Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In Defense of the South

I don't really make excuses for my antipathy for a lot of "Southern Heritage." I don't like the way so many still call the Civil War the 'War of Northern Aggression;' or their use of the most offensive euphemism in history--their 'peculiar institution'; and I really can't stand the "libertarian" apologists that think the Confederacy itself was started for anything but keeping a chokehold on the liberty of others--namely, people like me and my family.

But, this is a rather fair rebuke by Michael Lind on some recent attacks on the South:

In a recent Washington Post column, Kathleen Parker quoted Ohio Sen. George Voinovich's assertion that the Republican Party is "being taken over by Southerners" to suggest that the GOP risks becoming a permanent minority party of the old Confederacy. In itself this is a legitimate point that I and many other critics of Republican conservatism have made for years. However, at Mother Jones, the blogger Kevin Drum used Parker's political argument as an excuse for all-too-typical liberal Southern-bashing. According to Drum: "There are, needless to say, plenty of individual Southern whites who are wholly admirable. But taken as a whole, Southern white culture is [redacted]. Jim Webb can pretty it up all he wants, but it's a [redacted]." Drum did the redacting on his own blog post, explaining he'd blacked out the offending text "on the advice of my frontal lobe."

Drum's creepy bigotry becomes clear when other groups are substituted: "There are, needless to say, plenty of individual blacks who are wholly admirable. But taken as a whole, black culture is [redacted]. Barack Obama can pretty it up all he wants, but it's a [redacted]." Or maybe this: "There are, needless to say, plenty of individual Jews who are wholly admirable. But taken as a whole, Jewish culture is [redacted]. The late Irving Howe can pretty it up all he wants, but it's a [redacted]."

I like the first page much better than the second page because it, as many Southern defenses in the past, devolves into a "but look at the blacks! They're crazy too!" defense. However, I share it with you because it's sentiment is right, if delivered somewhat poorly at the end with the "your blacks are as dumb as our rednecks" argumentation. (This resentment is probably because the policy preferences he highlights where blacks agree with conservatives are the exact preferences that ideologically alienate me from both blacks and conservatives. Anti-gay marriage, anti-immigration, etc.)

Anyway, never let it be said that I never said anything in defense of the South on my blog.

Where's George (Orwell)?

I don't usually dig features.

Seriously, I cringe every time I see what I have dubbed "Oprah Moments" on ESPN--some harrowing tale of some amateur or has-been professional athlete--or worse, sick and/or dying kids-- overcoming ridiculous adversity to arrive at some sort of peace in their life. If I wanted to watch stuff like this, I'd watch Lifetime. (Granted, I sit there and watch them as I wait for the second-run of the Yankees highlights that air late in the show. And, predictably, the very-much intended touching moment touches me too, but it doesn't mean I have to like it.)

So, too, would I read Reader's Digest if I wanted to read stories and articles about random happenstance "You'll never guess what happened after Timmy got the cat out of the tree" yarn.


I have forsaken television news--save the rarity I'm home to watch the NewsHour (which I unashamedly follow on Twitter)--not only for its general lack of substance, but the choice to air some sort of feel-good filler at some point in the broadcast. Of all the stuff going on in the world, the fact that Jane Hemshaw has been cooking pies down on Main Street for 47 years doesn't rise to the level of making me give a good [gosh darn.]

So all that being said, I LOVED this piece in WaPo today. I loved it because I'm a book reader and, since coming to DC, I am enamored by decentralized autonomous happenings. Yes, I know all about the 'Where's George' dollar tracking--but this is actually spreading ideas around the globe as opposed to "I wonder where that piece of paper is."

[Christal] Groves is a member of BookCrossing, a free-book-tracking Web site where anyone can, as a brochure puts it, "share your books with the world and follow their paths forever more!" Its fans can register a book, add a brief journal entry, then place it in a public spot. The hope is that someone else will pick it up, record their find online and pass it on -- becoming a link in a long chain of serendipitous literary discoveries.

Of course, the first thing I thought of is sharing books on the ideas of liberty, though I think leaving Human Action or An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations around may be counterproductive. (You kinda have to WANT to read those to get through them. And even then, they're a challenge.) I think it would probably be best to start out with Economics in One Lesson or The Road to Serfdom--or, perhaps for the less strictly-libertarian inclined: 1984 or Animal Farm.

Anyway, I thought I'd share the feature with you before I dive back into the dreary news of skyrocketing national debt, a possible war brewing in Zimbabwe, and, worst of all, the Red Sox gaining a game back against my beloved Yankees.

Treat yourself today and pick a up a book.