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Archive for February, 2013

The Atlanta Braves changed their minds, and all I can say is whew.

Had they not, I’d have felt compelled to weigh in on this mess, despite the deafening roar of readers not clamoring for my opinion.

I’d have had to write about how the South’s racial history isn’t a binary of black and white, and how so much of Southern culture was shaped by the colonial Indian wars, some of which still raged well within the living memories of those who lived through the Civil War.

Then, though, I’d have had to mention that the team name “Braves” originated not in Atlanta, of course, but in Boston, and survived the move to Milwaukee, and that the “screaming Indian” logo came south with the team from Northern climes.screamingindian

At that point I’d probably throw in that the Braves, once they had Georgia on their minds, could have changed their representative “Brave” to one more recognizably Cherokee or Creek, the two major tribes in what they now call “Braves Country.”

That most likely would have led me to tell the story of how some men in the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, still living in the Qualla Boundary in the mountains of North Carolina (not too far from Atlanta, in fact), made good money in the 20th century by dressing as “chiefs” and posing with tourists.

They only made good money, though, after changing their wardrobe from authentic traditional Cherokee garb to something closer to what you’d have found on a Plains Indian, but closer still to what you can see on the extras in a classic Western movie.

After telling that story, I’d almost certainly feel like I ought to make some pithy summation about authenticity and preconceptions and the distortions of history and, since I’d have already brought up Westerns, how legends become facts and we print the legends.

But thank goodness the Braves changed their minds about those ball caps, so I don’t have to do any of that.

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If, on these virtual pages, I judge my native land, and call on my kind and kin to recognize and repent of our past and present sins, in too harsh a way, a great part of why I do so is to head off, to cut off, to knee-cap the smug and lazy assumptions of visitors such as Nona Willis Aronowitz:

“So how do you raise a progressive child in a sea of red? It depends on which city you live in, but it usually takes a good amount of effort—and resources.”

How do you raise a progressive kid in Alabama?  I don’t know; ask my in-laws, or the parents of my wife’s many lifelong friends who would call themselves “progressive,” almost all of whom graduated from Alabama public schools.

How do you raise a progressive kid in the South?  Ask my parents; shoot, ask me, since my son just cast his first vote ever last fall, and cast it for Barack Obama.

dreamland

By the way, The Nation: This is not just “A Tuscaloosa BBQ Joint”; this is the original by-God Dreamland. Do a minute of research.

Asking how to raise a “progressive” child in the South just points out how specious and superficial such words are.  To much of my family across the South, I am the personification of a bleeding-heart liberal – I think gay couples should be able to marry, and gun owners should have to get licensed, and government should provide a strong social safety net.  To many of my friends in the Northeast, I’m a DINO (Democrat in Name Only) who’s been a gun owner since I was a child, who’s a big fan of capitalism and free-market enterprise, who has mixed feelings about organized labor, who worships at a Baptist church.

Neither my wife’s parents, nor my parents, nor my children’s parents set out to raise a “progressive” child.  All of us tried hard to raise thinking children.  To some, “thinking” and “progressive” may mean the same thing, but those are the same people to whom “South” and “reactionary” are synonyms, so what do they know?

Aronowitz admits that there are “blue dots” in the South, but those dots aren’t just in college towns or metropolitan hubs, and if you take the time and effort to look closely, they aren’t dots, and they aren’t just one of two primary colors.  Alabama may be “statistically . . . the most conservative state in the nation,” but I was in Alabama after the April 27 tornadoes ripped across the state, and I saw the long lines of Alabamians (and others from across the South) waiting for their chance to give of their means, their time, and their labor to help their neighbors.

The South is changing, quickly and dramatically.  In the Milken Institute’s most recent rankings of the fastest-growing metro areas (for job, wage, and GDP), six of the top 10, and 23 of the top 50, were in states of the old Confederacy.  Please do not presume to know what this growth will mean for the South, politically or socially, since you cannot assume that newcomers and transplants will be any less “conservative” than native Southerners.  (More to the point, please acknowledge that the South hardly has a monopoly on conservatives, reactionaries, or plain ol’ dumbasses.)

As I put it in an earlier post, not all of us who holler, hate.  The trick – no, the task – for us Southerners who both love and lament so much about the South, who would hate to leave this land no matter how much it breaks our hearts, who think purple whether we vote blue or red, is to figure out what is most worth holding on to, and how to hold on without being held down.

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