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Authors: Michael Graham

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  • Below the Mason-Dixon line, which is essentially the Maryland-Pennsylvania border
  • The official Bureau of the Census definition, which includes Maryland, Delaware, and Oklahoma, but not Missouri (confirming
    for people everywhere that the federal government is, in fact, run by morons)
  • The states of the old Confederacy, a definition that overlooks the Civil War schizophrenia of Missouri, Kentucky, and the
    Oklahoma territory

But as any Southerner will tell you, maps don’t mean grits when it comes to where the South really is. Indeed, John Shelton
Reed argues that a state is southern if the people who live there think it is. For example, Oklahomans consistently tell pollsters
that they are southern and their communities are in the South, even though the typical cowboy wouldn’t know a mint julep if
you poured it over his Stetson.

Or take the peculiar case of the once and perhaps future presidential candidate Al Gore, who repeatedly claimed to be a “true
son of the South,” which reinforced the Southerners’ belief that everyone from Washington, D.C., is a liar.

Despite its location on the Potomac, few Southerners today claim the nation’s capital. John Shelton Reed notes that, before
World War II, Washington had the society and
spirit (and segregation) of a traditional southern city. It has since become a “company town for the federal government,”
and given the South’s contrarian relationship with the national government since, well, 1860, D.C. is now solidly enveloped
by the great Yankee Empire.

Not surprisingly, Al Gore did very well in D.C.

But does anyone in America even acknowledge the North/South boundary anymore? Does geography or regionalism even matter? The
idea is often dismissed by academics and political observers who see a bland and blanched America. They are wrong.

For those who insist that we live in a homogenized, supersized America whose significant regional differences have been washed
away beneath a tidal wave of Coca-Cola and cable TV, I offer the following from Northerner Mark Strauss:

Imagine then, for just a moment, the North as its own nation. Trent Lott and Dick Armey would be foreigners. We would no longer
be subjected to round-the-clock TV commercials for Dale Earnhardt commemorative plates. [A] new liberal majority would be
able to pass tougher gun laws and legislation barring discrimination against gays and lesbians…. We could implement “Plan
South Carolina” to convince tobacco growers to develop alternative crops. Northern observers could ensure democracy in Florida
polling places. Peace Corps volunteers could teach… Southerners to pull themselves out of poverty and illiteracy while simultaneously
promoting a better understanding of American values.

When these words appeared in
, Mark Strauss was senior editor at the prestigious but unread
Foreign Policy
magazine. His essay, “Let’s Ditch Dixie: The Case for Northern Secession,” made the funny, satirical, and painfully truthful
argument that the economic, cultural, and political standing of America’s northern states would be immediately improved if
Southerners were granted the independence we fought for in 1861. Should we Southerners be so ungracious as to decline this
belated but generous offer of reverse secession, Strauss recommends that his fellow Yankees give us the boot. Among Mr. Strauss’s
more compelling facts:

  • More people live below the poverty line in the old Confederacy than in all of the Northeast and Midwest combined.
  • You are three times more likely to be murdered in parts of Dixie than anywhere in New England.
  • The South has the highest infant-mortality rate, the highest incidences of sexually transmitted diseases, and the lowest SAT
  • The Confederate states rail against the tyranny of big government, yet they are the largest recipients of federal tax dollars.

Mr. Strauss’s facts were straight, his logic impeccable, and his humor dead-on:

Economically and socially, secession will be painless for the North. The South is a gangrenous limb that should have been
lopped off decades ago. They steal business away from the North the same
way that developing countries worldwide have always attracted foreign direct investment: through low wages and anti-union
laws. The flow of guns into America’s Northern cities stems largely from Southern states. The tobacco grown by ol’ Dixie kills
nearly a half-million Americans each year.

In fact, the only obvious downside is that the South would almost certainly insist on keeping the 3,150 nuclear warheads that
are scattered throughout Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, and Virginia. Maybe we could strike a deal to get those nukes back, the
same way Russia did with Ukraine after the Soviet Union broke up. If not, then perhaps national missile defense might not
be such a bad idea after all.

I enjoyed the article so much that I called Mr. Strauss’s office to arrange an interview, but I barely got the request out
before his assistant on the other end of the phone shut me down.

“Mr. Strauss has no further comment on this topic. His article was intended as satire.”

Strauss’s assistant had hung up on me. For a moment I thought, “Great, another rude New Yorker.” But something in the tone
of the beleaguered voice at the other end of the line sounded… familiar. I jumped on the Internet, checked a few Confederista
websites, and, just as I suspected, Mark Strauss was under siege, pinned down by incoming fire from the last soldiers of the
Lost Cause.

Southern partisans were outraged by Strauss’s comments and thrilled that a Yankee had finally admitted what Southerners long
suspected: Y’all want to get rid of us at the first opportunity. So the tireless, obsessed Confederateflag
wavers who make up the Confederacy of Dunces were letting Strauss have it with both barrels.

Is there any man more pathetic than the Southerner still defending the Confederacy? The Confederista spends his days calling
radio talk shows, arguing that the “War of Northern Aggression” had nothing to do with slavery; he drifts to sleep each night
dreaming of taking Washington after the Second Manassas; occasionally he can be found dressed in a hot, scratchy uniform of
gray wool, bathing in the re-created glory of some minor victory snatched from a collective past dominated by crushing defeat.

Satire? Satire expended upon the contemporary male Confederate has the same effect as a sexual advance from another man: It’s
got to be pretty obvious for him to realize what’s going on, and when he does, he’s not likely to appreciate it.

What these baleful Southerners wish to return to, I cannot say. Who wants to go back to feudalism, where a handful of feudal
lords prospered from the toil of the masses of poor, uneducated serfs?

Alas, the modern Confederistas are like California New Agers who believe in reincarnation: They were all Napoleons in a previous

One of America’s most prominent Confederistas is Michael Hill, head whackjob at the loony League of the South—an obscure organization
which has already declared southern cultural independence. After the Strauss piece was published, Hill jumped at the chance
to defend his “southron” heritage. He promptly published a rebuttal claiming that all the benefit of secession would be accrued
to the South: “A Southern nation composed of only the eleven States of the former Confederacy would have
74 million people, the thirteenth most populous in the world.” Its economy, Hill noted, would be the world’s fourth largest,
behind the (newly shrunken) U.S. of A., Japan, and Germany.

“God willing, after [secession] we Southerners will be busy enjoying the sweet fruits of a free and prosperous republic,”
Professor Hill wrote, “founded on private property, free association, fair trade, sound money, low taxes, limited regulation
of business, equal justice before the law, secure border, gun rights, protection of the unborn, and an absence of entangling
foreign alliances. In other words, Mr. Strauss, we’ll have a civilization and you will not.”

It’s just a suggestion, but somebody may want to double the guard at Fort Sumter.

What this tempest in an iced tea glass reveals is the strength of the idea of North and South, and the opposition of attitudes
they represent. The South exists strongly enough for Northerners to mock it and Southerners to defend it. Its ideology is
clear enough for Mark Strauss to fear it and Professor Hill to advance it as superior. The differentiation of the two cultures,
North and South, is so apparent to all observers that they can be analyzed and debated.

And, as the great Southerner Fred Nietzsche observed, cultures cannot coexist. They collide. They struggle, they battle, until
one has been vanquished and the other has triumphed. So we come back to the question: Who won? Which of these two cultures
dominates America as a whole? Is Southernism limited to the lower right-hand corner of the map, or does the Confederate banner
the ideas it represents, at least) fly from sea to shining sea?

To find out, let’s take the Where Are You? quiz. Please answer each of the following questions with the word “North” or “South”:

  • You take your young son to enroll at the local public school. The principal refuses to enroll him because he’s black. Where
    are you?
  • You live in a place where 80 percent of your neighbors will read just one book (or less) this year. Where are you?
  • You are outraged by an action taken by a Republican politician. You head to the copy shop, whip up some fliers denouncing
    the lout, and head to the local public park to pass them out. You’re arrested by the sheriff, who tells you that your town
    doesn’t allow any disruptive political speech in public. Where are you?
  • You turn on your TV and the most popular show of the week is a boxing match between has-been sit-com celebrities. The number
    one CD at the music store features the illiterate rantings of gold-toothed wanna-be pimps looking for yet another word that
    rhymes with “bitch.” Where are you?
  • Your local newspaper reports that one-third of all the children in your area are born out of wedlock. But it won’t matter,
    since 40 percent won’t be able to read their own birth certificates. Where are you?

Since you’re smart enough to be reading a book, you’ve figured out that all of these incidents come from the
North. More accurately, they apply to America as a whole. The stereotype of a racist, illiterate, well-censored collection
of tasteless dopes has expanded beyond the confines of the Confederacy and encompasses the entire nation.

While there is a clear difference between Northernism and Southernism, there is no significant difference between America’s
North and South. Northern liberalism, in its modern form, is indistinguishable from the Old South ideology that Northerners
fear and mock.

After reading the debate between Strauss and Hill, what is the real difference between the two sides? Yes, Dr. Hill is right
that the South could exist as a separate nation, and yes, Mark Strauss is correct in noting that the per capita wealth, health,
and intelligence of the remaining United States would increase immediately. But the supposedly conflicting sides actually
represent nothing more than a balance of power between different applications of the same ideas.

The Confederistas would love to abandon the confines of the U.S. Constitution and the protection of individual liberties found
therein. In fact, these liberties are viewed by Southerners as mere annoyances.

But with the exception of recently deceased Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms (What? They’re
dead? Check again, please!), who wants a resegregated South where the rights to assemble and speak are trumped by the majority’s
right to stomp “outside agitators”? Certainly not the 30 percent of the South’s population that is non-white, not to mention
the one in seven Southerners born outside the South.

On the other hand, Mr. Strauss’s argument for a Southfree
U.S.A. is just as repellent. In his vision of America, he celebrates the potential triumph of central government, of “a new
liberal majority” that could get to work gutting the Second Amendment without a bunch of yay-hoos complainin’ about it. We
could end all this nonsense about the government having to compensate you for turning your private property into a protected
habitat for the spotted snail darter. And we could finally pass some real hate-crime laws—you know, the kind that throw people
into jail for expression of any non-state-approved opinion.

What smug Northerners like Mr. Strauss cannot see is that they are advocating the same fundamental principals as their southern
counterparts. Northern liberals merely apply these principles from a different angle. Is Strauss saying that dumping the South
would also let him dump the Second Amendment of the Constitution? How is that significantly different from his belief that
evangelical Southerners are constantly trying to dump the First?

Would a Northern America adjust each citizen’s legal status based on his skin color or whom he has sex with? Gee, the South
was doing that for years until the North intervened.

Tired of those NASCAR ads on TV, Mark? You need to talk to the folks in New Hampshire and Chicago, where they are building
racetracks as fast as they can.

And if it’s southern illiteracy he fears, he should drop in on the public schools in Cleveland, Detroit, and Washington, D.C.—perhaps
the worst in the nation. Good northern liberals are the most impassioned opponents of an educational voucher system that would
let the children in these schools escape to the private sector tomorrow. Perhaps it’s because, like the bigoted Southerners
look down on, they don’t want their kids going to school with poor black kids, either.

In other words, the difference between Mr. Strauss’s North and Dr. Hill’s South is one of mere geography. Same ideas, applied
from a different direction. And nearly all those are ideas happily supplied by the solid American South.

North vs. South: A Primer
BOOK: Redneck Nation
2.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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