The South will rise again. If it cares enough to love itself (John Archibald)
June 02, 2013
It started in an unremarkable way, with a note from someone disagreeing with something I’d said. Disagreement is always welcome, of course.
But the last line got me. It hit an exposed nerve like tin foil on a tooth. It circled around – it happens a lot to anyone who questions, or protests, or criticizes — to blame our disagreement on my "bias toward anything Southern."
Dang it. That’s hittin’ a Bama boy where he lives.
It’s so easy. So simple. It’s as much a Southern tradition as blaming "outside agitators" for stirring up the status quo. If you don’t like somebody’s opinion, tag ’em a carpetbagger. Even if they were born in Alabaster.
I hate that Southern sensitivity. I hate that Southern sense of inferiority.
Because the South doesn’t need it. The South is magical, all on its own.
The music of the South is beautiful, from the blues of the Delta to Tuxedo Junction, from Hank Williams to Bill Monroe, from Elvis Presley to REM, from nameless mountain pickers to Sunday morning gospel choirs. You cannot love music and not love the South.
The food of the South is beautiful, from smoked pork with as many kinds of sauce as there are moods, to gumbo on the Bayou or shrimp from the Alabama coast. It is as simple as you want it to be, with the grits and the greens and the gravies. It is as fancy as Frank Stitt can make it. Either way, fresh tomatoes taste better from the Sand Mountain soil. It’s hard to love food without loving the South.
The culture of the South is beautiful. It’s a world where the melding of backgrounds, of races and ethnicities with profoundly differing views of history, cooked up a glorious cultural stew. This racial gumbo – the one people still fight so much about — is what gave us our ghost stories and gospel singers, folk artists and dirt road philosophers. It gave us literary giants, culinary geniuses and men and women who speak the English language as if it is a sweet, slow song. Our differences made us who we are. And it is beautiful.
The people of the South are beautiful. They hug when they sense you need it, punch you in the shoulder when it seems a better idea. They grow angry over injustice, as they see it, and will willingly stand to fight when it’s time to fight. But they’ll also put money they don’t have in the collection plate, or the community chest. They will help a hungry man, even if they curse about it afterward. When they look you in the eye – even when you don’t see eye to eye – they will, unfailingly, see humanity there.
The South is Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner. It is Truman Capote and Harper Bless-Her-Beautiful-Heart Lee. It is Ray Charles and Otis Redding. It is football and it is fight. It is dad gummed Wayne Flynt.
The people are beautiful. If there is a fight, it should be to keep them healthy and whole.
The South itself is beautiful. The land and sky, the lakes and mountains, the coastlines and the marshes are beautiful. If there is a fight, it should be to keep them that way.
The South needs no inferiority complex, no knee-jerk leap at criticism. Those who allow themselves to stew in the juices of regional disappointment, who refuse to cast a critical eye at their own back yard for fear of what they’ll see, simply do not see the South as I see it.
Southern Pride has nothing to do with fighting "outside agitators" or the so-called northern aggressors. It means loving the South enough to protect it. Even when it must protect it from itself.
© 2013 Alabama Media Group