Polemics & Exchanges

On Reconstructing the South

While there is much to praise in Michael Hill's "The South and the New Reconstruction" (March 1997), there is a streak of unreality and wishfulness in the article which begs attention. For example, what would the Southern League have us do with the masses of Northerners—a/k/a Yankees—who inhabit the region? Or, for another twist, what am I, or anyone from the neo-quasi-secessionist movement, to say to my father and grandfather who are, respectively, veterans of World Wars II and I, who fought for the United States under the Stars and Stripes? Are their wounds and blood less significant than my great-great-grandfathers who fought and suffered for the Gray at Perryville, Shiloh, and Brice's Crossroads? For "identity," do we gamble over three generations of experience, virtue, sacrifice, and accomplishment merely to celebrate an ancient age?

Lastly, Mr. Hill asserts, "Only in the South, and particularly the rural South, is there a sufficiently large population rooted in the old ways to allow for a successful movement against the forces of global reconstruction." I completely agree with Mr. Hill's aversion to "global reconstruction," but, please, let our hopes not reside on the back of Bubba! Truth is, the "rural South" which Mr. Hill champions has been despoiled by the culture wars. For example, here in West Tennessee, within 60 miles of Memphis, a small town of some 5,000 has been beset by all the urban problems: gang violence, escalating teen pregnancies, rape, murder, and the chaos of federalized social experimentation in the ubiquitous public schools. The rural stretches do not have a monopoly on public virtue, especially in light of a Wal-Mart on every corner and a satellite dish in each yard, beaming in the same smut and filth "enjoyed" in San Francisco, Boston, St. Paul, Billings, and Fairbanks.

So, while I concur with Mr. Hill in much of his analysis, I cannot agree with his sunny hopefulness attached to the supposed yeomen of the South. Ours is a blighted region indeed, overflowing with the refuse of the tundra districts and the machinations of Madison Avenue and Hollywood. Given the greed within the American psyche, there is, perhaps, only a shade of difference between a 14- or 50-year-old in Memphis or Bucksnort and his counterpart in, say, Albany, Portland, or Rockford.

        —Terrence Neal Brown
Memphis, TN

Dr. Hill Replies:

Mr. Brown raises some valid points. In regard to what is to be done with the hordes of Yankees who have come South, I suggest we either educate them and make them into good Southerners or deprive them of air conditioning and force them northward again.

On the second point, my father and father-in-law were veterans of the Korean conflict and World War II, respectively, and both came to realize toward the end of their lives that the country for which they fought had forsaken them and their kith and kin. Both abhorred the fact that they had risked their lives so that the Democrats and Republicans could sell out America's national sovereignty to the internationalists. They often told me stories of the myriad Confederate flags taken into battle by Southern-dominated units in both wars. (Can you imagine that in today's Armed Services?)

No one doubts or questions the sacrifices made by millions of our fathers and grandfathers. Many patriotic Southern men (whose numbers in the United States military were far out of proportion to the Southern population as a whole) braved enemy bullets in the belief that they would return from war having proven themselves "good Americans," and thus would be afforded the nation's respect. This was not to be the case, however. Less than a decade after World War II ended, the same government that had sent them to war then began the ongoing assault on the symbols and history of the South. Many of those old fellows remember it as the Second Reconstruction (i.e., the "civil rights movement"). Simply put. Southerners were duped by an unscrupulous government which understood and exploited their urge to fight for hearth and home, and this was how the wars of the 20th century were sold to them. Of course, it was all a lie. They fought instead for the furtherance of an American Empire that their Confederate ancestors had fought against.

I agree with Mr. Brown that the scourge of modernism has reached even the most unreconstructed Bubbas all over the South. My own hometown of 3,000 people in northwest Alabama suffers from ills unimagined just a quarter century ago. I do not, therefore, labor under the illusion that it will be easy to rouse even rural, Bible-believing Southerners from their lethargy. However, there are still legions of folks south of the Mason-Dixon line who have but a thin veneer of modernity to be scraped away before revealing the real man or woman underneath. The task of the Southern League is to rally these good folks and give them an alternative to the present dilemma. No, it will not be easy, but it is our duty and we shall do it—win, lose, or draw.

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