Can the South Survive?

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It was often said that the South would rise again, but a more appropriate question for today is, "Can the South survive as a distinct region and culture?" I’m not sure it can because of the vast migration of Yankees.

Now, having been forced by circumstances to experience a couple of Northern winters, I certainly don’t blame anyone who decides there are better things to do with one’s leisure time than wrap pipes, shovel snow and chip ice off the windshield. The South is a beautiful place, and I was not only born in the South, but have chosen all my life never to live anywhere else voluntarily.

I can also sympathize with people who don’t like fried chicken, grits, corn bread and collard and turnip greens, as I myself have a strong dislike of rhubarb, beets, boiled potatoes and boiled meat. A Philly cheese steak is a poor substitute for barbecue beef or pork. Scotch is no match for bourbon. Broiled cod doesn’t come close to fried mullet or catfish. And golf, as recreation, pales in comparison with fishing and hunting.

There are so many Yankees living in the South today that Jeff Foxworthy is going to have to change his comedy routine. At least in Florida, most of the trailers are occupied by Yankees, not rednecks. He’ll have to start saying, "You might be a Yankee if your house has wheels."

All I say to our Yankee residents is enjoy yourself, but don’t try to change us Southerners. We love our guns, always have and always will. As someone has pointed out, the protection racket never has gained a foothold in the South because a Southern shopkeeper will always have a gun handy and much prefer to deal in lead than payoffs to some ignorant thug. Now, gambling and gals are different, except in the Bible Belt, but even a Southern gangster will say "yes ma’am" and "no ma’am" and hold the door open for a lady.

Feminism is another Yankee fad we don’t much care for. Southerners have lived with strong women forever, but steel magnolias in the South have sense enough to remain feminine while being brave, hardworking and intelligent. Yankee feminists are all talk, having been spoiled by dealing with weak Yankee men. It’s impossible to even imagine a thug stabbing a woman to death in full view of Southern men, as has happened in the North and the urban West.

Not long ago, I heard a local radio report about an attempted robbery in a small Georgia town. The announcer said the would-be robber was captured by customers and quoted the police as saying that "as soon as he gets out of the hospital, he’ll be charged."

And that brings up the point of insults. I have observed that Yankees from the Northeast seem to think nothing of swapping insults, but that is a bad habit to bring to the South. Most Southerners will not take kindly to personal insults, and some will reply with violence. Rural Southerners were always taught never to insult a man you weren’t prepared to fight, and never fight a man you weren’t prepared to kill. It’s true that old and revered customs are somewhat impaired by the plethora of laws, but not all Southerners have a great deal of respect for laws.

A good rule of thumb is to check a man’s accent before you provoke him, especially when venturing outside the urban areas. And remember, it’s always a bad bet to assume that a Southerner is unarmed.

I once remarked to a friend of mine how nice the people of Mississippi are. He, a native of Mississippi, said, "Yes they are — as long as they like you." He recalled a story about his father, whose dog had killed a neighbor’s goose. The neighbor swore that he would kill the dog the next time he found it on his property.

"Well, you do that," my friend’s dad said, "and if nothing real bad happens to you, you’ll know you did the right thing." Southerners often speak indirectly. It’s helpful later on in court.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.

© 2005 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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