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Why Do So Many Southerners Think They're the Only Real Americans?

Let's not pretend that condescension is unique to the North.

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Don’t Look at Me, I Didn’t do Nuthin’

The majority of Southerners are not uneducated rednecks flying Confederate flags from the backs of their pickups.

I never claimed they were, in the book or elsewhere.

Better Off Without ’Em presents profiles and quotes drawn almost exclusively from “typical” Southerners: small business owners, skilled laborers, elected officials, political consultants, lobbyists, federal and state government employees and managers, pastors, musicians, entrepreneurs, journalists, media personalities, park rangers, tour guides, think tank founders, economists, oil workers, laborers, librarians, veterans, university students and professors, public school teachers and the like.

However good and polite they may be, what the majority of Southerners are, and have always been, is willing to allow the most angry and “patriotic” firebrands among them to remain in control of their society’s most powerful and influential positions, be they in the realms of politics, business, education, religion or media.

Just as it was angry Southern zealots who pushed the country into the Civil War, it was angry zealots who, while the rest of the South turned its back, were allowed to construct and maintain the legal foundations of Jim Crow; who were allowed to turn the Scopes Monkey Trial into a humiliating circus; who were allowed to circumvent Brown vs. Board of Education and school desegregation by calling out the National Guard and building segregation “academies”; who were allowed to resist Civil Rights with dogs and water cannons; who are still allowed to denounce science as a liberal conspiracy and proclaim without ridicule that a black president’s birth certificate is fake and throw secessionist balls and insist that slavery had nothing whatsoever to do with the Civil War, and swear that all of this was and is somehow being done in the name of a liberty to which they feel deprived due to their miserable lives of oppression and persecution beneath the stars and stripes.

Embittered fanatics may represent a minority of Southerners. But they’re still an extremely powerful minority that the rest of the South enables—or succumbs to—or aligns with—or votes for—or prays alongside—or links arms in martyred brotherhood with—year after year, decade after decade, century after century.

Theirs are the voices that perpetuate the toxic agenda because theirs are the voices that ring with the most anger, that in their belligerence resonate as the most historically and authentically “Southern.”

This, too, is nothing new. As far back as 1941, Southern journalist W.J. Cash was remarking on “the ancient incapacity of the great body of Southerners to examine and analyze a case realistically even when their own fate hinged upon it, the tendency to take the easiest answer as explaining all their ills.”

Until the good and rational and reasonable among them stop being so thin-skinned, and start seeing that a helluva lot of us above the Mason Dixon Line are just as American and just as right as they’ll ever be, the hateful denial that anything is wrong with a region where citizens and civic leaders alike feel justified in forcing their own proudly uninformed anger on the rest of us will persist.

Blind Southern anger brought this country to its knees once before. It’s up to reasonable Southerners not to let it happen again.  

Chuck Thompson is the author of five books. His writing has appeared in many publications including Outside, Esquire, the Los Angeles Times and on various Web sites. For video discussions of about Better Off Without ’Em visit his Simon & Schuster author page.  

 
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