Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast believes “It’s Time to Dump Dixie.” Please do. He also thinks that there may be a point in the future when the South should have its independence. Hallelujah, but we tried that once and were forced to keep company with our “kind” neighbors to the North, those like Tomasky who call the South, “one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment.” Tomasky, by the way admits he was born in West Virginia, yet laments it “was not a Southern state when I was growing up but culturally is one now.” You see, according to Tomasky, the South lacks “tolerance, compassion, civic decency, trans-racial community, [and] the crucial secular values on which this country was founded….” Translation: America used to be a great progressive wonderland of democracy and equality, but evil Southerners ruined it! Better to just write off Dixie than try to convert them, for, as we all know, the North is the bastion of all things good and noble, the shining city upon a hill for the world to emulate.
Tomasky suffers from a common syndrome known as Yankee Self-Righteous Delusional Disorder (YSRDD). It can be seen in most major metropolitan areas in the North and heard on many nationally syndicated radio and television programs, particularly those that lean Left. You can also find it in Northern dominated tales of their moral and intellectual superiority. See, for example, any major collection of American literature or art. But are the invectives that drip from Tomasky’s pen true? After all, one would think with all the hand-wringing over the problematic South there must be something to the progressive narrative of the region.
Let’s start with Tomasky’s first claim that the South lacks “tolerance” and “trans-racial” communities. According to a study by professors John Logan and Brian Stults, only eight of the top twenty-five most racially segregated cities in the United States are in the South, and that includes Miami and St. Louis, two cities that Tomasky considers Northern and Western. Remove those, and nineteen of the most racially segregated cities are found in the North, including Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Detroit. Progress. Perhaps us racist Southerners should look to emulate our good brothers to the North. Examples of modern, progressive meccas of racial harmony abound north of the Mason-Dixon. Probably as a result of YSRDD Tomasky conveniently forgets that the nastiest and most violent of all the race riots of the twentieth century took place in Northern cities. And he probably doesn’t know—or doesn’t care to know—that according to the Christian Science Monitor, black Americans are moving back to the South in large numbers for “economic and cultural” reasons. So much for the South as a hostile, segregated, cultural wasteland of America.
What about civic decency? I am not sure of Tomasky’s definition, but this would generally include good manners, hospitality, and charity. Conde Nast Traveler recently released its annual survey of the friendliest cities in America, and surprise, surprise, four of the five friendliest places are in the South, with number one being Charleston, South Carolina. Conversely, all five of the unfriendliest places in the United States are found in the North, with number one–Newark, New Jersey–ranked as the unfriendliest place in the world in 2013. That is a big honor for our Northern “friends.” At least they are number one in something.
Southerners also love to open their wallets for those in need. The South is consistently ranked as the number one charitable region in the United States with Alabama and Mississippi closely following Utah as the most charitable States in the Union. I guess Southern Bible thumpers hate people so much they want to give them a helping hand. Tomasky does not want to admit it, but Christians actively follow their calling to charity. Faith matters. By the way, the least charitable region in the U.S. is New England, followed closely by New York and California. But who could donate to charity in those States even if the people had the desire? Progressive politicians and heavy handed government rob their citizens of over fifty percent of their income. John Taylor of Caroline, an evil white Southern plantation owner, had something to say about that in 1814, “A nation oppressed by taxes, can never be generous, benevolent, or enlightened.” Tomasky hasn’t gotten the memo.
How about “crucial secular values on which this country was founded”? No one would confuse the South with the rampant non-Christian regions of the North and West Coast, thank God, but the South does have a claim to the “secular values on which this country was founded.” It was Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Southerners by the way, who insisted on religious liberty in both Virginia and the United States at large. The most vociferous opponents of this idea could be found in…you guessed it, New England. During the tense period leading to ratification of the Constitution in 1788, many New Englanders worried that the Constitution did not have a religious test for office and complained the new government was too secular. Three New England States had State established churches at the time. Additionally, Charleston, South Carolina earned the nickname the “Holy City” because of its religious diversity, including a large Jewish population. Baptists and Quakers were beaten and killed in New England in the colonial period. Tolerance.
All of this says nothing of Southern contributions to American culture at large, from music (integrated bands in Alabama during the height of segregation), to food, to literature, to political and military heroes, the South has a monopoly on what most people consider “American.” No one sings “Sweet Home Massachusetts.” Even the Southerners Tomasky likes, Carter Glass of Virginia for example, were reared by a culture he finds deplorable. Southern “populists” were not progressives like Tomasky. They were Jeffersonians, a tradition which was nourished by a Southern taproot.
Thankfully, though Tomasky is a lost cause, YSRDD is a curable disease. Many Northerners, both on the Left and the Right, have found in the South the cradle of all things good in American history and culture. The place makes the people. Every year, thousands of Northerners move to the South to escape the decaying cities, culture, and people of the North. The same can’t be said of Southerners. Who flies north for the winter or chooses to retire in Ohio? And for those who don’t like it here, as Lewis Grizzard said, “Delta is ready when you are.”
Without the South, however, Tomasky and his fellow YSRDD suffering comrades would have no one to blame for all of their problems. They could just look out back, but that would be too easy. Southerners are their bogeyman, which is why they would never (and could never) let us go.