There’s a popular meme floating around the internet that has a middle-aged, pot-bellied, suburban male standing by a charcoal fire with the caption below reading, “I just want to grill for God’s sake!” It has been seen as both an ideal (men just want to go about their weekly business without intrusion by the pet causes of the day) and a problem (for some could equally argue the attitude is one of indifference). The genius of the meme (and all good memes) is that it captures some truth in a single image. Here, it speaks to the frustration felt when constantly bombarded by talking heads telling a person to get upset over this issue and that. Why can’t a man just grill? Why can’t he enjoy the fruits of his labour and ignore those things which do not impact him directly? All in all, it seems a good view on the world. Who has ever solved anything by unnecessary worry? There are things within a man’s power, and things outside of his power. “You can’t let it get to you,” some say, “Don’t put yourself out there. Everything will blow over.”
The problem is that, whether or not a person cares for politics, politics cares for that person. It seeks to rework society, and as such it should concern every responsible person. This is not to say that a traditionalist need become the type of hyper-politicised person that the modern day has in such great stores. No one should want public mourning upon any present-day politician’s passing, as the progressives wanted when Congressman Lewis went and when Justice Ruth B Ginsburg died. We should not have our own little “struggle sessions” where we denounce the perceived wrongdoer with a mob’s meanness. But we should be aware of what we can and cannot work to change.
As with most things, the present issue is one of scale. While attempts should be made, the Federal government has repeatedly shown itself to be beyond reform. For every time Trump did something good (like forbidding critical race theory training from being mandated in Federal agencies) there has been something bad (Trump’s appointee Justice Gorsuch – heralded as a conservative titan – turning traitor and authoring the radical Bostock v. Clayton County opinion). It is becoming increasingly clear that the Federal government is a corrupt quagmire encompassing both conservatives and liberals, and has the resources and ability to outlast anything Trump can threaten or perform.
No man can drain a swamp one bucket at a time. The people who respect nature (of the world and of humans) know that swamps serve their own purposes, and the best way to help yourself is to avoid them. People used to avoid swamps (Cajun company excepted), but now, in our infinite wisdom, we feel that we need the swamp. Comparing the noble alligator to a politician is insulting to the alligator, but both share the need to devour those things around them. We can send the occasional man off to Washington, but we shouldn’t expect him to effectuate any real change.
Those things within reach are a different matter. All politics are local, as the saying goes, and the year 2020 has certainly shown that to be true. Did the Federal government issue lockdowns or mandate masks? Did the Federal government arrest people defending their lives and property from rioters? Did the Federal government remove the statues in Richmond, Pensacola, or Mobile? These decisions were made by and through the States. Washington huffed and puffed, but the States were the entities saying “time to shutter” to already struggling businesses. States and their municipal spawns were the entities voting to remove the monuments to Southern heroes. The Federal government is attempting to rename forts and such, but what would that matter if in the cities surrounding these forts there still remained the reminders of the men and their cause?
Culture may be influenced from the top down, but that’s a much harder road to haul. Better to make emotional appeals at school boards or city council meetings to truly effect lasting change. Better to guilt your neighbor for flying a flag than have the Federal government ban that flag. The culture will eventually reflect what the local government dictates. The cities of the North show this, as the cities of the South begin to show it. It’s one thing for some simpleton Senator to occasionally appear on tv to denounce Dixie as wicked and evil; it’s another thing when those words come from the school principal you see everyday. Consider. The Lee Circle Monument stood in New Orleans from 1884 until 2017. In 2015, the New Orleans City Council (with the support of Mayor Mitch Landrieu) voted to remove the memorial, along with three others. This was accomplished in 2017. The culture of New Orleans has changed to such a degree that now the famed New Orleans brewery Dixie Beer (almost as old as Lee Circle) is attempting to drop the name “Dixie” from their product. While some may argue this is a private entity and does not concern government action, who could argue that the actions of the local government in attempting to distance themselves from all things Southern influenced the company to make the change?
Of the forces arrayed against the South, which are most easily attacked? We should not emotionally invest ourselves in the outcome of any Federal matters. That is a road bound for disappointment. But when it comes to local boards and local beers, you do have the power.