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Haley Barbour turned quite a few heads this weekend when he came right out to CNN saying that Bob McDonnell's omission of slavery in his proclamation of Confederate Memorial Month "didn't amount to diddly." But keep in mind, this is also the guy who turned heads by openly referring to himself as a "fat redneck" when asked to give his opinion on the Michael Steele RNC fiasco.

But this isn't just about me "in a nit" about Barbour or the confederacy with the rest of my fellow Kossacks. This is about the overall mentality of the South and Southerners when it comes to touchy subjects like civil rights (yep, still a touchy subject for a few folks, even in 2010) and remembering the Confederacy.

I need your help. Mississippi needs your help. The Deep South needs your help.

More below the fold.

Southern Mindsets
Mississippi is the same state where, in front of our state capitol, we have a monument dedicated to the "wives, sisters, mothers and daughters of the Confederacy." Slavery isn't mentioned anywhere on this monument. What the monument does mention is how these women stood behind their families as they fought for a cause that they believed was worth dying for.

A few months ago, some teabaggers were rallying outside of the capitol, and one woman stood by the monument, holding up a sign with the tenth amendment written on it. She told me that she thought states "should use our tenth amendment rights to challenge the tyranny of the Obama administration." I asked her if she meant secession by that comment, and she said, "Well, no. I don't think it has to come to that."

I'll give you another example of the Southern mentality- I'm a member of, which is a great project that brings people together thru hospitality, trust and friendship. Like facebook for travelers, essentially. You create profile, discuss your life philosophy, describe your interests, have a few pictures up, and folks who have surfed with you before can write references for other guests, talking about how great of a host you were. It's an amazing social network, and I love it.

Well, just last week, I had a couchsurfer named Jerry Nelson. He's a 54-year-old veteran of the Navy, and he's riding his bike across the country to raise awareness about homeless vets. He's also especially interested in the South, as he's a history buff and curious about the civil rights era. Before riding down to see me in Jackson, he told me about visiting Philadelphia, Mississippi, which is in the Northeastern part of the state, up in Neshoba County. That part of the state is known as "Hill Country." It's also where a a lot of the hot-headed right-wing religious folks live.

He told me about the hospitality he was shown upon coming into a small convenience store and asking for directions, and a bike shop where he could get his spokes fixed. He said the woman behind the counter was extremely friendly and conversational.

Then, he asked her about any "cool civil rights history locations" where he could stop by and take pictures. He told me the woman then looked at him with pursed lips and said, "Oh, we don't talk about that."

Now, about an hour South of Jackson off of Highway 49, is a little town called Mendenhall. I traveled there a couple of weeks ago to cover a story about some stimulus funds for the SBA helping small business owners get loans and grow jobs (you mean the big bad mean federal government's spending helps people?!?) and found something that caught my eye.

It was a mural of an American flag on the side of a shed, just down the street from a warehouse that had another mural with "USA- God Bless America" written on the side, colored like the stars and stripes. This flag mural, however, had a box of french fries centered on it. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the fries had "FREEDOM FRIES" written on the box. Remember back when France didn't support our war of choice based on faulty intelligence? I'm guessing that mural is about 7 years old. But still painted on the side of a building, undisturbed.

So, needless to say, a lot of Southerners are painted as backwards, ignorant, uneducated, racist, or a myriad number of derogatory terms by folks in more progressive places out West or up North. Generalizing never has helped people much in the way of understanding, though. So that's where I come in.

Being Progressive in the South
Patton Oswalt had a bit talking about how every red state has that one haven of sanity, tolerance, intelligence and progressiveness "in the midst of just...shit." For example, Texas has Austin, North Carolina has Asheville, Kentucky has Louisville, Louisiana has New Orleans, and some people would say that Mississippi has Jackson.

I moved to Jackson to take a job as the capitol correspondent for a well-known and respected news organization available across the state. I consider myself a progressive, although I make sure not to include my own personal views in my news stories, because I need to keep my job. I pride myself on what I do in bringing the truth out into the open, in speaking truth to power, and doing my best to educate Mississippians thru the news. Keeping them informed of legislative affairs, public policy, and the impact of severe budget cuts to all agencies and employees, from education to universities to mental health to transporation, and everything in between. I feel journalism is a noble calling of public service; we journalists are trusted to provide the full story, to give readers/listeners/viewers the scoop on how their policymakers are dealing with unprecedented budget crises. I also talk frequently with Gov. Barbour.

I'm familiar with Gov. Haley Barbour's national prominence, of his celebrated chairmanship of the RNC back in the early '90s, when he oversaw the Republican takeover of congress in 1994, and the death of Clinton's health care reform bill. I'm familiar with his career as the highest-paid lobbyist on K Street, lobbying for Philip Morris and plenty of other highly influential firms. He is a master politician. I refer to him as the anti-Bill Clinton;  a Southern gentleman politician, a natural charmer with a comical accent, but a top hustler for his causes and ruthless in commandeering the legislature- particularly the Senate. He is everything Bill Clinton was to the left, except for the far right instead.

In November, when he presented his Executive Budget Recommendation, he had the entire state's black population jumping at the bit when he proposed consolidating all of the state's Historically-Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs, under one umbrella. The state college board commissioner shurgged his shoulders when I asked him about it, and said he didn't see how that would save any money at all in the long-term, and that the process in itself might actually cost money. State legislators, who actually put the budget together, both in the liberal house and conservative senate, said the HBCU proposal was dead on arrival, that it wouldn't happen, and that they didn't see why the media was getting everybody worked up about something that just wasn't going to have any traction.

After Gov. Barbour made his HBCU announcement, he was nowhere to be seen for weeks. This was around the time Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln still had lukewarm support for health care reform. Arkansas and Louisiana are states that border Mississippi. Both of their campaigns are heavily subsidized by the private health insurance/pharmaceutical lobby. Gov. Barbour has infinite connections on K Street. Putting two and two together, one could speculate that it wouldn't be too hard for Haley Barbour to make a few calls to Landrieu/Lincoln's supporters, and urge them to put money behind primary opponents in the elections if they voted for health care reform.

In the meantime, he's seen at bill-killing rallies in Washington, talking down health care reform with a folksy Southern accent, much like he talks down taxing the rich to offset budget cuts to services for the poor, or how he talks down Democratic proposals by state lawmakers to offset budget cuts with some of the state's $700M plus in reserve accounts. He does so masterful framing, and simplistic sound bites that register in the minds of his deep southern constituents.

In short, Haley Barbour is a shrewd political mastermind.

Electability of Southern Politicians
So, this brings me to the whole Confederacy thing. Gov. Barbour is right in that our state lawmakers made Confederate Memorial Day a holiday. State offices are closed on the last Monday of April because of it. I should also mention that Robert E. Lee's birthday is celebrated each year on the same day as Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. MLK day is a national holiday, Robert E. Lee's birthday is a state holiday. You can pretty much choose which day you want to celebrate on the third Monday of January.

However, many of our elected officials are black, usually representing the impoverished Delta or the Jackson area, which is our biggest city, and home to all of the state's young progressive professionals. All of the black elected officials in Mississippi are democrats. but even they are seemingly terrified of speaking out against any sort of Confederate memorial or celebration, because of the potential political fallout in a deep southern state like Mississippi. Why, do you ask?

Gov. Barbour won his office after the 2003 election against Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, using the flag as a wedge issue. Mississippi's state flag is compsoed of three stripes; a red, white, and a blue stripe, like France's flag. However, in the corner of our flag is the Confederate Stars and Bars. Musgrove was in support of a ballot initiative that would remove the Confederate flag from the state flag. Haley Barbour defeated him with a simple slogan- "Keep the flag, change the governor." He won by a significant margin. He even won much of the black vote.

Basically, what I'm getting at here is that there is a deep-seeded Southern/Confederate pride that's been hammered into the heads of voters, which is why we elect governors like Haley Barbour, and why even black elected officials don't want to talk on the record about the flag or anything involving the Confederacy. With a steady stream of truth from an honest news media, perhaps this mindset can be changed in the long term. But fighting towards a more progressive South will be an uphill battle. We need the help of Kossacks most of all, not to bash the South, but to understand it and help reverse the cultural mindsets of southerners.

We southerners are a proud people. We are warm. We are kind. We are hospitable. Our waitresses will call you "doll" and "honey" while they pour you a glass of sweet tea and tell you how cute your kids are. We are not openly hateful or racist or even willfully ignorant. We need the help of our fellow Americans to bring us all together, and to provide diverse knowledge and a deeper understanding of tolerance and social progression.

Hating on all of the south or even all of Mississippi because of one governor's comments is not helpful.  

Originally posted to Free Chicken and Beer on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 09:13 AM PDT.


Are you willing to help the South progress?

24%22 votes
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| 89 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (23+ / 0-)

    "God made us number one 'cause he loves us the best. Well maybe he should go bless someone else for awhile, give us a rest." -Ben Folds

    by Free Chicken and Beer on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 09:13:24 AM PDT

  •  Having grown up in the South (7+ / 0-)

    We southerners are a proud people. We are warm. We are kind. We are hospitable. Our waitresses will call you "doll" and "honey" while they pour you a glass of sweet tea and tell you how cute your kids are.

    All depends on who you are.  Living while black or gay tends not to get you a lot of kindness, or hospitality, or "doll" or "honey."  Granted, the South isn't unique in this, and it's changing (if ever so sllloooooowwwwwwllly), but let's save the sugar for the sweet tea.

    We are not openly hateful or racist or even willfully ignorant.

    Again, depends.  Some Southerners most certainly are (with the same qualifications as above).

    •  In Louisville, I worked at the oldest fine (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe, corvo, Crashing Vor

      dining restaurant called Hasenour's. This was in the 90s.

      I had to call the owner and mangers by their first names with Miss or Mister, Mister Jim, Miss Karen. Darned if Mister Jim said over and over sounds like Master Jim.

      All the busboys were black. NO waiters, bartenders or mangers were black. The busboys were not allowed at tables while customers were there. They could not pour water or coffee or take away plates, nothing until the WHITE customers left.

      I quit in a short time.

      •  Ah, yes, Hasenour's! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe, louavul

        The place you take your 'rents to when they come to town.  I remember it well.  But I just preferred going down the street to Masterson's for my gyros.  

        A shame Leander's closed a few years back.  Is 610 Magnolia still around?

        My favorite and totally OT Louisville restaurant story: Shortly after I moved there, my grandfather asked me if I'd been to Cunningham's.  Of course I had been; good fish sandwich.  But I didn't understand the gleam in his eye until I later found out that when he was a young man, Cunningham's was a whorehouse!

  •  It would be nice if Daily Kos had . . . (13+ / 0-)

    . . . one (1) Southerner as a Front Page political writer ( and, no, with all due respect, Florida doesn't count unless we're talking the Pandhandle ).

    Broadbrush, sweeping statements about all Southerners are part of the mindset.  Never mind that, except for Boortz, virtually all of the big time Hate Radio jocks, Palin, Bachmann, and a host of House and Senate Right Wing Loons are all Yankees.

    No region has a monopoly on crazy.  As for turning the South "Blue," I agree completely:  over and over again writing-off the South helps fulfill a prophesy.  


    "I have to go now. I feel . . . sticky." Anthony Bourdain

    by BenGoshi on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 09:27:12 AM PDT

  •  If there is any room for compromise and (6+ / 0-)

    progress in states like Mississippi, it would be for progressives to allow whatever celebrations of the rebellion people want. . .

    . . . in exchange for absolute, uncompromising and never-failing enforcement of equal rights.

    Seeing the selective use of public institutions (from state police to zoning boards) in the Magnolia State just over the last couple of years, I don't know if that's possible.

  •  They are not "openly" hateful or racist (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, Richard Lyon

    but please, ya'll need to move on.

  •  Southern Strategy (4+ / 0-)

    I tend to find that the Democratic party has it's own "southern strategy" which is basically 'bash the ignorant rednecks'.  I have always found it distasteful.  Just because someone is not as educated as you does not mean that their opinion or vote is worth less.  I remember reading that in the early 1800's there were more people pushing for the end of slavery in the south than in the north but the moment it became a South vs North thing, it all changed.
    I'm not from the south and I'd never fly a confederate flag, but I tend to think that much of this sort of thing is overblown.  Does anyone think that Bo and Luke Duke were making a statement about slavery by driving around a car emblazoned with the Confederate flag and calling it the General Lee?  Shoot, one of the guys on that show became a Democratic Congressman.  

  •  Me & the South (7+ / 0-)

    I admire the South, really truly.  It's experienced a very significant social and political revolution (unaccompanied by economic revolution, but this is America we're talking about!) in relative peace.  What we rightly decry in the public and private behaviors of many white southerners is trivial stuff compared to before the mid-1960s.  The South really is America now, not some foreign country.  Even if you're black, and truth be told, even if you're gay if your comparison isn't just bigger cities outside of the South but the country as a whole.

    Having said all that, there is unimpeachable evidence that whites in the South make political decisions largely based on racism: they migrated from Democrat to Republican when Democrats embraced racial justice and Republicans began to back away from it.  I don't think it's possible to reclaim the South for progressivism unless we have a frank intervention-type appeal to southern whites: are you going to stick with a Republican party that hates you and makes your life worse, just because you don't want to be in the same party as your black neighbors?  I don't think any less-forthright appeal will work, e.g. a generic appeal as we'd make to Republicans or swing voters elsewhere in the country.    

    When your dream comes true, you're out one dream --The Nields

    by Rich in PA on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 09:35:01 AM PDT

    •  I think it's religion more than racism (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You're definitely right on some counts, but I think the driving force behind Republicanism in the South is religion, far more than racism.  I know a lot of Mississippi Republicans, and honestly, a lot of them aren't racist.  They are, however, Southern Baptist, and they've become convinced that the Republican party is the "Jesus" party.  They vote more on abortion and teaching-creationism and stopping-gay-marriage (which, o' course, is still bigotry) far more than they do about race.  A lot of the racism stuff has died off with the younger generation; now that schools are integrated, the white kids know black kids and have black friends, so the stereotypes that drive racism just don't stick anymore.  The religion, however, is still imbedded deep, and they're slower to shake that off.

      "Glenn Beck ends up looking like a fat, stupid child. His face should be wearing a chef's hat on the side of a box of eclairs. " - Doug Stanhope

      by Front Toward Enemy on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 10:38:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Free Chicken and Beer Should be a Front Pager (4+ / 0-)

    I do think that the front page piece and a lot of the comments on Kos are a knee-jerk stereotyping that calls for always laughing at the South and its foibles.  

    I grew up in the South.  I know all its dimensions.  It does have some of the most unfortunate poverty and backwardness in the country.  But it is also the only region of the country that was attacked and defeated in a war.  

    Reconstruction, following Lincoln's assassination, was a terrible disaster that still has ramifications rippling through the politics of our time.  

    Healing that will take another several generations.

    A lot of people who are interested in public debate about politics have to admit to an attention span more aligned with sports and entertainment.  This will require adjusting to a long term, perhaps Chinese, sense of history and time.

    I hope that Kos decides to quit engaging in prejudice and stereotyping and to go with commentators that really have some experience in writing about the region, such as Free Chicken and Beer does.  It would help set up a long term "Southern Strategy" for encouraging progressivism.  

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 09:36:32 AM PDT

  •  I'm originally from MS (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, bmcphail, skohayes, Alec82

    And I do understand what you're saying, honestly.  But the problem with Mississippi is that... well, there's really not that much of which the state should be proud, aside from some excellent arts borne mostly of desperation.  Secession & rebellion weren't exactly honorable in context, after all, and the state's entire history since then seems to involve clinging determinedly to its bottom-quintile status on every quality-of-life measure, all the while blaming Yankees, liberals, and shiftless black Mississippians for those stats instead of trying to fix them (hint: it involves helping people they dislike, not making special efforts to crap on them & then pointing fingers when the inevitable failures occur).

    It's not that people there aren't generally friendly in social situations, although as was pointed out, this is a highly conditional assumption.  And the food's often good, if unhealthy, and when I lived there & had car trouble, the odds were usually in favor of the next person to pass being able to help.  But the social structures, the political assumptions, the faith communities, and just the general way many individuals see themselves and the rest of the world are so bizarre, so punitive and destructive and spiteful and unhinged, that it really doesn't matter that much if someone calls me 'honey' when I buy a piece of pie, y'know?

    Sigh... I was just talking to my sister this morning about this-- she was always a staunch defender of the South and its culture even while becoming very educated & progressive herself, and she basically has had enough.  Since Obama came to prominence (and since she reconnected with so many hometown types online), she's developed a screw-'em-they're-hopeless attitude that surprises me.  We all dealt for years with non-southernerse who were surprised that we were smart & well-read, or even apparently stunned that we wore shoes, but those were pretty harmless negative assumptions compared to the real problems with the deep south IMO.

    "Conservative principles" are marketing props used by the Conservative Movement to achieve political power, not actual beliefs. -Glenn Greenwald

    by latts on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 09:44:39 AM PDT

    •  That's an interesting perspective, thank you (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      latts, bmcphail, Richard Lyon

      I'm from the North and I don't pretend to understand the desire to defend Southern identity and pride, and I sympathize with liberals (or other free thinkers) trapped in both the Southern political culture as well as stereotypes that Americans from the North sometimes cling to, but what I think I find most difficult to stomach is the attempt to play the victim card and stubbornly insist that symbols of apartheid (including that flag) aren't what they are.  

      Policy, Peace and Progress Before Party

      by Alec82 on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 09:50:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Stop your car on any country road in Mississippi (5+ / 0-)

      and put up the hood.  It won't matter much if you are black or white, within a half hour you will have three to five cars/pickups stopping to render assistance.

      There is indeed still a lot of ugliness.  There are people who are still totally up front with racist remarks.  

      But Southern hospitality and polite public manners are a powerful force that is difficult to get others to apprehend accurately.


      We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

      by bmcphail on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 09:55:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I realize that (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bmcphail, Richard Lyon, Alec82

        ... which is why I specifically mentioned it.  But there's no getting around the fact that a lot of those exceedingly-generous lay mechanics vote against decent schools & working conditions for the people whose cars they'll so cheerfully repair.  For me, as a white female whose schools were decent (if not outstanding) and who was raised in a book-loving, authority-questioning family, that kind of generosity could be enough; for those who bear the heavier burdens of the political & social cultures there, maybe not so much.  And to be blunt, since I left MS, I can also afford more reliable cars.

        My point was that those niceties don't make up for the generally oppressive and oppositional broader culture that keeps the state's structure & opportunities at the bottom of the barrel.

        "Conservative principles" are marketing props used by the Conservative Movement to achieve political power, not actual beliefs. -Glenn Greenwald

        by latts on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 10:51:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Absolutely true: tolerance in MS is personal (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          latts, Greg in TN, Alec82

          and legal, but not institutional. If you know what I mean.  and that's the task before us.


          We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

          by bmcphail on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 10:59:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  ...and many in the state STILL (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          latts, Greg in TN, Alec82

          after all these years don't understand the linkage between liberal culture and economic prosperity.


          We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

          by bmcphail on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 11:00:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Great piece of writing... (3+ / 0-)

    ...and largely accurate.  I take exception only to your locating all Mississippi progressive sentiment in Jackson.  There are plenty of progressives on the Coast, and Hattiesburg is heavily influenced by the University of Southern Mississippi.

    In fact, I lived in Jackson for a few years a long time ago and while my firsthand knowledge is admittedly quite dated, it never stood out in my mind as particularly progressive.


    We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

    by bmcphail on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 09:49:48 AM PDT

    •  Jackson's progressivism (6+ / 0-)

      Apologies for omitting the coast. USM and Hattiesburg has a lot of progressives in the area, and Rep. Toby Barker was behind the bike legislation that the governor signed just recently, so hats off to the folks for electing a young liberal like Barker and for fighting for progressiveness.

      And Jackson has just begun a new wave of progressivism since very recently. It became noticeable last October, when we suddenly got an influx of young progressives in professional occupations; lawyers, journalists, nurses, researchers. They support the local economy, the local arts community, small restaurants, locally-owned grocery stores, small independent businesses.

      And they've really started revitalizing the downtown district. Friends of mine are moving into the predominantly-black West Jackson area in an effort to integrate society beyond schools and public places. We go to black churches, eat at black restaurants, go to spoken word/slam poetry shows. Jackson is coming back in a big way. I'd like to think we'll be on par with Austin in another ten years at this rate.

      "God made us number one 'cause he loves us the best. Well maybe he should go bless someone else for awhile, give us a rest." -Ben Folds

      by Free Chicken and Beer on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 09:59:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Education (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Greg in TN, corvo, bmcphail

    needs to be paid for with something besides property taxes.

    •  Educational financing (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Front Toward Enemy

      Mississippi spends less per pupil than almost any state.

      Mississippi spend more than most states as a percentage of government expenditures.

      It's a very poor place.  

      Again, my information may be out of date but my impression is that the state constitution of Mississippi and several other southern stats  were basically written by and for large landowners and the state and county budgets are financed less from property taxes, which are kept relatively low, and more from sales tax and sin taxes.  

      This leads to instability: the schools cannot count on a steady income because they are dependent on sales tax receipts which go down when people stop buying stuff.


      We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

      by bmcphail on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 10:01:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Constitutional rewrites (5+ / 0-)

        Several times, when I've spoken with the public affairs person for Medicaid, he tells me off the record about how outdated our constitution is when it comes to budgets, taxation and appropriation. He says it's high time for a constitutional convention where we completely rewrite our constitution for a 21st-century Mississippi.

        That might be a stretch to say, but I think it would leave a lasting impression in a lot of minds that shows that even a deep Southern state is willing to undergo massive changes to adopt to a fast-paced, ever-changing world. It could spur a wave of progressivism across the South if it does happen, and if progressives have a fair say in how the Constitution is rewritten. It's up to folks in the media to get lawmakers to talk on the record about it.

        "God made us number one 'cause he loves us the best. Well maybe he should go bless someone else for awhile, give us a rest." -Ben Folds

        by Free Chicken and Beer on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 10:10:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Unfortunately (0+ / 0-)

          I have to comment that although this would be a major step forward, it has been a stated goal of every faintly progressive politician in MS since at least Gil Carmichael in the mid '70s.

          The status quo is an even more powerful force in MS than elsewhere, even though the constitutional rewrite is desperately needed.  Some opposition might even come from the progressive side: can you imagine some of the craziness that various factions would like to write into a new state constitution?


          We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

          by bmcphail on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 10:38:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  When white southerners in any real numbers (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, bmcphail

    start to show some diversity in thought and action then the rest of the world might begin to change its perceptions. I am a white southerner who got out in the 60s and has never regretted the move. I go back for visits and I still see pervasive racism.

  •  I'm a northern transplant that teachers college (3+ / 0-)

    here, and there is both good and bad. To me, while 'race' probably the most obvious background issue... the big thing I think most northerners would find utterly alien is the sheer domination of public life by religion. It is omnipresent and touches everything. For instance, one of the major academic administrative units here had a 'Holy Family' vs 'Claus Family' Family-Feud-style contest during their Christmas party. At a public institution.

    In fact, my department head - an older, black, MS native who has recently returned after some time up north, said he was surprised by just how overtly 'Christian' the old segregationist private academies have become.  

    But, I have hope. A lot of the younger folks in my classes are light years from where their parents/grandparents are.  

    Sponge Bob, Mandrake, Cartoons. That's how your hard-core islamahomocommienazis work.

    by Benito on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 10:04:28 AM PDT

    •  I keep wondering when the migration (0+ / 0-)

      to the sunbelt will begin to tip the cultural scales. So far I can't see much indication of it.

    •  nailed it. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You got it.  The main difference between the South and the rest of the country is religion.  I live in a small Mississippi town and the phone book has five pages in the Yellow Pages just for the Baptist churches alone.  It, more than any other force, drives politics (and just about everything else) down here.  

      "Glenn Beck ends up looking like a fat, stupid child. His face should be wearing a chef's hat on the side of a box of eclairs. " - Doug Stanhope

      by Front Toward Enemy on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 10:47:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  and I find that more disturbing than race (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Front Toward Enemy

        Race can and is something people can compromise on and come to terms with. It is hard to argue that people are 'naturally' inferior or 'naturally' superior given everyday experience.

        But questions about God? The potential for sectarianism is very, very real over this stuff.

        Sponge Bob, Mandrake, Cartoons. That's how your hard-core islamahomocommienazis work.

        by Benito on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 11:09:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  teachers college? - damn typo! (0+ / 0-)

      Sponge Bob, Mandrake, Cartoons. That's how your hard-core islamahomocommienazis work.

      by Benito on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 11:06:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have some family in extremely rural Texas (5+ / 0-)

    which I understand isn't "The South" but there are enough similarities to make this story relevant.  I went to visit them a few years ago. These people are older and extremely conservative. We had dinner together and the conversation turned to immigration.  They talked about how much they appreciated the work ethic and strong family-based community of the local Hispanic immigrant community, which was good; they used a term to describe these individuals that started with a "w" as if it were the only term that they knew to describe such individuals.

    I had a similar experience later with one of them, she wanted to say something (that was very gracious) about African-Americans but couldn't think of a term to describe them other than the one used in her childhood, which started with an N.  I politely supplied her with a the term "African-American" and she was grateful.  We later had a theological discussion of gay marriage (not my choice, but she wanted to talk about it), and she was very interested and enthusiastic to hear about the progressive theological basis for support of gay rights and gay marriage.

    What I'm saying is that trying to talk through these things with conservative southerners might be a bit off-putting and might require tolerance and patience for some inappropriate language, but you can get through to someone if you are polite and respectful.

    •  I would be inclined to think (0+ / 0-)

      that this attitude of tolerance that you perceived behind the language issues is pretty atypical. My experience is that it is usually much more complicated than simple vocabulary issues.

      •  Maybe the tolerance is atypical (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Greg in TN, Front Toward Enemy

        I was surprised to find out the tolerance that existed once I got past the language.  I am sure, however, that these people are not the only ones out there who are surprisingly tolerant.  I'm also sure that being polite and respectful can get you a long way with those who are conservative but also civil, and that such conversations are how one sows seeds of progressiveness in areas that some here have given up on as being too conservative.

        •  I certainly don't presume to tell you (0+ / 0-)

          what you did or did not experience in that particular situation. However, my experience with southern courtesy has much more often been that it is used as a barrier to honest discussion. Any attempt to present unpopular ideas is likely to be met with have some more iced tea.

    •  Thank you. (3+ / 0-)

      That's really all I'm trying to get across with this diary. Writing off all Southerners as hateful and ignorant and racist is easy, but it is NOT constructive to the progressive cause. It actually hurts us considerably as a movement.

      The reason Republicans are so successful at controlling the public dialogue is because of how united they are in their message and their efforts at communicating that message.

      Progressives have powerful weapons like truth and facts on our side, but we're so divided against each other that it drives away the independent voter. If we want to win hearts and minds, we need to extend open arms to the South and work on communicating the progressive message as effectively as Haley Barbour communicates the conservative message.

      I strongly suggest that to do this, everyone read "Don't Think of an Elephant" by George Lakoff. Krugman's "Conscience of a Liberal" is also great. Work them into conversations with friends. To lawmakers off the record. To folks at church or at the grocery store. We can change a lot of minds at the grassroots level.

      Thanks for sharing your story. It makes me feel better about what I'm doing.

      "God made us number one 'cause he loves us the best. Well maybe he should go bless someone else for awhile, give us a rest." -Ben Folds

      by Free Chicken and Beer on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 10:20:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  ASDF (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Greg in TN

        Writing off all Southerners as hateful and ignorant and racist is easy, but it is NOT constructive to the progressive cause. It actually hurts us considerably as a movement.

        Absolutely; which is why I don't do it, personally. In fact I'll admit I think that over-emphasizing racist motives is itself counter-productive.

        I prefer to see the Teabaggers in all parts ot the country just get challenged on the merits of their arguments (or lack thereof). It's too easy for them to deny they have any racial motivation (and at least some really don't I'm sure) to their hatred of the Prez and then it gives them ammo to shoot back.

        by Erik the Red on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 10:54:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Southern Thing (14+ / 0-)

    There's a duality to the Southern mindset that's hard for anyone from other regions to understand.  There's a lot that's great down here, and a lot that's bad.  Luckily, most of the bad is dying out... although never quickly enough.  And Haley Barbour and his embarrassing stupidity certainly doesn't help that.

    There's a band called The Drive-By Truckers who explain it better than I can, in a song.   I wish YouTube had the live version off the DVD I've got, so you could see the audience enthusiastically singing along at all the anti-hate parts, and the band and the audience raising their fists in a salute when they mention Martin Luther King.  Anyway, here's the version I could find, plus the lyrics (with some of the most pertinent lines bolded):

    Ain't about my pistol
    Ain't about my boots
    Ain't about no northern drives
    Ain't about my southern roots
    Ain't about my guitars, ain't about my big old amps
    "It ain't rained in weeks, but the weather sure feels damp"
    Ain't about excuses or alibis
    Ain't about no cotton fields or cotton picking lies
    Ain't about the races, the crying shame
    To the fucking rich man all poor people look the same

    Don't get me wrong It just ain't right
    May not look strong, but I ain't afraid to fight
    If you want to live another day
    Stay out the way of the southern thing

    Ain't about no hatred better raise a glass
    It's a little about some rebels but it ain't about the past
    Ain't about no foolish pride, Ain't about no flag
    Hate's the only thing that my truck would want to drag

    You think I'm dumb, maybe not too bright
    You wonder how I sleep at night
    Proud of the glory, stare down the shame
    Duality of the southern thing

    My Great Great Granddad had a hole in his side
    He used to tell the story to the family Christmas night
    Got shot at Shiloh, thought he'd die alone
    From a Yankee bullet, less than thirty miles from home
    Ain't no plantations in my family tree
    Did NOT believe in slavery, thought that all men should be free
    "But, who are these soldiers marching through my land?"
    His bride could hear the cannons and she worried about her man

    I heard the story as it was passed down
    About guts and glory and Rebel stands
    Four generations, a whole lot has changed
    Robert E. Lee
    Martin Luther King
    We've come a long way rising from the flame

    Stay out the way of the southern thing

    They go on to explain the "duality" more in another song, which has the devil preparing a spot in Hell for George Wallace, and his weird history.

    Anyway, the South is still red, but turning a deeper purple every year.  We just have to stay in the fight and look for the long-term goal, despite discouraging crap like Haley Barbour tossed us this weekend.  His side will lose.  It's just taking a lot longer than I want it to, mostly because of the Republican entanglement with religion down here.

    "Glenn Beck ends up looking like a fat, stupid child. His face should be wearing a chef's hat on the side of a box of eclairs. " - Doug Stanhope

    by Front Toward Enemy on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 10:28:26 AM PDT

  •  As usual... (4+ / 0-)

    I tip my hat to all Libs south of the Mason-Dixon line. I'm thinking it's gotta be rough for ya at the moment.

    by Erik the Red on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 10:40:40 AM PDT

  •  I lived in Mississippi for almost (0+ / 0-)

    five years.  First in the southwestern part of the state and then in the north central part.  There were many negative things I encountered but also many positive things.

    I found the hearts of people mostly good and very kind even with some of the entrenched racism.  

    I voted to sow those progressive seeds.  

    I tried to do that when I lived there by asking questions whenever someone spouted right wing rhetoric.  I didn't challenge.  I just asked things like:  "Why do you say that?  What have you experienced that causes you to say that?" etc.  It some times amazed and also amused me to hear people actually talk themselves out of some of their "accepted beliefs" in answering those simple questions.

    There are so many good things about the South.  I want them to stay with us and work this through.

    Thank you for the diary.

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