Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The South

Well Heeled recently posted about a country song, and how she:

"lived in big cities all my life, I’ve only visited the 2 coasts (and Dallas… if you count a layover), I don’t know anyone who’s even FROM the South. I’d really love to visit Charleston one day, though, just to see if it live up to its reputation of being the “best-mannered city in the U.S.

So, I guess, if I have any readers from the Southern states, what’s it like? What are some common misconceptions? What do you love about the South? What do you dislike? Is the pace of life really slower? How does a city in the South (say, Atlanta or Austin) compare with LA or San Francisco?"

I was pleasantly surprised by that post, and was excited that someone from the West Coast wasn't automatically dissing the South. Like many people do. However, I was not so excited about the response that Sense gave:

"Oh Boy. I’m from rural (as in cotton fields and horse farms are the only things twenty miles around my house) Virginia. I think living in a city in the South isn’t too much different from living in another part of the country in a city. City life is pretty much the same everywhere, except the accents are different. In cities, you find progressive people, more options for nightlife and cultural events, and more diversity (in general). The pace of life IS slower in Atlanta or Charleston, though. And everyone calls you ’sugar’ or ‘honey.’

In the rural South (as well as anywhere rural, most likely), however, there are still alot of holdovers from the past. I *hated* growing up in the country for alot of reasons:

1) Racism is the rule, not the exception. Our generation was taught in school and on afterschool specials that we were to treat everyone the same, regardless of race. In real life, though, my dad (who says alot of crap but isn’t racist at heart) got invited to join the KKK. Yeah–it’s still going strong. Before I moved to SoCal, my BEST FRIEND from high school told me not to date ‘any of those dirty Mexicans.’ I had a FIT on her.

1a) Why on earth are people still waving that stupid Confederate flag? They like that black people were once slaves, and want to go back to that time, one guy told me as an explanation for the flag sticker on his truck. to my face, he said this! I HATE the homophobia, sexism, and racism running rampant in the South. It makes me ill.

1b) No diversity. There was ALOT of segregation between black/whites in my high school, and virtually no other races to speak of (no Jewish, no Asian, no Latin-Americans…just black/white 50-50). Blacks and whites didn’t mix except in extreme circumstances.

3) it’s boring. This is how cow-tipping and muddin’ got their starts. And yes, I’ve done both. It’s humid in the summer, to the point that at 8 am in august, you have to shower after 5 minutes outside. Yucky.

4) People get stuck there. due to the poor school districts, most people don’t get a good education, and therefore can’t get into a good college. Then they get stuck in low-paying jobs. 90% of my friends from high school ended up having babies and/or getting married within 2 years of graduating high school–if they did finish at all. Every single one that got married then is divorced now. EVERY SINGLE ONE. It’s a trap. I’m the only one I know of in my class to leave the state of Virginia, except for the military folk who are now getting shot at in Iraq. I think when you live in the same place your entire life and don’t travel, it breeds racism and close-mindedness. Rural towns are a mecca for this.

Some things I liked:
1) The relative safety. it was a boring childhood, but there’s not much trouble you can get into, til you become a teenager.

2) cicadas, frogs, and cricket sounds on a humid night. (We had a swamp on our property.) Preferably with a thunderstorm rolling in. The smell of honeysuckle. Very, very peaceful.

No offense, but I hate the South. and I hate the country and the mentality. And i’ve been everywhere– from cities in the South to rural towns, to beach towns in the South, i’ve run into a terrible ‘fear of the different.’ my two best gay friends were stalked, almost got beaten up and lured out to a trailer for who-knows-what torture in Myrtle Beach once, as an example. and Myrtle Beach is a touristy beach town!

I think country songs paint a pretty glossy picture of how it really is to live in the south. The reality is pretty ugly.

I know you run into close-mindedness in any city or area, but I’ve run into MORE of it proportionately when I’ve lived in a southern town–this is just my experience, and doesn’t mean that I think everyone who lives in the south is racist or a horrible person. I don’t.

Sorry for the rant. This one touched a nerve…"

Well...Sense touched MY nerve on this one. Sense had an awful experience living in the South - while mine weren’t nearly as bad. My family moved to North Carolina when I was 6 (just late enough for me not to develop a serious accent) and I’ve lived here ever since. Not because I was “stuck” (I attended a top 25 university), but because I like having my family and friends nearby, and this is where my husband and I both got jobs.

Now, there are a lot of things wrong with the South - racism, homophobia and ignorance are rampant - but that is true for the majority of “small town America” - not just the South. In the cities you find more tolerant and accepting people, no matter what the region.

I just hate that people across the country give the entire region a bad rap because of the rural areas - have you guys been to the rural Midwest, rural PA (where my father is from) or even rural CA?? My husband is from CA, and often says, “There are more rednecks in CA than in NC.”

Now, some things Sense said I agree with, like the stupidity of the Confederate flag, the overall trashiness of Myrtle Beach and the lack of diversity. When I visited M's family for the very first time, I was really surprised at all the Asian families. I know that sounds really dumb and ignorant...but we just didn't have that many Asian families around when I was growing up. Sigh.

The thing is, I really like living in the South - it’s true…the humidity is AWFUL in the summer, but I love the mild weather, the summer thunderstorms, the lightning bugs and cicadas, the rolling topography, the proximity to both mountains and the ocean…and, for the most part, the people.

I have so much more to say about all this...but that is for another post/time/conversation. Does anyone else out there have positive or negative experiences with "The South?"


Anonymous said...

I'm from the South- Richmond, VA which isn't too southerny, but my mom is from rural South Carolina and that's where we would go most summers.

I can't believe that you like cicadas. They terrify me. I have this horrible memory of walking to to bus stop when they were out and you could barely walk down the street without crunching on one. Ew!

Anonymous said...

I live in Charleston now. If you visit this town you will find that it is absolutely the most polite place to be. Everyone is friendly and willing to strike up a conversation. Those tourist's vacation dollars flow pretty freely, and people pay to see the show.

If you move to Charleston from anywhere other than SC, people will treat you like you're something they stepped in. Any career-minded, independent young woman is a "yankee-bitch" -- it's definitely tough to adapt to, but it's beautiful and fun, so I'll suck it up for a while, but it's no mentality that I'd want to instill in children if I have any.

A Concerned Citizen said...

Hey - when is your next post?

Doris, Doris, Doris ::chants::