Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – In other words, we don’t care about our Northern neighbors, and because we don’t care, that is the fault. If Southerners would just start caring about their Yankee neighbors and stop all this silliness about God and guns and conservatism and constitutions and what have you, we’d all be as right as rain. Manna would fall from heaven. Streets would be paved with gold. Budgets would be balanced. The poor would be cared for. The sick would be healed, the unemployed employed if Southerners would just stop being Southerners. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: The New Yorker magazine has this post by George Packer. I read this on Saturday and I posted it yesterday on the fan page on Facebook. I have not commented on it other than to ask the question of whether or not George Packer has actually ever been to the South. You want to talk about bigotry, this is bigotry disguised as benevolence, as care. The only reason this gentleman is writing this is because he cares about us lowly, misguided, racist, hick, knuckle-dragging, Neanderthal, hayseed Southerners. The title of the post is “Southern Discomfort.” Mr. Packer starts off:
The New Year’s Day vote in Congress that brought a temporary truce to the fiscal wars showed the Republicans to be far more divided than the Democrats, and the division broke along regional lines. House Republicans from the Far West and from the Northeast favored the Senate’s compromise bill by large margins, [Mike: That’s because the West and Northeast have always conspired against the Middle Atlantic and Southern states, Mr. Packer. Maybe you ought to look that up and see whether there’s an historical precedent there. Let me inform you, sir, that there is. It might have even caused a war back in the day. I think it was called the War of Northern Aggression or something to that effect.] and Midwesterners were split; but in the South, Republican opposition was overwhelming, 81–12, accounting for more than half of the total Republican “no” votes. In other words, Republicans outside the South have begun to turn pink, following the political tendencies of the country as a whole, but Southern Republicans, who dominate the Party and its congressional leadership, remain deep scarlet. These numbers reveal something more than the character of today’s Republican Party; a larger historical shift is under way. [Mike: I wonder what that shift might be. Hmm, maybe we should explore the question. If there is a shift that is under way, what then, pray tell, is the potential outcome of said shift? I’m just thinking out loud here.]
For a century after losing the Civil War, the South was America’s own colonial backwater—“not quite a nation within a nation, but the next thing to it,” W. J. Cash wrote in his classic 1941 study, “The Mind of the South.” From Tyler, Texas, to Roanoke, Virginia, Southern places felt unlike the rest of the country. [Mike: In other words, if you were traveling across the South, you were in a foreign land. If you’re in a foreign land, why don’t you let us go and be just as a foreign land?] The region was an American underbelly in the semi-tropical heat; the manners were softer, the violence swifter, the commerce slower, the thinking narrower, the past closer. [Mike: Ladies and gentlemen, how much more offensive can you get? This is bigotry hurled from a white Northerner, I’m assuming, at white Southerners, at us second-class, uneducated, bumper sticker dually pickup truck hicks.] It was called the Solid South, and it partly made up for economic weakness with the political strength that came from having a lock on the Democratic Party, which was led by shrewd septuagenarian committee chairmen. The price was that the Democratic Party remained an anti-modern minority until the New Deal. As late as 1950, there were just three Republicans among the South’s hundred and nine congressmen…
Mike: That didn’t have anything to do with politics, sir. That had to do with the divisions that were raised and ultimately came to their lethal conclusion, at the end of the 1850s and the early part of the 1860s. Some people never forgot 600,000-plus fellow citizens never returned home. Some people never forgot what one particular political party did to bring that about. Some people told their children not to ever forget. Why should they? Then he goes on to give more of the history. Then it gets interesting to hear what New Yorkers hear of Southerners.
At the same time, the Southern way of life began to be embraced around the country until, in a sense, it came to stand for the “real America”: country music and Lynyrd Skynyrd, barbecue and NASCAR, political conservatism, God and guns, the code of masculinity, militarization, hostility to unions, and suspicion of government authority, especially in Washington, D.C. In 1978, the Dallas Cowboys laid claim to the title of “America’s team”—something the San Francisco 49ers never would have attempted. In Palo Alto, of all places, the cool way to express rebellion in your high-school yearbook was with a Confederate flag. That same year, the tax revolt began, in California. [Mike: You see what happens, a rebel flag rears its head and the next thing you know, you have people trying to escape punishing taxation. Shudder the thought. Can’t have that, now can we?]
Now the South is becoming isolated again. Every demographic and political trend that helped to reelect Barack Obama runs counter to the region’s self-definition: the emergence of a younger, more diverse, more secular electorate, with a libertarian bias on social issues and immigration; the decline of the exurban life style, following the housing bust; the class politics, anathema to pro-business Southerners, that rose with the recession; the end of America’s protracted wars, with cuts in military spending bound to come. The Solid South speaks less and less for America and more and more for itself alone.
Mike: In other words, we don’t care about our Northern neighbors, and because we don’t care, that is the fault. If Southerners would just start caring about their Yankee neighbors and stop all this silliness about God and guns and conservatism and constitutions and what have you, we’d all be as right as rain. Manna would fall from heaven. Streets would be paved with gold. Budgets would be balanced. The poor would be cared for. The sick would be healed, the unemployed employed if Southerners would just stop being Southerners. Can I ask the question as to why and how it is that some of you North of the old Mason-Dixon Line still think you have some prerogative or some sort of an entitlement to be able to dictate to entire sovereign states’ worth of people how it is they shall behave, how it is they shall talk, how it is they shall vote, how it is they shall conduct their affairs? We know that you’ll do this to the point of taking up arms against those people. If they don’t do it the way you want them to do it, you’ll declare war against them and subjugate them. But supposedly we’re all in this together. It’s High School Musical Part 3. We’re all in this together, one big, giant land of the free, mobile home of the brave. Everybody is happy until Southerners start revolting again.
Maybe it is that Southerners, or those that have chosen to live in the South these days, do not wish to be governed by Northern sensibilities anymore. Maybe that’s the trend that’s occurring here. Maybe that’s a positive thing. I’d like to see this experiment actually be carried out to its end to see if the impoverishment of the South actually occurs or will it shock and surprise the world. You may have stopped to notice that if you pass along these things that you Northerners forced down our throats called interstates, if you drive all these things called interstates, especially from somewhere around Spartanburg, South Carolina heading down 85 all the way to Interstate 20 and through Alabama and Louisiana, you might notice these things called automobile manufacturing plants. How’d those get there? I thought we were a bunch of sloth-laden, angry, hick hayseeds. You have a BMW plant. You have a Honda plant. You have a Mercedes plant. You have a Kia plant. You have a Hyundai plant. You have a Ford plant. How did all that happen? Where did that come from!? Mr. Packer concludes:
Northern liberals should not be too quick to cheer, though. At the end of “The Mind of the South,” Cash has this description of “the South at its best”: “proud, brave, honorable by its lights, courteous, personally generous, loyal.” These remain qualities that the rest of the country needs and often calls on. The South’s vices—“violence, intolerance, aversion and suspicion toward new ideas”—grow particularly acute during periods when it is marginalized and left behind. An estrangement between the South [Mike: By the way, he capitalizes the South in all instances, meaning there is an acknowledgement that there is still this geographic dividing line. I think it probably begins just a little south of where you are, Andrew. It wouldn’t include Northern Virginia, but it would certainly include those areas, say from the Rappahannock River and Fredericksburg south and then west in the State of Virginia.] and the rest of the country would bring out the worst in both—dangerous insularity in the first, smug self-deception in the second. [Mike: Maybe it would just bring about independence and self-government.]
Southern political passions have always been rooted in sometimes extreme ideas of morality, which has meant, in recent years, abortion and school prayer. [Mike: Can’t cut down on one and have more of the other, now can we? Can you imagine that horrific world if you lived in that, more people praying, fewer babies killed in the womb? Gee, what an awful thing that would be.] But there is a largely forgotten Southern history, beyond the well-known heroics of the civil-rights movement, of struggle against poverty and injustice, led by writers, preachers, farmers, rabble-rousers, and even politicians, speaking a rich language of indignation. The region is not entirely defined by Jim DeMint, Sam Walton, and the Tide’s A J McCarron. It would be better for America as well as for the South if Southerners rediscovered their hidden past and took up the painful task of refashioning an identity that no longer inspires their countrymen.
Mike: In other words, if you stop acting Southern, you would be far better people and you would be doing things that would be far better for your neighbors. Maybe if Northerners stop being Northerners… [break transcript]
Mike: We talked about this story from the New Yorker, “Southern Discomfort” written by George Packer, another elitist East Coaster looking down his nose at Southern, hick, hayseeds — like myself and many of you — and encouraging us to stop being Southerners. Stop loving your God, stop praying, stop loving your guns, be more like a secular atheist like we are up here in New England and we’ll all get along better. The country will be better off. We won’t have any stupid God, no stupid aversions to this, that and the other. Everyone will be entitled to have abortions when they want them and they’ll be safe. Don’t we want to abort more kids? This is posted in today’s Pile of Prep, right alongside where you’ll find the Founders Tradin’ Post chock full of lots and lots of great stuff for you, especially on inauguration day. Just browse the secede category.
The bigoted things this guy says, if you inserted a female or a minority and hurled these kinds of epithets at them you’d be unemployed, Mr. Packer, but you can pick on Southerners. That’s just fine, they deserve it. I’m sensing quite really and quite demonstrably — remember, this started last year with Chuck Thompson’s book Better Off Without ‘Em, a Northern liberal who was on this show. He said, “Mike, I wish you and your Southern buddies would go. Go ahead and leave. You need to leave. You need to leave us alone; we’ll leave you alone. You guys are going to suffer mightily. You’re going to fail; we’re going to prosper. We’ll see whose experiment is going to work out better.”
I am sensing that there has been a change in attitude. There are many smarmy, snickety, smug New England / East Coasters, and many in the Midwest, that feel that way. Of course, if we’re the ones that say it, then you’re just a bunch of violent, racist, bigoted punks, even if you back it up with intellectual gravitas and the reasons why you desire the separation. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. You cannot escape. Once upon a time, there was this scourge, this thing called slavery, and it was in your state. We all know why you want to go back to doing it. It’s all so hackneyed. It’s all so low-brow. It’s not even worthy of mention here other than to point out the offensive nature of this. We’re supposed to get along with these people?
Now the South is becoming isolated again. Every demographic and political trend that helped to reelect Barack Obama runs counter to the region’s self-definition: the emergence of a younger, more diverse, more secular electorate, with a libertarian bias on social issues and immigration; the decline of the exurban life style, following the housing bust; the class politics, anathema to pro-business Southerners, that rose with the recession; the end of America’s protracted wars, with cuts in military spending bound to come. The Solid South speaks less and less for America and more and more for itself alone. [Mike: So do the Northerners speak for all of us? When the Northerners say we ought to be doing this or we ought to be doing that, what divine right from whence that comes?]
Solidity has always been the South’s strength, and its weakness. The same Southern lock that once held the Democratic Party now divides the Republican Party from the socially liberal, fiscally moderate tendencies of the rest of America. The Southern bloc in the House majority can still prevent the President from enjoying any major legislative achievements, but it has no chance of enacting an agenda, and it’s unlikely to produce a nationally popular figure. [Mike: That depends on where you define the nation at, Mr. Packer. As you’re suggesting we ought to go our own way, maybe the nation won’t be comprised of people that live in states like the one you live in, in New York, if indeed you do.]
As its political power declines, the South might occupy a place like Scotland’s in the United Kingdom, as a cultural draw for the rest of the country, with a hint of the theme park. [Mike: Now we’re just toys. This is just so offensive.] Country music and NASCAR remain huge. Alabama teams have won the past four college football titles. After the Crimson Tide’s big win over Notre Dame on January 7th, a Web site called Real Southern Men explained the significance in terms of regional defiance: “Football matters here, because it is symbolic of the fight we all fight. Winning matters here, because it is symbolic of the victories we all seek. Trophies matter here, because they are symbolic of the respect we deserve but so rarely receive.” That defiance is a sure sign, like Governor Rick Perry’s loose talk of Texas seceding, that Southernization has run its course.
Mike: It has? I’m going to suggest to you that if you believe Mr. Packer is correct, you ought to pick a book up called The Southern Tradition at Bay, written by Richard Weaver. Walk through the later chapters and see if what Packer is saying makes any real sense, or is it just a bunch of bigoted vitriol hurled at people with which he disagrees with and his ilk disagree with? I would wager to you that it’s the latter and not the former. What Southern man who is a father of young girls or soon-to-be teenage girls does not want them to grow up to be a debutante, does not want them to grow up to preserve that greatest treasure that they own, their virginity, until they find Mr. Right, until they marry for life, until they settle down somewhere, to make that most necessary of all things to have, a sovereign state, family to enrich and provide their communities with citizens? You think Mr. Packer is thinking about that from a high-rise somewhere on the Upper East Side?
I don’t have any problem with Packer writing like this and thinking like that. My problem is with his insinuation that somehow, because he views himself to be smarter than us accented, drawling hick hayseeds down here, that he ought to have the right of determining what forms of government we’re going to have, and how we’re going to operate them, and what things they can operate on, and how our culture ought to be. I would say that the invasion by Packer and company is what has given us Honey Boo Boo.
End Mike Church Show Transcript