Saturday, November 06, 2004

Xeno- what?

“It makes you not want to drive through there, because you just don’t know what’s going on with those people.”

Drop the “g” from the end of “going,” change “those” to “them” and “people” to “folks,” and you might assume I’m quoting To Kill a Mockingbird.

Nope. Those words come from a CNN man-on-the-street interview piece entitled “Blue State Blues,” uttered by a 55 year-old New York City resident. His wife offered, “You can fly over, but you wouldn’t want to drive through there. I just want to leave the country.”

I would accuse them of xenophobia, but as one of “those people” from that crimson-red state of Alabama, I couldn’t possibly know what that word means.

The irony would be amusing if it weren’t so sad.

My fellow Southerners and I – and a few Midwesterners, I imagine – have been used to this kind of ignorance from the self-anointed cultural elite for a while now. But we’ve got news for the Blues: we know more about y’all than you know about us.

Let that sink in for a second, Los Angeles. Ponder that one for a moment, New York.

Exposure to your way of life, Blue America, is unavoidable. We get all the Friends, West Wing, Law and Order, and Sex and the City reruns that y’all produce – that’s why we all have those huge satellite dishes in front of our trailers. (That’s called self-deprecation, Blue Staters.) We watch the news and notice the disproportionate amount of time and energy that is devoted to your issues, and we would faint if one of your news anchors were to speak with a drawl. The vast majority of the movies we see are set in your cities, written by your writers, produced by your producers, directed by your directors, and acted by your actors. A lot of us have never been to your metropolises (though plenty of us have), but we figure we’ve got a pretty good idea what’s going on up there – and we figure Atlanta’s close enough, anyway.

But most of you, I’d venture to say, haven’t spent a whole lot of time down here, either – and I’m sure you can’t imagine why you would. You know everything about the backwards South already, don’t you? You learned all you needed to know in 8th grade American History class, where you learned all about John C. Calhoun, Bull Connor, and George Wallace. You saw Sweet Home Alabama, Steel Magnolias, and Mississippi Burning. You watched The Dukes of Hazzard against your parents' orders when you were a kid (and who can blame you? Daisy!). You listened to country music one time, and you thought it was stupid and irritating. And you’ve seen that Trinity Broadcasting Network and noticed the Southern accents on those crazy preachers (although you were mildly surprised that they let – gasp! – a woman take the pulpit!)

Except what you see, Blue America, is not the South. Most of the time, what you see is a grossly distorted, overly simplified version of what the South must be like these days, produced by your studios in New York and Los Angeles (because, let’s face it, you wouldn’t want to actually drive through there). Y’all probably have no idea how much fun we have renting your movies (VCRs arrived in our Wal-Marts this year!) about the South, just so we can mock the horrible attempts at Southern accents and the wildly over-the-top stereotypes about Southern culture. For example, Blue America, it may surprise you to know that I have had electricity, running water, and even an air conditioner (unlike, apparently, the lawyer played by Matthew McConahey in A Time to Kill) my entire life. Both of my parents can read and write, and we all wear shoes most of the time. And here's a fact to chew on: Southern public schools are the least segregated in the country. But unfortunately, y’all internalize those images on your televisions, take them as gospel truth (or whatever adjective you folks would use in front of “truth”), and your “investigation” is over. Your perception of the South can be likened to your attempts at barbeque pork: you don’t take the time to figure it out, and you end up with something more like a sloppy joe.

Which is ok by us, we reckon. We’ll be happy to talk to you about our way of life any time you’d like, and we’d even give you a place to stay and a couple of good meals to boot. We promise not to try (too hard) to convert you, but do expect to bow your head for the blessing before dinner.

But we don’t expect many of y’all will take us up on the offer. After all, it’s probably much too dangerous.

That’s fine. We’ve never been too awfully concerned about what other folks think about us, anyway. It’s hard enough just trying to please Our Lord.


At 10:48 PM, Blogger Admin said...

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