Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Everything that Rises Must Converge... least you'd think so, eventually. I thought I had moved away from regions where people are still fighting the War between the States by shouting things like "the South will rise again" out of their confederate-flag-draped pickups. Imagine my surprise when I read the following letter to the editor in the local big-city newspaper this morning:

Confederate soldiers fought against U.S.
I respond to the June 2 Dispatch article "But not forgotten." I strongly disagree with Richard Hoffman, a board member of the Hilltop Historical Society, who said "These are fallen Americans who fought for this country," in his description of the Confederate graves along Sullivant Avenue.
They didn't fight for this country, and it is offensive to anyone who lost a relative who died defending this country. These are the people who took arms against this country; that's a fact.
To ignore that fact is as ridiculous as anyone who would defend Germany on D-day and then tell you they were good people whom we should also honor.
Michael Yopko, Westerville

The letter sure woke me up, and made me start laughing. I pushed it across the table to Eleanor, who skimmed it and said "Dang, guys, that was about 150 years ago!"

Are people getting wackier and more entrenched in their strange beliefs, or is it just my imagination? A teacher at the local middle school just told me that her three children were harassed for the family's religious beliefs throughout their school careers, including an incident with a teacher who thought one of them needed to be "saved." "What is your family's religious belief?" I asked. I thought maybe her kids were going around telling people they were atheists, which would be a bit confrontational in this intensely religious community. But no. "We're Roman Catholic," she told me. I looked it up briefly (on google) and found that there are strange "Christians" out there preaching that Catholics are not saved and will go to hell. Huh. It's like the bible belt is encompassing more area than it used to. How American.

Maybe the whole country is getting as grotesque and gothic as the South, and we just haven't fully realized it yet. Maybe I'm thinking that partly because I just breezed through Stephanie Gayle's My Summer of Southern Discomfort, a strawberry daiquiri of a novel, easily consumed and with little effect. The main character is a northerner (Boston and NYC) who moves to the south (Macon, GA) and does predictable things, saying, at one point "in Georgia it's all about 'your people.' I draw out the phrase in my best mock Southern accent, which isn't very good. My throat clips the long vowels short." Isn't that just always the way when a northerner tries to mock a southern accent? As she gets to know her neighbors and allow her colleagues to know her, she begins to feel at home in the south. Her northern friends and relatives finally begin to accept that her new home is a place she enjoys, not simply a place where she is missing the pleasures of the north.

Well, geez. Or, in Eleanor's words, "Dang, guys!"


paj said...

I was at a cookout last weekend with people who were all natives of New York or New Jersey. My Southern accent could not be hidden, and finally someone asked where I was from. After I confessed to being Southern-born, one person said, "I thought so. It's the accent and the smile." Who knew that it was Southern to smile?!

Anonymous said...

Remember one of Swift's arguments for stewing babies is that it would reduce the number of papists in Ireland. Some things never change.

We're actually in Catholicland because of all the Italians that settled here in Billtown.

I always know it's the South when they serve me green beans that have been cooked for hours with a hunk of fat--that and iced sweet that is undrinkably sweet.

SFP said...

A Catholic kid got kicked out of a private Christian school in North Carolina about four years back because (are you ready for this?) "he prayed funny."

I think that letter to the editor sounds mighty refreshing! I'm so sick of the Confederate flag and its defenders and the yammering that goes on about states' rights.

Anonymous said...

Strongly recomend "Confederates in the Attic" - thi swill answer your questions. Might also give you a few sleepless nights, but at least you will have answers