“It was my first introduction to damn Yankees,” my oldest sister remarked of her first semester at James Madison University in the fall of 1982. It was here, at this university nestled in the mountains of Virginia and named after one of the state’s most famous sons, that her Northern dormitory suite-mates were horrified by such flagrant abuse of their delicate and enlightened sensibilities.
My sister’s crime? Being unapologetically Southern. See, she had not only hung on the wall an ornamental Derringer handgun, which these Pennsylvania and Jersey girls chirped would surely be the death of them, but she had the brazen balls – of which many a Southern belle are known to figuratively possess – to also quietly display a huge Confederate Battle Flag beside her bed.
These white chicks from up yonder were aghast at my sister’s pride of home and heritage, unsubtly disapproved of her accent, and were repelled by her refusal to take down the violent weapon or the Confederate symbol of hate. The audacity! Doesn’t that hayseed know her place? Doesn’t she know we’re offended? And why doesn’t she care that we’re shunning her?
“[Yankees] are pretty much like Southerners – except with worse manners, of course, and terrible accents.” — Author Margaret Mitchell
And their ironic position of attending a Southern institution named after the man who penned the Constitution and then calling racists the very people who fought and died and sacrificed to try to uphold those principles didn’t register with these miseducated youngsters. Who needs history when you have Yankee sanctification, right?
Just think if these crass carpetbaggers were smart enough to know that it was actually a Derringer which John Wilkes Booth used to shoot and kill their “Great Emancipator,” or that the “Rebel Flag” is based upon the heraldic Christian symbol, the St. Andrew’s cross, they’re pliable heads may have just imploded right there on the spot. The South Was Right (C... Best Price: $15.89 Buy New $9.57 (as of 02:00 EDT - Details)
But what’s the deal? This was 1982, for goodness sake – an era when Bo and Luke Duke were outrunning the law in their Battle Flag-cad muscle car on the smash TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard.” And the oil tycoons, cattle ranchers, and spicy damsels of “Dallas” were at peak popularity.
Marshall Tucker Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Allman Brothers were cranking out Southern-rock hits that dominated Top 40 radio. And Johnny Cash was proudly singing in front of the Battle Flag on “The Muppet Show.” To be cool was to be Southern.
My sister’s “god-awful” dorm mates were simply the product of New England schools, which Thomas Jefferson referred to as the “dark Federalist mills” of the North. These re-educated girls were harbingers of the full-throated cultural genocide, iconoclasm, colonization, and puritanical progressivism that has really kicked into high gear over the last few decades. If we just hadn’t been so darn hospitable!
“A Yankee is a particular breed of person who believes that everyone should live as he does, and if not, he will force you to bend to his will.” — Historian Dr. Brion McClanahan
I believe it was James A. Bayard, Jr., a U.S. senator of Delaware, who coined the phrase “Yankee Puritanism.” It was a common theme in his letters and speeches after the War of Northern Aggression and it spoke of the Union’s toxic cocktail of immoral centralized power and its use in attaining allegedly “moral reform” through law.
But Dixie wasn’t always the stomping grounds of petty imperialists. As I’ve unpacked in parts 1, 2, and 3 of this series, sectionalism remained strong in the first 250 years of America’s history, even with the movements of the Great Awakening missionaries, Western expansion, and “national greatness” politics.
The North-South divide was always palpable and the urban-rural split increasingly stark. Southerners were winning prosperity-wise, and New Englanders were jealous. But the Jeffersonian vision which dominated America from 1800 till the outbreak of the War also benefited the country as a whole.
America indeed was “exceptional” in many regards. Here are some mind-blowing stats from Dr. Donald W. Livingston, president of the Abbeville Institute.
But the South itself wasn’t homogeneous. For instance, the anti-authoritarian Scots and closely knit Celts who settled in Appalachia didn’t much care for the Cavaliers in the Piedmont and Tidewater regions.
Throw into that mix multi-generations of Africans who lived with some 5-25% of white families as slaves or among them as freed blacks, Spaniards in Florida, Catholics in Maryland, French Huguenots, and Native Americans who were distrustful of them all, and you’ve got the makings for anything but a monolith. Yet Southerners typically embraced a more “sweep your own back porch” culture, as opposed to the meddlesomeness that pervaded New England.
Southerners were steeped in natural law and understood that man is fallible, but through repentance could move closer to the moral mark through family, faith, and custom. “Traditions are mighty influences in restraining peoples,” aptly spoke Richard Taylor, Confederate veteran, Southern author, and son of President Zachary Taylor.
True to its Puritan roots, the Northern zeitgeist was bound in Man’s law, and pushed that human infallibility was actually possible but could only be attained through collective enforcement. Yankees were sure they had all the answers, so purifying the native pests became part of the doctrine. This could include both conquest and/or annihilation.