I don’t like the South.
There. I said it.
I was born in the South and lived in a succession of Southern states before heading off to South America for high school. I went to college in the South, and my first job was in the Southwest. So my not-liking-the-South is based on extensive first-hand experience.
I will refrain from making any generalizations here about the Southern character. I do this to forestall its partisans insisting Not-All-Southerners-Are-Like-That. Whatever. My not-liking is based on an unassailable observation: after years of trying, I failed utterly to make its social system work for me in a constructive way.
Yes, this might have been true anywhere. Whatever. We only get one life to live, and this one’s mine. I saw a fair amount of the social landscape, and it didn’t matter whether it was high or low.
I got married in the first non-Southern state in which I had the opportunity to live. To a Yankee. “My Southern boy,” she calls me. I guess I make an okay Southerner as long as I’m not actually living there.
We are now settled happily in the upper Midwest, and as of this month, I have lived here longer than any other single place. The vicissitudes of employment being what they are, perhaps work will require me to return some day. That said, I can think of no reason why I would otherwise choose to live there.
However . . .
I do not hate the South, or Southerners as a class. I especially have no truck with that brand of sectional hatred for which the Southern history is an occasion for moral preening. I am in that respect the exact opposite of the Southerners surrounding, say, National Review, writers bearing some cultural affinity for the South yet quickly denouncing it for its sins, real and imagined.
Let there be no mistake: hindsight being 20/20, with the war and occupation fully in view, the Southern secession was mistaken. Mistaken, too, was its pre-war political agenda almost perfectly calculated to antagonize the North (the Fugitive Slave Act, the Dred Scott decision). My only point is that I can think of no legal or moral obligation requiring the South to continue to be governed by Washington if it chose not to be so, nor a moral or legal right on the part of the North to attempt to govern it against its expressed will.
In hindsight, of course, the trans-Atlantic slave trade was desperately wrong-headed, and may yet be our undoing. Had there not been black slaves, there would be no black Americans. No black crime. No black intergenerational entitlements. No black riots. No affirmative action or disparate impact lawsuits. No hollowed-out inner cities or ruined schools. There would be no Trayvon Martin, and perhaps no George Zimmerman.
And most importantly, there probably would not be the Civil Rights paradigm where an ever longer list of aggrieved groups receive special legal immunities at the expense of the white majority. There might still be a Barack Obama and Eric Holder, but they would never have been given the power they presently wield. So . . . yeah, slavery was bad.
What slavery is not, however, is some special moral stain on the South, or America as a whole. It was a long-standing worldwide practice that would have required extraordinary effort to keep away from our shores.
For me, not-liking-the-South means not wanting to live there. That’s the long and short of it.