It is a sad thing that it should fall to a junior representative from New York to tell the truth about the South’s position in national politics and culture. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has done so by saying that our states are oppressed, and that there can be no national healing until we are liberated. In this she was right in what she said, if wrong in what she meant (about which more in a moment). For a century and a half now the South has been vilified and ignored, and the political and legal wishes of her people thwarted by the imperial power in Washington, which has denied her states their rights and reduced them to mere provinces beholden to its own wishes.

As an example, in 2012 the people of North Carolina passed with a 61% majority an amendment to the state constitution asserting that marriage is an institution between one man and one woman. Two years later the federal judiciary (the Fourth Circuit of Appeals) ruled it unconstitutional; and against them the people and government of North Carolina have no meaningful redress whatever. Appointed for life and in no way impeachable by the General Assembly or subject to electoral remonstrance by the citizenry, and in many cases neither residing in nor hailing from North Carolina, federal judges are wholly unaccountable and may do as they wish, overturning any state legislation that comes up in a suit brought before them.

I ask: is this not an injustice equal to those which prompted our independence from the rule of George the Third and Parliament? Is this not such a brazen overthrow of the will of the people as to be rightly named oppression? Is it not an egregious affront to the classic principle of American government, that all government is by, for, and of the people, and is rather a servant than a master? Further, is it not to be feared that, left unredressed, it will invite further dissension and strife, all the worse the longer it remains uncorrected and the more unjust the outrages it foists upon the people? We all know, as we have known since the fall of the Confederacy, that these things are so, however little they are acknowledged by the rest of the nation, and however impolite it is to mention them in the contemporary public square.

Indeed, what Ms. Ocasio-Cortez actually meant was offered in the standard line of the national attitude towards our region and people. She presumes, first, that the wider nation has not only a right but, indeed, a paternal duty to interfere in the affairs of our sundry polities. In this her rhetoric and attitude are those of the Republican Party in the 1860s, a fact upon which it may be doubted she will dwell at any length. She presumes further that the citizens of the Southern states, especially ethnic minorities and women, have a duty to organize to support her party and its aims, and that their doing so is an act of liberation from oppression which is not merely desirable, but, as the rhetoric about ‘healing’ implies, necessary for the wellbeing of the nation as a whole.

The parallel between this and various features of Reconstruction such as the Loyal Leagues and their demeanor towards freedmen is striking, though, again, it is to be doubted that she will acknowledge or ponder the fact. As to how the ‘poor’ and ‘working people’ are in need of ‘actual liberation’ from ‘economic, social, and racial oppression,’ and in what said oppression consists is not clear, but it seems that one’s polity not being run by self-described socialists bent on radical social transformation is itself oppression. The curious corollary is of course that a state becoming Democrat-run is ‘liberation’ and ‘healing,’ a frankly revolting piece of self-righteous narcissism that ignores the obvious truth that people are leaving blue states for the South in droves. On her view this is apparently the equivalent of rushing headlong into Stalin’s Soviet Union or Mussolini’s Italy, though one suspects the many migrants – or perhaps better, refugees – have a different perspective, else they would not be so eager to depart such ‘liberated’ paradises as Illinois, New Jersey, California, etc.

And such claptrap, it must be noted, offers a grave insult to the many people in this world, past and present, who have suffered real oppression, not by living in a society that is still reasonably sane and well-ordered (as the ‘oppressed’ Southern states), but by being denied their essential, God-given rights. Many a poor soul languishes even now in North Korean gulags or under the iron thumb of the Chinese or Cuban secret police, and yet Ms. Ocasio-Cortez imagines having a Republican legislature is oppression! Perhaps she might try such rhetoric with the people of Hong Kong or Iran and see how well they agree with her benighted view of the world.

As tempting as it might be to allow such arrogance to drive one to anger or to a response in kind, it would be better if we took the moral high ground upon this matter, refusing any personal affront to the zealous, mistaken young woman and instead acting with that honor and magnanimous forbearance which ought to characterize the Southern people. It is doubtful the lady would accept any kind overture, but it would still be a magnificent spectacle if a great multitude were made. If every Southern legislator offered a personal tour of the ‘oppressed’ regions, or if five million of our people wrote sincere personal invitations to hearth and home, it would be a fine gesture. I doubt we will see the young revolutionary sitting on a porch in a rocking chair sipping tea from a canning jar, but maybe if a decent number of us offered her a personal interview under such circumstances it would send a message, however small, that we are not the wretched cretins and petty tyrants that she and her kind wrongly imagine us to be. Even if it doesn’t, it will at least be in accordance with that sage instruction which the Lord has left for dealing with our enemies in such matters (Prov. 25:21; Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:20); for as it to a man’s “glory to overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11), and to not repay “evil for evil” (Rom. 12:17), so also is it that of a people.

Tom Hervey

Tom Hervey is a North Carolinian who now resides in the Upstate of South Carolina, where he works in the clinical engineering field. Though his education and professional experience are rather of a technical than an academic nature, he retains a strong personal interest in all things Southern, especially questions of history and economics.

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