party down south

The trailer (end of the piece) for the second season of Country Music Television’s “Party Down South” (a rehash of MTV’s “Real World,” but with stand-in hicks instead of angsty, edgy musicians and models) represents what most Americans – and many woefully misled Southerners – believe about Southern culture.

The term “country” is repulsive to me. As the great rock star Tom Petty noted on his album, Southern Accents, the meaningless term “country” is slowly but surely replacing the rich and meaningful “Southern.” This seems to be a rhetorical sleight of hand to further subvert Southern identity, reducing it to nothing more than driving a tractor and going hunting. Despite having their own distinct heritages and deeply rooted differences, the South and the North – with their respective offspring, the West and Midwest – are all equated and subsumed under “country.” After all, according to our overlords, America, despite hundreds of years of various settlement patterns and internal conflict, is “one nation, under God, indivisible.” Nationalism obliterates genuine diversity. But I digress.

“Party Down South” is the perfect portrayal of how the rest of America imagines Southerners: idiotic, loudmouthed, swaggering, drunken, bellicose, perverted, ignorant, and physically grotesque bumpkins. Probably the only reason CMT will not feature racist ramblings to the backdrop of a Confederate flag is because the very sight of that maligned symbol would send the outrage brigade into a tizzy. In some sense, what our enemies say about us tells us more about them than us. As Clyde Wilson recently noted, the South has always been the target of the “prurient imagination” of others.

“Party Down South” will, by presenting the Southerners as flag-waving, beer-guzzling, meat-headed, ass-slapping, mouth-breathing, ‘Murica-worshipping morons, reinforce the message that the South is defective and disposable. Southerners are fodder for ridicule in the Coliseum, nothing more.

In fact, the genius of Southern political traditions, the sweat of the Southern brow, and the sacrifice of Southern soldiers are what built America.

It was Southerners who led the way in the movement for national self-determination and republican governance.

It was Southerners who commanded America’s fledgling armies against the mighty British Empire in its struggle for independence.

It was Southerners who wrote the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and other founding documents.

It was Southerners who comprised most of America’s leaders in its formative years.

It was Southerners who inspired America with heroic stands at Fort McHenry and the Alamo (and a Southerner who wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner”).

It was Southerners who pioneered the Western frontier, growing America from the Atlantic, to the Mississippi, to the Pacific.

It was Southerners who bore the burden of Washington, D.C., paying the majority of federal tariffs for the enrichment of Northern industries.

It was 5 million Southerners (armed with hunting rifles and Bowie knives) who, to protect the Constitution of their forefathers from radical usurpation and defend their homeland from brazen aggression, fought off 22 million Northerners (behind the money and power of the U.S. government) for the four bloodiest years in American history.

It was Southerners who, since surviving the subjugation and extermination of the so-called “Civil War,” have shed the most blood in America’s foreign wars in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

It was Southerners who paid the price for Wall Street and Washington, D.C.’s monetary machinations during the Great Depression.

It was Southerners who developed American culture, especially its music – bluegrass, rhythm & blues, and jazz – and literature.

It is Southerners who are leading today’s economic recovery in spite of parasites and sluggards in the Midwest and West Coast.

For crying out loud, it is Southern actors, authors, and athletes who supply America with its finest entertainment.

Indeed, throughout history, the South has been the “Atlas” of America. Instead of receiving honor and glory for her vital contribution, however, the South is ceaselessly downtrodden. We all know what happened the last time the Southern Atlas “shrugged.”

I have lived my entire life in the South, and can honestly say that there are very few – if any – of these “country” caricatures around. Those few who do exist (unfortunately, losers are endemic to everywhere) are certainly not representative of the majority of hard-working and fun-loving folks who truly define what it means to be Southern.

My grandfather, born into a dirt-poor sharecropping family in Middle Tennessee, worked his way to West Point. He was nothing like these buffoons, nor were any members of his family. My grandmother is a proper Southern lady from Annapolis who traveled all around the world to support her husband’s military career. She is nothing like these people – she would scoff at them as “white trash” – nor were any members of her family. Tom Daniel recently observed that there is a significant difference between “Southern” and “redneck.” This difference is exactly what shows like “Party Down South” aim to eradicate. If everything Southern can be redefined as redneck, then the South will be that much more discredited.

If this were how a major television channel represented any other culture, the outrage brigade would be out in force. Since it is the South, however, everyone blithely nods their heads in agreement and pats themselves on the back.

If this isn’t cultural genocide, then I don’t know what is.

James Rutledge Roesch

James Rutledge Roesch is a businessman and an amateur writer. He lives in Florida with his wife, daughter, and dog.

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