My daughter exited the school door with that introspective look on her face. I have learned to dread that look. She hit me with the question right after closing the car door.
“Why do Southerners seem to hate different people all of the time?”
Daughter-unit had just heard of the latest dump of anti-LGBTQI bills into the state legislature. She is growing up with parents in a mixed marriage. Mom is a progressive-liberal Southerner; Dad is a Yankee army brat, relatively recently ‘out’ as a trans woman. Normally I would direct her to the mom for an answer to this question, but she was not in the car.
I was trapped … and about to face my cultural Waterloo.
‘She’s a teen now,’ I thought to myself. ‘Dad time. Really think…’ Ok, fire.
“Because traditional Southern culture can be just plain wrong,” I said. “It’s got a ton of good points … and some really suck-a** bad points that get underlined and highlighted in times like these. Sure, Yankee-land does this sort of crap too, but … well, not as much and not as blatantly. Multiculturalism really did change things up there, by necessity. You just have to find ways to get along and adapt when confronted with different cultures, religions and immigration waves.”
“Yeah,” I added, “the South has done some of that too and is much better than when I first saw it as a kid, but the majority seem to feel they should be calling the shots on everything 24/7. It’s not soft bigotry in their eyes: they just call it tradition.”
Her eyes began to grow wide. Obviously I had never shared these opinions before.
“Let’s just cut to the chase here,” I said irritably. “Why don’t the people supporting this stuff just go ahead and also file legislation to bring back the Confederate States of America? I mean...that is what some of these folks probably want, and it would solve all of their problems in one fell swoop. They could sweeten the package with social and minority guarantees that just might be kept, as long as no one messes around with ‘their’ culture and how they raise and school ‘their’ kids.”
“It would be a voluntary cultural apartheid,” I mused of their likely rationale, “in which somehow everyone wins, and it would be their side that bore the burden of it through extra taxation and sacrifice on their end to support separate, but supposedly equal, schools, neighborhoods and whatnot. It would be a libertarian’s dream state with a humming economy, bright well-scrubbed kids, and an officially recognized heterosexual, cisgender, super-Christian, New Testament Bible-believing culture with room for, and ‘official’ tolerance of, us minority groups who ‘choose’ to live here.”
Really getting warmed up, I added, “I mean, it would be a ‘choice,’ you know? It would look and feel like a friendlier South Africa from the 1980’s, and trust me, I know how that one works, except this time the homelands would be Williamson County-sized laagers, where traditionalists could legally wall themselves off from the world around them and resist all change, differences and Yankees… I’m sorry, foreigners.”
“Could it be done? Of course it could! It’s been done before,” I said, leaving implied that I *had seen* it. “Look up ‘Orange Free State’ when you get home. Declare the South a special area with special values, wall it off, and watch it prosper! No real difference here from ‘Die Voortrekkers’ of old, and it just might work.”
I paused. She never likes it when I talk about the Afrikaners of my youth. I get agitated…
“Or perhaps we put a rather large spike into that idea back around 1865 or so, with some very belated follow-up efforts a century later? Maybe the folks pushing this crap understand that if they openly say any of this, they will get called on it by you, me, legions of pink pussyhatted women, and perhaps the Federal authorities someday?”
“Here’s a better idea! Dump all of these ideas in disguise into state legislatures, try to enact them, gum up opposition efforts in the courts for years. Then do it again in a slightly tweaked fashion once the Yankee liberals in the Federal courts throw them out. Hey, I have never argued that these folks are dummies. This tactic is just freaking soft-evil brilliant!”
Daughter-unit was now scanning the horizon for our driveway, eager for the end of this diatribe.
“No! We are not going to allow any of that,” I said, a little too loudly. “We like this place way too much and we’re not going to leave. Their side is scared of change and has the potential to do some really stupid things that they will regret down the road. Traditional Southern culture tends to go nuts every now and then when confronted with sudden change. We fight this s*** because it is wrong... The real South can be like your mom. That’s why I tell you to be like her…”
We arrived home just in time. Daughter-unit literally bolted out of the car. I suspect she asked her mom’s opinion later.
Julie Chase is the pen name for a local 40-something trans woman. Somehow she managed to attend and graduate from The University of the South at Sewanee without incident. Julie secretly loves grits and strong Southern-raised progressive women, and she has a loving soulmate of that particular tribe. Photo via ABCNews