Thursday, August 23, 2012

As Others See Us -- Summer 2012

The travel writer Chuck Thompson has a new book out, reviewed in the New York Times, here, called Better Off Without 'em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession,  in which he proposes that both North and South in the United States would be better off if the South actually did secede.

Apparently Thompson been traveling through the South and noticed some things he's not happy with, or finds amusing, or disturbing, or annoying.

This book is probably worth a read. I have a copy on order. I don't want to comment on it directly since I haven't actually read it.

But I think you can get the flavor of it if you visit Thompson's promotional website where there are, to make this more relevant to this blog, 14 actual photographs which I gather Thompson made Down Here on his travels.

One can say, however, that this book joins a bunch of other books written by visitors to the South from John White,  John Lawson, and Alexis de Tocqueville to James Agee and V. S. Naipaul. My guess is, Thompson doesn't do much better at capturing Southernness than they did.

Someone writing on the Economist's blog nails folks like Thompson, thus. They "want the South to be an essence, not a messy mix of gays and straights, Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites, atheists and Christians, readers and football fans."

And, as Karen L. Cox points out in her Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture  the South of folks like Thompson is a creation mostly of non-Southerners who need for there to be a place in their imagined USA to be the repository of everything wrong with the country.

In fact, the South, in a profound way, holds up to the rest of the country a mirror for contemplating who we are, and where we've been, and what its come down to.

Even the bleakest aspects of Southern history and culture are deeply engrained in the history of the rest of the nation, from the exploitation of native peoples to slavery to the devastation of the environment for short-term economic gain to political corruption and the use of political power to enhance the wealth of the wealthiest at the expense of the poorest among us.

What really annoys me are those Southerners who make a career out of performing stereotypical Southernness for non-Southerners who are looking for the entertainment value to be found in meeting Rhett or Scarlett or some good ole boys and girls.

When any of them come around, I remember what my father said. "Watch out, now," he'd say. "Watch out."

1 comment:

  1. Thank the southern hills for "The Economist" and Dreaming of Dixie is in my queue