Musings on Dislocation

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Dislocation brings with it a multiplicity of dissonance. Moving disrupts the consonance of time and place, of family, friends, parish, and all the landmarks and milestones that speak to us of our country; that is our homes. On the Feast of the Holy Family (old calendar), December 29, 2013, this reality of dislocation and dissonance intruded upon my family and me. We removed from our home in the upcountry of South Carolina to Winston-Salem, leaving behind our gardens, our blueberry orchard, trees we had planted, our parish, innumerable good friends, and the events of our family’s sojourn in the lands west of the Saluda.

In dislocating, we were no different from millions of Americans and Southerners throughout history. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, among others, believed centuries might be needed to fill up the continent; Americans on the move proved them wrong. The costs of mobility have been high. Careless soil exhaustion, boom towns gone bust, the weakening of ties among kith and kin, the emergence of rust belt cities, all attest to these costs. The political costs are no less worrisome, for if the common good does exist, and those who are small “r” republicans can hardly attest otherwise, it must by the nature of human existence exist in a place. John Randolph of Roanoke said of his industrialist opponents in the debate over the 1816 tariff that he “feared those men.” Why? Because they were the “citizens of no place.”

We who must dislocate because of necessity must never choose the dehumanizing fate of becoming citizens of no place, nor should our attachment to place be mere nostalgic sentiment. Rather like the practical-minded southern thinkers throughout the ages, John Taylor of Caroline, Edmund Ruffin, and Wendell Berry immediately come to mind, we too must work and hope for that attachment to place, from which shall spring the revival of agriculture and the subsequent revival of politics and culture.

So I and my family, who are among the wandering bands of education professionals, what do folks like us do? Well the vegetable garden is planted, strawberries and blueberries are ordered for fall planting, and we get out to meet the new neighbors. We work on long neglected essays, the house, the education of our children, and assist at the Mass in the old rite in Salisbury. We take consolation in the reality that we are all wanderers here on this earth, at least in the mortal sense. We attend to our tasks with diligence and care, and when we fail we own up to our failure. And, if we must leave again, we hope, pray, and act so as to leave the place better than we found it, for those who shall stay.

About John Devanny

John Devanny holds a Ph.D. in American History from the University of South Carolina. Dr. Devanny resides in Front Royal, Virginia, where he writes, tends garden, and occasionally escapes to bird hunt or fly fish.. More from John Devanny

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