life I got to interact with kids of another color.

When I later went to California to live with my dad, suddenly there was one lonely black boy in my class. He may have been the only African-American child in the entire school. Our teacher, a guy who rode a motorcycle to work and liked to wear leather jackets, was reading to us Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I loved reading time and looked forward to each session, listening to the teacher narrating in Huck's voice. The only thing I couldn't figure out was why my copy at home of Huckleberry Finn used the word nigger in every place our teacher's copy used the word slave. When the little black boy moved away and left the class about half way through the reading of Huck Finn, it became clear.

"Now we can say 'nigger' again" Teacher announced to laughter at the next chapter reading post-black kid.

When the struggle for Southern independence was crushed by the tyrant Lincoln and his War of Northern Aggression, it was a true tragedy. But if the South ever rises again (and I've a feeling it will) it may be the answer to ending Federal control of all of our lives. There is now no longer just "fringe" talk of secession, but serious consideration of it among even elected officials, and if the Old Confederacy were to become a New Confederacy (or even a bunch of independent nations, such as a new Republic of Texas) I would move there without hesitation, just to get the yoke of Federal Government oppression off my neck. Lincoln didn't free the slaves, he just created a different kind of slave and a new and horrifying form of slavery, which we continue to suffer from to this day.

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