What is the South in today’s time and place?
Many Southern spokesmen talk of a different path, but what is it?
by Mark Vogl
Monday, September 26, 2011
Southern heritage, what is it in today’s world?
There are a number of Southern patriots, like the Kennedy brothers, Tim Manning, the men who attend the Southern National Congress, and some members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and ladies of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and others who profess that there is a “Southern nation,” or point of view even to this day. And while I wish it were so, I find little real evidence of an alternate American view peculiar to the South. There is no doubt that there are two different views within the US, and that it is divided. But, these two different views are national in nature, and not regional.
The South of 1861 was very different from the rest of the union. Slavery was the single most obvious difference prior to secession. But that difference was like the top of an ice berg, it was the visible part of a vast societal difference. The differences between union and South were articulated in the Confederate Constitution. These differences, when combined, offered an alternative trail for American democracy, and Americana. But alas the war of conquest, and victory, ended that brief sojourn down a different path.
Still the South retained its identity for about a century after Appomattox. The South remained a primarily rural and agricultural society. The South’s culture blossomed as the only means of regional expression. Music, food, religion, and conservative politics were as different from the other parts of the nation as its’ dialects. And of course the history of the war and its remembrance of the men who led and fought the war epitomized what a Southerner was. Military colleges like THE CITADEL and Virginia Military Institute dotted the South and preserved the Southern martial tradition. And the unique aspects of its separate states continued to develop. No one could confuse the people of Cajun country of Louisiana for those of the Shenandoah Valley, or Austin for Charleston.
Politically, the South was the geographic core of the Democratic Party for a long time after the war, but eventually the entire region shifted to the Republican Party when the Democrats embraced secularism and socialism. Even as late as the turn of the 21st century, the South still united in Presidential contests, and elected some of the nation’s most conservative Senators and Congressmen.
The Bible Belt, though depleted some by the invasion of foreigners, still includes a Christian God in daily life, and the church is still a major center of social life in many places in Dixie.. But with the Civil Rights movement, and more importantly the widespread use of air conditioning (which allowed the descendants of Yankee conquerors to settle and stay in the South) and the development, nationalization and globalization of electronic communications equipment (the televsion, radio and personal computer) the South was finally overwhelmed and is being assimilated into a centralized, milk toast America.
And still I must ask, what is Southern today? I look for it. Like an old man going through a dimly lit attic, I pick up old dusty artifacts of my life and look under them for the South. I walk the town square looking for evidence of a Southern economy, or aspects of Southern capitalism and don’t seem to find them. Occasionally, I will find hand made goods, or jams and fruits canned at home. But, there is no Southern products which reflect a Southern pride and self sufficiency.
Are Southerners more dedicated to God? Possibly, but would a modern Southern nation invite God to the governing table as the Confederacy did in its Preamble to the Constitution? Would our Christianity govern our air waves, removing the foul language we hear every day on the radio, and the soft porn we see on our televisions? Would the South ban abortion and protect traditional marriage? Are we more honorable men?
Do we turn away government subsidies and benefits? Do we practice Christian charity in business? Do we see land, agriculture and natural resource development as our "national" means of making of living?
Do we believe in Virginian George Washington’s warnings of avoiding international treaties and alliances? Or is the Southern commitment to Israel too great, and thus we would be as engade in international affairs as America today? Would our Southern nation be a member of the United Nations?
Do Southerners still see individual liberty as the most important political priority? And, do we see a centralized government as the most dangerous threat to that individual liberty? Would a Southern nation have social security and an Environmental Protection Agency? Do we still see the state as the sovereign founder of a confederated central government, and if yes, how would that manifest itself in a world that seems to be consolidated and centralizing?
As a child, when I studied the South, I could see clear differences between the South and the rest of the nation. I could see a land, a people unto itself. I could see smallness as a good thing. I could see the aristocracy which ran the South, though I did not like that part of the South. I could see the belief in the ownership of land as the ultimate source of wealth. I could see a people who let time and progress pass, in order to live a life focused on God, family, nature, and culture. I could see a proud unity across the South, which is not there today. Differences over the Confederate battle flag and the retreat from Dixie are only symptoms of a broader rejection of regional identity and independence.
I don’t write this to demean the South, or its present day patriots. I write it simply to ask the question; what is the South today and is it really different from the failing United States? Secession may be the eventual political outcome of a federal government drunk with the national credit card, and an inability to say no. But that secession is not one based in a regional difference but in an economic reality that the golden goose is barren of any future fruit.
I wish there were a South; a South where men and women had clearly different roles, and those roles were based on the design of God. I wish there were a South where honor, real honor had meaning. I wish there was a united South of black and white, where our mutual history, respect for each other and common needs made us one Southern people. So minds of the South, if there is a unique South in this day and time, write about it, define it! Southern writers and thinkers, make us aware of today’s regionalism. Don’t look too far back to find that definition. Either it is here and now, or it is not.
And if there is not a here and now South, than let us consider creating a better people first, and nation second. Clearly the evils which are destroying the nation known as the United States were predicted by the Founding Fathers. The U.S. is collapsing because of its people. While they may blame their politicians, they blame them because they actually desire magicians in Congress. America’s people want elected officials who can fund their paraochial causes without raising taxes or running up deficits.
The politicians have used this greed at the grass roots level to erode the Constitution. Clearly the Court has reversed the meaning of words. The history of the United States proves how fragile the visions and words of one generation are. Time is like a great eroding chemical that removes the shine of the brilliance of the past. It is time for a new generation. One looking for a Christian nation where right and wrong are defined in the Bible. Where the tax collector of today is as unwelcome as the tax collector of Biblical times.
Can the South regain its place in time? Can we develop our regional identify before the national crisis which destroys the US occurs os that when it happens we know who we are, and what we want?