Living in the South is a love-hate relationship. The South I know is one where people are raised with manners, where even your average meth addict will say “yes ma’am” and “no sir” when speaking to an older person. Sometimes we are polite to a fault. We’re supposed to be so considerate and concerned that even saying “hello” gets translated into “How are you doing?” when we know good and well how the hell they’re doing because we see them every day. But of course it isn’t a question in the first place, and you’re not really supposed to drone on about your health issues and all problems with the polite meth heads out in the county. We know there are problems.
In regards to education, the South hangs out in the bottom half of the 50 states. In regards to income we also hang out in that bottom half. And yes, there are plenty of idiot racists, but you can’t lump all Southerners together in one big basket of stupid. That’s why I was a bit irritated when I read a column on alternet.org by writer, Chuck Thompson, who was defending his book Better Off Without ’Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession. After as he “spent a large chunk of two years” in the South, he apparently came to the conclusion that Southerners consider themselves the only real Americans. He claims that wherever he went in the South he was branded un-American, a socialist, and that he was “in league with the Muslim vanguard of a secret plot to destroy the United States” because he supported President Obama.
The point that he attempts to make throughout the column is that many of the South’s woes can be attributed to the angry and hostile nature of Southerners. He begins this by recounting a study conducted at the University of Michigan (oddly enough the most racist assholes I personally know are from Michigan) in which the reactions of young males are tested. The subjects were all bumped into by a stranger in a crowded hallway and then called an “asshole” by the stranger. After their facial expressions and testosterone levels were examined it was concluded that young men from the Northern parts of the US laughed off the incident as a coping mechanism while young men from the South got really pissed off. This doesn’t surprise me at all. The Southern expectation is that if you accidentally bump into someone, then you should apologize. He, in turn, attributed this supposed short-fused anger or “blind hysteria” to the cause of Southern racism, to blind patriotism, to the root cause of the Civil War.
In a follow-up interview, he said he’s tired of people bitching about the problems with the South, and he’s ready for somebody to do something about it. He calls out Southern liberals for not being active enough and truly makes the point that the South should now be allowed to secede from the United States. This is, in a way, hypocritical. If you are saying that the South should secede based on certain people’s opinions that you disagree with, aren’t you also saying that the South is not part of the real America? There’s no doubt that the South at large has problems in many ways. But these improvements aren’t coming on the shoulders of a guy who’s tried to sum us up after a long vacation through the South. Try living here for while and you’ll understand that no matter how much you disagree with certain opinions, for better or worse, they are just as much part of America as any other opinion.