Skip to comments.Why Elitists Dump on the South
Posted on 04/19/2002 12:24:19 PM PDT by Tumbleweed_Connection
To preserve its illusion of national innocence, the United States projects its "dark" side onto the South, a Penn State geographer says.
For 10 years after his graduation from college, David R. Jansson worked in university towns Boston; Ithaca, N.Y.; Madison, Wis.; Berkeley, Calif. that deemed themselves "progressive" and "enlightened," i.e., left wing.
"These places had their differences," he told United Press International in a phone interview, "but one of the things I could count on was a common conception of the South, largely among people who had never been there but who had very consistent ideas about what the South meant and what it stood for. This was the standard list of negative characteristics and stereotypes."
Jansson enumerated those attributed traits in a presentation to the 98th annual meeting of Association of American Geographers in Los Angeles last month. He said that in American national discourse, "the South tends to be represented as violent, racist, poor, intolerant, xenophobic, and dim-witted, among other things."
This Bigotry Is P.C.
He told UPI that during the decade he worked before beginning graduate studies, he found that people indulged in one of the last forms of bigotry acceptable in polite society. Those who wouldn't dream of mocking other groups were comfortable making jokes about white Southerners.
Representing the South as backward endows America as a whole with the opposite qualities, he said. The vices associated by knee-jerk reaction with the South "become spatialized" and are held to be uncharacteristic of the nation.
By this means, the United States can claim to stand for the exalted principles of the Enlightenment unblemished by skeletons in its own closet. American history, Jansson told the geographers, then can be seen as "unceasing progress and selfless efforts to improve the lot of all humanity."
Southerners are often accused of being stuck in the past, but this comes in part from an external assignment from the rest of America to act as its foil, Jansson said.
Partners in Slavery
The American legend of innocence is built upon a shaky foundation, Jansson said. "Thus slavery is cast in Southern terms when it was more of a national experience than is generally acknowledged."
Citing an essay by Dan Georgakas in the 1998 book "The Meaning of Slavery in the North," Jansson told the geographers: "While most Americans have chosen to think of slavery as a regional aberration than a national phenomenon, in reality the so-called free states of the North were full partners in the viability of the slave society of the South."
Jansson said that University of Kentucky historian Joanne Pope Melish, in her 1998 book "Disowning Slavery," argues that the mythology of a free New England remains potent in academia as it does in American society as a whole. But Melish shows how even otherwise careful historians tend to date the end of slavery in the North earlier than its demise.
In his presentation, Jansson reviewed some of the salient thoughts of C. Vann Woodward (1908-1999), the eminent Yale historian of the South. Woodward's landmark work, "The Mind of the South," was published in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War.
Jansson said Woodward viewed Southern history not as the stories in dusty old library volumes, but rather as the collective experience in which the Southern people find their distinctiveness.
"This history includes Southern poverty in the face of American abundance," Jansson said. In 1969 the United States had never "lost" a war, but the Confederacy had been defeated and occupied. Dealing with tragedy had set the South apart. The myths of innocence, omniscience and "social felicity" were not operating assumptions in Dixie.
Woodward argued that America needed the sobering influence of Southern history, "a heritage that is far more closely in line with the common lot of mankind than the national legends of opulence and success and innocence."
But Jansson concluded his presentation with the observation that the United States, even with the reverses it has suffered since 1969, remained resistant to Woodward's message. "In fact, the chasm that separates the history of America from the history of the South cannot be crossed without causing a rupture in the American national identity," he said.
But you didn't give the country George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon or Dwight Eisenhower either...
Johnson a JFK wanna-be? He heated Kennedy's guts, and I wouldn't classify JFK as a goofy lib. The guy was one hell of a cold war hawk and pushed throught the biggest tax cut in history.
You bastards. . .
The Kennedy administration seriously considered a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.
I believe most of the strategic nuclar TRIAD was put together during JFK's administration. 600 B-52's, 41 SSBN missile subs and 1,000 ICBMs.
Well, if we need to point it out, Virginia alone gave America: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, William Henry Harrison and Woodrow Wilson
When we relocated to the South after five years' absence, our realtor told us in passing (althought she said she would officially deny ever saying it if confronted) that her clients who were Yankee transplants were only interested in housing in the lily-whitest suburbs. After years of dealing with them, our agent said she didn't even bother showing Yankees areas of town with the slightest "ethnicity" anymore. Total hypocrites.
JFK and Johnson campaigned on the "missile gap". Most of the TRIAD was already in place or in the pipeline.
As an ex-NY er, you are absolutely right. NYC is populated with 9 million bigots, racists and snooty elitists. Their holier than thou attitude is all sham.
Yes, there was a missle gap, which we filled with 1,000 Minuteman missiles.
Seems like I read years ago that solid fuel boosters became possible or more capable during the JFK administration. They asked the Air Force how many we needed. The Air Force came back and said -- with a straight face -- TEN THOUSAND. The adminstration just lopped off a zero, and voila! Triad.
As an ex-NY er, you are absolutely right. NYC is populated with 9 million bigots, racists and snooty elitists.
There are only 8 million people living in NYC, and I personally know dozens who are none of those things.
Go back and check those numbers you just made up.
As far as music goes, all American music is southern. Certainly, others picked up on it and furthered it - Chicago blues is a notable example: it is almost a genre of its own, now, but without what came out of the Mississippi Delta, it wouldn't exist - but it originated in the South. And its foundations are in uniquely Southern musical forms.