What exactly does it mean to be a Southerner in the 21st Century? Is it spending countless hours finding out who your Confederate ancestor is and joining up with the local Sons of Confederate Veterans? Or is it driving around town with a Confederate flag bumper sticker on the back of your pickup truck? Or maybe it’s being “that guy” that spends countless hours setting the internet on fire with endless online debates over whether the South was right in the War Between the States?
This was a question I was recently asking myself after reading I’ll Take My Stand, an extremely thought-provoking collection of essays from twelve Southerners first published almost 90 years ago. Sometimes shockingly prophetic, it’s not hard to come away from this timely and influential book understanding a great deal more about what it means to be a Southerner. But a Southerner in the 21st century? What does that mean for us in the turbulent times of the here and now? After years of political correctness, harmful industrialization, corrosive progressivism, big government interference, apathy and public school indoctrination, it’s safe to say that a lot of what these writers predicted has unfortunately come true. But while a lot has changed for the South, some of it good and some of it downright awful, the battle for the hearts and minds of our people certainly continues. And to be honest, we might be surprised at just how positive things could be for the future of our Southern communities.
For instance, I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s in a local rural community rich with Southern history. But thanks to my local school, I pretty much had zero knowledge about a lot of it until adulthood. What I did learn as a kid, I picked up from my folks and from just soaking in the community around me. And as such, I wouldn’t say that either mom or dad or anyone in the community ever went out of their way to preach the doctrines of Southern civilization, or about the Confederacy and the evils of Reconstruction. But I suppose that’s because we were all busy just living life. Dad was a schoolteacher in the city, and mom was a hard-working stay at home mom. As a result, we spent a lot of time together as family during the summers snapping beans, working in the gardens (which us kids would always grumble about), and mom and dad shooing us outside to play in the woods on our acreage. There was also a couple of reenactments depicting the small battle that took place outside my hometown, as well as mom and dad’s interest (and thus my interest) in the weed-strewn cemetery down the road where the pioneers of the community lay at rest – along with a number of Southern soldiers who died in the local battle. Both naturally fired the imagination of my younger self, and helped give a sense of identity to my home.
And then there was our Christian upbringing, with my parents often talking about how God’s word applies to daily life and current events. They didn’t have all the answers – nor did they pretend to know it all. But as we traveled down the road in our Delta 88, with me and my brother in our “Little Rebel” Confederate flag ball-caps, we’d have a lot of fun talking it over and spending time together – whether it was on a trip to the mountains, a Saturday day-trip or a picnic while out getting groceries on a Friday night.
No, we weren’t a family of farmers. And no, we weren’t necessarily getting an Abbeville Institute level of education regarding the South. But we did spend a lot of time outside enjoying creation, learning about God and man, and valuing and seeking out those moments in daily life where one could just stop and smell the roses. With all that’s wrong in the world, my upbringing has allowed me as a 40 something year old man to identify that special way of life, and see how it stands far apart from 150 years of life under a Northern progressivist worldview of endless war, genocide against the unborn, collapsing communities and families and a relativistic spiritual vacuum. As a result, I can now confidently help lead my own family on a path of self-reliance through home schooling, a love of God, and taking time to enjoy life and each other.
This is why I say there’s a lot more hope and positivity than the media would want us to believe. The South is alive and well, and I know my upbringing wasn’t an anomaly of the times. I can say this, because I’ve seen you all out there. I’ve seen plenty of Southern-minded Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials who are out there working hard homeschooling their kids, giving back to their community through charity efforts, working in the church, defending our artwork from censorship and shame, and growing our civilization through new works of Southern art, literature and music. If anything, the persecution from the left has only hardened our resolve, and added to our ranks those fellow Southerners throughout America who will no longer stand by and watch as our kids are sacrificed to more heartache and suffering. Sure, we’ve had some setbacks over the past 90 years. But there are a lot of us who still love our Lord, our homes, and our families – as well as who we are as a people (which includes our history and our brave ancestors) – and are willing to take our stand well into the 21st Century.