Thursday, September 1, 2011

Reflections on The South.

Disclaimer: With this article I risk offending some of my readers, indeed some of my closest internet friends. That is the furthest thing from my intent. I love my Southern freethinking friends and relatives. I have all the respect for their ability to tolerate the South’s least attractive traits and retain their freethinking sanity.

The condemnation of their home state / region is not directed at them nor meant to insult them or anyone who has risen above the ignorance and backwardness that The South has come to exemplify, endorse and propagate. That said....

I’ve pussy footed around it in a number of my blog rants and in my books, but I’m putting it out on the table openly, plainly and unabashedly: I despise The South. There, I said it. [Pause, wait for audience to finish gasping in horror]

The fact is that I’ve pretty much always harbored a dislike for The South, or at least for as long as I could read or interpret TV news broadcasts. Racism; anti-Semitism; anti-homosexual activism; a general lack of respect for advanced education; the highest rates of all the social ills known to our nation; a peculiar penchant for executions; a glorification of violence; a distinct taste for re-writing history; and the breeding ground for the most Religiously afflicted people in the nation, if not the entire civilized world... all of it festers and thrives among the twelve to sixteen states (depending on whose counting) known as The South.

My opinion of The South was not a sudden revelation. It was formed over the years starting in childhood when I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Then Mark Twain. Then
“Inherit the Wind.”

It began to solidify when I saw the “Whites Only” seating, restaurant and rest room designations when I traveled with a tour group in my early teens. Then watching the epithet spewing/ spittle lathered grimacing faces of enraged Southern whites on TV news broadcasts during integration of Southern schools in the 60’s. Then there were the lynchings, shooting and night time terror perpetrated on the civil rights workers, the Freedom Riders. My experiences with red neck drill instructors in Fort Jackson and Fort Polk during my army service didn’t improve my perception, and the assassination of MLK pretty much slammed the door on any respect or empathy for Southern anything. I even harbor an intense disgust for Kentucky Fried Chicken that foul grease congealed crap that passes for fowl.

In this month’s issue of Church & State, the magazine published by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, 75%+ of the domestic stories are related to battles against Southern states’ religious intrusions into government, schools, and our lives. Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Delaware top the list... multiple times. This is the norm.

The birthplace of the KKK and other uniquely Southern hate groups; the cry of “the South will rise again” and associated reverence for a defunct flag/symbol which glorifies a culture that embraced slavery and fought our history’s most horrific war to retain it; the reticence of state and local governments to abide by the Constitution and decision of the Supreme Court vis-à-vis separating government and religion; the rejection of reason and reality by an overwhelming majority of the citizenry who prefer to embrace the religious delusion heaped on them by backwards preachers and preachers of questionable sanity and even more dubious ethics i.e. the Falwells, Robertsons, Swaggerts, Bakkers, Grahams, John Benefiel (look him up- it’ll creep you out); the stomping grounds of a populace with a greater knowledge of their local high school football players’ stats than who the secretary of state is, or the name of a single supreme court justice, or what the Establishment Clause of the 1st amendment means. All of this is just the icing on the cake of utter contempt I hold for “Dixie.”

Some will protest and say:
“But Hump, this is stereotyping. Certainly you realize these things aren’t confined to The South. Just look at Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, or the Fundamentalist Mormons of Utah and the South West. Craziness, bigotry and blatant stupidity can be found everywhere.” and they’d be right. But stereotypes very often have a basis in reality, and the reality I point to is undeniable. And while racism, homophobia, Christian fundamentalist idiocy, right wing violence endorsing wackiness, gross stupidity, et al, can be and is found everywhere in the US, the highest concentration, the epicenter, the Mecca, the hub, the core, the focal point resides in the region south of the Mason Dixon Line.

Proof? I’ve often sited the Pew Survey on Religiosity from 2008, as well as the statistics available by state on unemployment rates, poverty, infant mortality, education levels, illiteracy, violent crime rates, alcoholism, teen pregnancy and even estimated aggregate IQ. Invariably, The South rates highest among the negative attributes, and lowest among the positive ones. Not surprisingly, the degree of their societal ills is largely in direct correlation to their respective levels of religiosity. It confirms everything I perceived to be true anecdotally.

  • Want to see Xtian Snake Handlers, or the largest number of faith healers? Go South young man.

  • Wonder which region represents 30% of the nation’s states but has more than half of the creationist museums and theme parks in the nation; and which state gave a $46 million tax break to the builders of a religious theme park?

  • Curious as to which region of the nation most often starts their legislative sessions with specifically Christian oriented prayers invoking Jesus’ name?

  • Wonder which states' governors have appealed to their constituents to pray for rain or for economic recovery in the past six months?

  • Wonder what region can claim nine of the top ten execution states?

  • Wonder in which state an incoming governor during his inauguration said that unless his constituents were Christians they were not his brothers or sisters?

  • Curious as to what state claims the only sitting governor who actually participated in an exorcism of his fiancée?

Wonder no more. The South gets all the credit.

I am convinced that if The South left the Union and joined Mexico, the aggregate IQ of the remaining United States would increase by 20 points, and the average IQ of Mexico would drop similarly. This presupposes that the Southern freethinker minority immigrates north.

There are fine and intelligent people who reside in The South. My Southern readers and Facebook friends are proof of that. I think of them as islands of intelligence and reason in a raging sea of ignorant delusional dullards.

Of course, The South isn’t all bad. On the positive side there is the heat, drought, and gawd awful humidity; the long neck beer swilling-giant belt buckle wearing-Confederate flag adorned pickup truck driving red necks; the profusion of Waffle Houses; George Bush Jr. and Senior; and that kid who dangles his feet off the bridge while playing the banjo in “Deliverance.”

Yes, much like snowballs in Hell, even The South has its redeeming qualities.


Sallie said...

Love it!

Island Dave said...

Nothing terribly offense to me, and I was born in the south (OK), grew up mostly in the south (OK, VA, NC), and currently live in the south (FL). There is a decided anti-intellectualism here that is frustrating and dangerous.

I'll argue that we need more freethinkers and atheists to migrate south and help break this cycle of religiosity. Groups like Alabama Freethought Association have thrived despite the repressive religiosity of the general population around them, and we're trying hard to create a similar growth here in southwest FL. Only through a long-term education and awareness movement can the regressive stances of the south be overcome to support and value reason, evidence, and tolerance.

Anonymous said...

i as born in North Carolina whilst the Dad was in the Marines. i recall mom telling me about separate entrances to the one room bus station. And one day, standing outside with some other lady, they watched kids getting off the school bus. My mom said, "Don't they let the colored kids go to school?" The lady she spoke to, outraged, said, "They have their OWN schools."
Just some anecdotal info.

Texas Mike said...

Being from Texas, I find find it difficult to refute a single thing you have said. Growing up, my Grandparents owned a dry cleaning shop where the garments of whites and blacks were never cleaned in the same load and were hung in different sections as well. I was forced to go to the Baptist church 3 times and week and for fun at home we would have "bible drills". That's where my Grandmother would call out "Mark 5:18" or some such and we kids would race to see who could find it first. The prize for winning? You got to read the verse out loud! Yea! And yes, our Gov. is a delusional asshat.

Still, I am offended. There can never be too many Waffle Houses!

Thisgirl said...

I thought you said that this was going to offend me? Pffft! Nice try.

NewEnglandBob said...

I am with you all the way, Hump and I have had the same opinions that you stated. for the same reasons and about the same time.

Your last paragraph was a bit misleading. There are some southern amenities - Austin, Tx and a few places in south Florida are two that come to mind.

Den!s said...

You may have misjudged us Hump. I for one am not outraged; you are just spelling out what we all know. Political correctness says we don't make fun of the stupid people; we don't even say that they are stupid.... but they are. I don't think you went far enough. These Wingnutians are a dangerous breed who are getting away with all of the crap you mentioned because nobody is talking about it... except you Hump. With you all the way, no complaints, and I'm not even American.

Anonymous said...

My family is Southern, with roots going back to Tennessee and the Civil War, and I was raised in Georgia. Having been out of the South for 7 years and escaped to Canada, I have mixed feelings about my former home, for various reasons.
I can understand and empathize with what you wrote primarily because I'm an atheist who is pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, anti-Tea Party, middle of the politic road. The reason I'm more open and vocal about being these things is because until I left the South, I didn't know how almost suffocating these stereotypes and ideas can be.
I still love the South, and the family I left behind down there, but I'm glad I left because it's been possible for me to see and appreciate other perspectives without being looked down upon for it.
I can be an open atheist without fearing that I'll get fired from my job or have missionaries show up at my door. I can be a married heterosexual woman and march with pride in my city's gay pride parade.
You can't do that in the South.
I love and hate it, and I guess I always will.

Momma Moonbat said...

I'm southern born, southern bred, and when I die, I'm southern dead. Putting that aside, you nailed it. The south has earned the disgust we get from the civilized, intelligent-thinking world. Sometimes I think it takes hard work to be that stupid. Then I realize that we have a whole bunch that are swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool.

Anonymous said...

Hey, take back that unwarranted slur on waffle houses!

Other than that, however.... ;)

Dromedary Hump said...

Hey all, I guess I'm not totally off base afterall. Thanks for sharing your perspectives.

As for those Waffle Houses. I must admit I have never set foot in one. They have me no harm emotionally or gastronomically. But i just had to throw it in there since just seeing them in such profusion when traveling through the South offends my sensibilites.
Ok, I was just having fun with the Waffle House thing ;)

I don't hold out much hope for the South to break free from it's self imposed state of stupor. As the rest of the country inches toward growth in rational thought, the South will always lag way behind. Sixty years from now when the nation is 1/2 atheist those states will continue to be vestiges of religious fanaticsm and backward think. Afterall, they have barely advanced since Reconstruction.

Again..thanks all. Glad I didn't offend anyone. seems we are all on a similar wave length owing to our rationality and respect for truth.

tiNstAg said...

Nice one. I loved your choice of picture too. I didn't know gay pride had a rally point south of the Mason-Dixon line!

Cheryl Hamilton said...

Also on Waffle House: Not long after we moved to Alabama from Vermont, my late husband came home to tell me he'd met a client at Waffle House for breakfast. While they watched, two cockroaches (and only those of you who live in the South know what I mean when I say you can saddle em up and ride em home) chased each other across the grill. The first one made it safely to the other side. The other one, sadly - not! It's legs stuck to the grill and there it died. That was 10 years ago and I've never been to a Waffle House since.
As for the rest of your post, I struggle daily to find the gems of society here. They do exist. I have no problem at all in finding the natural beauty however. It's not Vermont, but it's not too bad.

Darla Lundell said...

It was completely accurate. I wanted to add inbreeding, crack cocaine trafficking, George W. Bush SR's comment that atheists aren't citizens (although he retracted it later - yeah, right), hatred of illegal aliens, obesity stats (all that fried food and cornbread), possum eaters and this is very wrong of me but lastly I'll add their gawd damned accents. Their topography is beautiful, but that's it. They can have their own country.

Anonymous said...

Preach it! The facts are out there for all to see. My heart goes out to my Atheist brethren living in the South - especially Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee.

David said...

Can I add that TV shows set in the south with a bunch of redneck racist homophobic Texan religionist hick characters portrayed sympathetically gives me the shits. King of the Hill comes to mind.

longhorn believer said...

Hump, it was epic! You should try breakfast at a Waffle House some time. I was raised in Tulsa, OK where a degree from ORU is considered an education. I have to say moving to Houston, TX and getting a real education from the University of Texas @ Austin was my saving grace. Both of these cities are home to a multi-cultural and highly educated population.

That being said, I hate the rebel flag and the racism it represents. There are some who are racist and too stupid to know they're racist. I hate the general lack of education and ignorance of important issues and events happening not only in the rest of the world, but even our own country. And I especially hate the religiosity and the way it interferes with progress towards a better educated society. People in the south are just as kind and neighborly as their northern counterparts. They are just ignorant and uneducated.

Now, in a new Rasmussen NATIONWIDE poll today, Rick Perry leads Obama 44 to 41 percent. If you could do something about your northern friends voting for our dumbass Xian governors, that would really help us all out!

Charles Miller said...

I am a product of the South and let me assure you we know that our region has a hard earned reputation for every ill you described. While all of them are not exclusive to the south, they have taken deeply to root like the Spanish Moss draped live oaks of the Gulf Coast.

The shame if it is that so many southerners are proud of their ignorance, prejudice and hate. I have to count my own family members among them. One grandfather was a klansman.

Some of us are changing. Maybe its too few of us. Maybe enough of us do not speak up but change will come slowly and steadily.

Charles Miller
Executive Director Secular Coalition for Alabama

Dromedary Hump said...

((((I rec'd the following email from an (ex)reader. Posted here without name of email address.))))

Subject: Reflections on the south
Date: Fri, 2 Sep 2011 07:10:39 -0400

That was quite a rant about my home area (S.C.) For the most part, I’ve encountered other nice and reasonable atheists and freethinkers on these forums, and due to my bible-belt location I’ve found a lot of articles inspiring. Not this one.

I’ll not waste your time, I know the opinion of a southern piece of shit don’t concern you. Next time I visit my mother in Myrtle, if I hear a Yankee screaming from the water, I’ll just let the bastard drown. John

My reply:

Dear John,
Out of the 20 comments I've rec'd on my blog article, and over 70 comments from fb friends, including many Southerners, yours was the first that took offense.

I'm sorry it troubled you, even sorrier that you couldn't refute anything of my observations. Maybe that contributed equally to your ire.

I'll remember not to go swimming at Myrtle Beach.


steve-o-reno said...

You know, I wake up every morning here in my home state of Texas debating whether to get the hell out of here or stay and try to make a difference. I see the ignorance and stupidity nearly every day. What's most depressing is that it often comes from seemingly intelligent adults but who only need to utter a few comments to re-emphasize the deeply rooted primitive mentality that exists here. Dang! This is becoming too depressing. I need to go out and burn me a Bible and a Confederate flag! Yeehaah!

Rachelle said...

You'll get no criticism from me, Hump. LOL! All it took was a brief history lesson to turn me off from visiting The South (esp. Mississippi). LOL! I don't care what people say--things haven't changed that much.

Anonymous said...

I was recently at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit. They had an exhibition on the suffrage movement. A map showed the US and grouped the states by time periods for those that ratified the 19th amendment.

Guess who dominated the 3rd group that took its sweet time ratifying the amendment? Five of them didn't ratify until a period from 1971 to 1984. All of them were in the South.

I'd bet anyone here has a better than even chance of guessing the state that waited until 1984. Hint: It's usually last on every single measure of health/economy/education/etc.

Eric Dobbs said...

Although it was meant to be ironic, I was relieved that you exempted Waffle House from condemnation. After fasting checkups in a clinical trial at UVa Medical Center, I used to stop at Waffle House on the way back to Richmond for the Coronary Flatliner breakfast. Most of the region you describe PLUS much of the Midwest and the Southwest (red states) have been called "Dumbfuckistan." To avoid the F word embedded therein, I prefer Ignoramustan. (Yes, I know that -stan is a suffix and should be added to the Latin verb form meaning "we don't know," but adding another S looks unnecessary and therefore more like a mistake than leaving it out. Besides, it's my neologism.) By the way, I was born, raised, and educated in Virginia, and I have lived here all my life. I could go on.

Anonymous said...

The South? Wasn't that the place that deserted the United States? Wasn't their big general, Lee, I think, like a US Army guy who Benedict-Arnolded and sought to kill American servicemen? Wasn't that the place where a few rich slave owners got a bunch of poor white boys to die so they could keep their slaves? Or was it "state's rights". Probably the latter, cuz I can't imagine the recruiting speech for the former.

Gerard26 said...


Anonymous said...

Just heard on the news that poverty rates in the south are on the rise with the release of new figures and are the highest in America. Backs up my belief that the deeply religiously deluded are quite happy to sit back and believe that God will provide whilst the rational thinker is more likely to get off their ass and create opportunities for themsleves.