You know what bothers me? When people insult Dixie-America. Now, usually these complaints about our great nation come from Yankees, or worse, carpetbaggers, but I’m finding more and more born-and-bred Southerners who simply don’t get what being Southern is all about. Now, I understand that I don’t appear to be the most “Southern” of folk upon first glance. Heck, I’m hardly even the ideal patriot. However, I assure you that I bleed red, white and blue just like everyone else, albeit slightly different shades, and that somewhere, underneath layers of sarcasm, scorn and caffeine, beats the heart of a true Southern belle. (In fact, the caffeine plays a large role in keeping said Southern-belle heart beating.) So, in honor of sweet tea, mac n’ cheese made from scratch, and James Taylor, I’m going to tell y’all what exactly is so great about the South, and hopefully correct some assumptions about our side of the Mason-Dixon.
The South is a magical land, rich with contradictions and flavored with its own particular culture. The first mistake that non-Southerners make is often assuming that everyone in the south is a) Republican and/or b) Baptist. While I have no problem with those Southerners who fit either of those two criteria, the outsider may be surprised to learn that there are almost as many people who fit neither. I think that the thing that said outsider must remember is that manners trump all. A truly Southern gentleperson will discuss neither politics nor religion in polite discourse, provided others are genteel enough to follow suit. Does every Southerner follow this rule? Of course not, just like every Northerner doesn’t keep his temper during rush hour. I don’t judge you all by your loud Bostonians, so don’t judge us by our rednecks.
Point the second: Southerner =/= redneck. Here’s a small lesson, courtesy of Southern Linguistics 101. Southerner = someone from south of the Mason-Dixon line. Hillbilly = someone from the mountains who may not be as perlite or sophisticated. Hick = a hillbilly at a lower elevation. Redneck = the obnoxious person who makes all Southerners look bad.
All right. Now that I have dealt with the unpleasantries, here are some of the wonderful things about the South. To begin: the wondrous contradictions.
Where else would you find a Chinese place next to a BBQ joint? And, for the record, barbecue is a noun which refers to pulled pork (some people like beef; I don’t judge them to their faces.) with a delicious sauce. The verb is “cookout.” You also have art, learning, and sophistication living side-by-side with 4-wheelin,’ huntin,’ and rasslin.’ Don’t believe me? Visit the western part of NC. In the South, a fancy dinner can include fine wine, lamb, and…homemade mac ‘n’ cheese. Pecan pie, too.
In the South, people can shake their heads at the folly of their Confederate ancestors while still taking pride in their heritage. A business meeting can take place on a porch over tall glasses of sweet tea. Even the most bohemian of artists drink the stuff around here. College students, filled with fervor and the need to make changes in the world, still find comfort in the familiar foods, traditions, and, of course, Johnny Cash. Speaking of music, the South is responsible for Ella Fitzgerald, Elvis, Johnny and June, country, jazz, blues, zydeco, bluegrass, folk and rock n’ roll. Take that.
See? Contrary to popular beliefs, the South is more than a repository for obnoxiousy provincial public figures. God bless Dixie.