BEING SOUTHERN DOES NOT MEAN I EAT DIRT!!
I’m sitting here on my laptop in front of the TV and I keep seeing an ad for a new show. Its about some doctor who moves her practice down south. You can tell its the south by the myriad of cliched images on the in the ad— a big beautiful plantation house, the handsome redneck boy-next-door (those do exist, I’m married to one), the toothless hick that asks “You aint from ‘roun’ here, are ye?” I can predict where this show is going before the first episode airs. It will be the story of some intelligent Yankee-type person who comes down here to save all us adorable backwards yahoos. The initial episode will show her moving into her house out in the middle of nowhere (because we all know there are no metropolitan areas in the South). She’ll go into town where everyone will treat her as a suspicious outsider except for one sweet lil old granny lady who will take her in and befriend her. Then of course the sweet little redneck boy will happen by her house on his way to the local fishin’ pond and offer to help her do something around her house. There will be at least one episode dealing with racial strife, numerous jokes about grits and at least one person who goes by the name of Bubba.
Well let me tell all you chilrun’ what the South is really all about. Its about sweet tea on hot, summer nights. Its about taking off to “The Beach” for the weekend with your family. Its about saying hi to people that you’ve never met before and offering them a smile. Its about Grandmas that spend all day frying chicken over a hot stove, family reunions that last all day and walking barefoot in the grass.
You see, all of these cliched shows seem to be about us being saved by the forward-thinking foreigner. But it seems to me that others might have a little to learn from US. I’ve heard people from other places complain that everything here moves so slow. Well what on Earth is wrong with that? I think the rest of the world would do well to slow down a bit and enjoy their lives. Life is too short as it is. A dear friend of mine is facing the possibility of her life being shortened and she sure as shit would be glad for a bit more time to enjoy herself. Another criticism is that the South is so backward. And I’m the first to admit– we can be. But that’s not always a bad thing. Not in the sense of we’re taught old-timey manners down here. Some might think its silly to say “yes ma’am” and “please” or “thank you,” but I think its a good thing. It doesn’t take but a second and it makes the other person feel good.
Another big criticism of the deep South is that we have racial strife. And I’m sure we do. Everywhere does. But let me tell you a story that warmed my heart a couple of weeks ago. As you know, I live in South Carolina– famous for being the the site of the start of the Civil War and the first state to secede from the Union. My husband is a history nut and insisted the other week that we go and walk around the State House. As we’re walking, we came up to the African-American History memorial (which is beautiful if you ever have a chance to go see it) and my husband is telling us about all the people represented in the sculpture. Horrible stories of slavery and civil rights struggles. Stories that will make you wonder how in the world the human race has progressed so far. So I’m standing there, staring at this sculpture of a slave woman and I see this family walk up. They’re walking around, the parents talking to their children about the statues and I noticed the coolest thing— it was an African-American family, but one of the little boys had brought his white friend with him. And they were all participating in the discussion intelligently. It gave me hope and showed me how far we’ve come.
The South is my home. I’ve lived here my whole life and as a teenager, I hated it. I wanted to get out of here and move on to someplace bigger. But the older I get, the more I begin to appreciate all the things that make me a Southerner. The South has become kind of trendy right now, especially in the literary scene, with the popularity of Sookie Stackhouse and Anne Rice before her. I’m very positive on this and consider myself a Southern Gothic writer. I just hope that to “outsiders” that read these books or watch these TV shows, they will be able to catch a glimpse of all the things that make this place such an extraordinary piece of American culture.