Thursday, June 11, 2009
Front Porch Friday: Southern Pride
The other day I noticed that many of my friends are not from The South and that they tend to have a different view of The South than I do. I think this difference comes from not understanding how history has affected the development of The South, so I decided that this Front Porch Friday I would share a Southern's perspective on the South.
If I had to pick one word to describe Southerners, it would be grit. You may be thinking that I chose that word because of the popular hats, t-shirts, etc with the anachronism, GRITS: Girls Raised In The South. However, I actually chose the word grit because Southerners have historically have had a great deal of hardships to overcome. For example:
1) The unique style and flavor of Southern food developed because Southerners had to come up with ways to cook meals using the limited choices available to them. (I know just how tough of a climate this area is to farm in, and I use genetically engineered seeds!) While The South is known for its large cotton plantations, the majority of Southerners were subsistence farmers from a wide variety of ancestral origins. Although Southern food may not be the healthiest food available, not too many people will complain about that when they are truly hungry. There is also something to be said for being able, when necessary, to make do with what you can grow and forage from nature.
2) Southern Charm and Hospitality is known the world over. It is a code of conduct that developed as a result of the hard and isolated life Southerners historically lived. Company to an isolated farm or plantation was a welcomed diversion, and the hospitality of strangers was a necessity to the weary traveler in the rural South. Today this generous spirit is still practiced in many areas of The South. In fact Mississippi is the number one state in the union for charitable giving followed closely by several other Southern states.
3) The Civil War was devastating for this country, although it was necessary. The South in particular suffered greatly. Families were torn apart as one brother fought for the Union and another brother fought for the Confederacy. The South also suffered more financially. They had put everything they had into the war and lost. There was also more loss of property in The South, particularly if you count slave labor in that. Slavery was wrong; however, sometimes doing the right thing morally can have very high costs financially. All of those factors worked together to create a very tough economic climate in The South for everyone. In some ways The South is still trying to catch up with the rest of the country.
4) All of the pain that resulted from the Civil War made insuring equality for all people that much more challenging. Finally, it came to a head during the Civil Rights Movement. My grandfather was actually living in Birmingham at the time. He said that often times people think that racism is something that is passed down from parent to child, but that although parents do greatly influence their children, racism seemed to be something that was taken on by the individual and not by the family. He said that many people are just content to drink milk with people, or to go along with what is popular. In fact, the rights we have today are because of the brave Southern men and women, both black and white, who risked everything for what they believed was right. The South often gets a lot of criticism for being slow to change. Sometimes this is even associated with a lack of intelligence. However, sometimes a slow change is a more lasting change.
5) Although The South is the only region of the United States to secede from the Union, we are also the region of the United States that provides the most military personnel. We are fiercely patriotic. We are apart of this union once again because of great cost. We stand behind the men and women who protect this nation, and we never forget those who make the ultimate sacrifice.
6) This long history of hardship has been the catalyst for the development of art in the United States, which often claim a Southern birthplace. Country, Jazz, Blues, Rock and Roll, and Bluegrass, among others are all musical genres that claim a definite Southern birthplace. From The South have also come great authors like William Faulkner, Mark Twain, Eudora Welty, Kate Chopin, Fredrick Douglass, Harper Lee, John Grisham, and Tennessee Williams to name just a few.
7) Finally, many times Southerners have been described as "clinging to their God and their guns." Perhaps it is because of our history, this refining by fire, that we have come to understand that God is the only one we can truly cling to and that He has given us the tools to make it in this life no matter how tough it gets.
With a history like that I am proud to say I was born a daughter or The South because I think it means I have the grit to make it when times get tough, the humility to admit when I was wrong, and the strength to stand up for what is right.