Southern Style

The American South. Fields and streams. Hard working men tending the land by day and tending their families by night. Southern Belles, with names like Millie, offering cold glasses of sweet tea to all who step on her porch. Conversations revolving around PTO meetings and recipes. And maybe a little gossip about Bob and the new Sunday school teacher. (Wink!) Grandparents regurgitating tales of how things used to be. Tales of the good old days … back when America was a God fearing country.

I know, I know … sounds like a movie of the week, right? Keep in mind that one man’s entertainment is another’s existence.

The south and government have been enemies for quite some time. The animosity is thick, so why bother? Especially when everything seems to hinge on religion. In the south, it can’t be glossed over or overlooked. Faith is key to their foundation. There is no getting over, under, or around it. But why attempt to do that? Why not blaze a path straight through?

I have to hand it to them, Republicans know how to play the game. They take faith and shamelessly exploit it. With a smile. It is no secret that the most religious states are southern. And southern states tend to be red states. Why? Are right wingers more religious? (Done laughing yet?) Of course, they aren’t. Religion, for them, is a tactical advantage. The faithful are little more than a dependable voting block. So … the Republican will sit on Millie’s porch as often as necessary. He will risk diabetes, with every glass of sweet tea. He will joyfully swat mosquitos. He will chat about Little Jimmy’s T ball team and Big Jimmy’s job cutting back hours. Millie will tell how helpful her church family has been. At some point, it will be mentioned that everything is collapsing because we have forgotten about God. Does Millie feel pandered to? If she does, it does not stop her from hosting bake sales, in the church basement, to raise campaign funds. She will gin up support at those T ball games. And all because of a few moments spent being eaten alive on her porch, she has chosen a side. This is primarily because she feels like someone cares about her, and those like her.

The progressive movement could certainly build a coalition without religious members. I wouldn’t recommend it. In fact, I propose the opposite. While these people may reside in red states, many of them have blue ideals. In the last election, over a third said they were less likely to vote for a very wealthy candidate. A majority favor leaving Roe v Wade alone. A great many favor reasonable gun control measures. Gay marriage and marijuana were legalized in a few states, and show increasing popularity in many others. Most importantly, southerners carry a healthy distrust of Wall Street, banking institutions, and corporations. In truth, the greatest chasm is what appears to be the rejection of science. The Religious Right have poured countless dollars into ensuring that only their interpretation of faith is heard. They have frightened the faithful with tales of a “God-less” liberal agenda. And with a few creepy smiles, established a dependable and vocal base. The sad thing is that the fundamentalist element is a small portion of the overall safe community. Now hold on, I know what you’re thinking. No, I am NOT wearing rose colored glasses. Nor am I off to see the wizard. Some minds will never be changed. But some will. Mine was. All it took was a decent conversation with a decent liberal.

The Republicans are playing for keeps. Should we really spot them any votes? Their party alienates everyone and exudes disdain for most of the nation. Their coalition is ever-shrinking. Thank God. We need to make them work for every single vote. Will it kill us to take a few moments and chat with Millie? If the diabetic coma and mosquitoes don’t do us in, we could possibly break through and change a mind or two.

The south is like a maze in the middle of a cornfield. It is equal parts hilarious and frightening. Sometimes, you will want to scream. And religion will rear it’s head again and again. But you will never be bored. Grab your tea glass and join me in my travels across the country… Southern Style.

2 thoughts on “Southern Style

  1. The challenge is to maintain the humility necessary to accept a worldview to which one does not subscribe, and build relationships based on the interests we have in common. Interesting prospect-a left wing “Southern Strategy,” but one based on unity and respect instead of fear and division.

    • I find it interesting, also. There are many disaffected people, in southern states, that feel a kinship with no one. These are persons whom, when asked, will admit to feeling as though their vote doesn’t count. It is common knowledge that what a person devotes time and consideration to, pays dividends. (Eventually) I believe it is possible to build a coalition inclusive of any and all faith. Fundamentalists may never be able to join the cause, I recognize that. I am simply exhausted with the religious right owning the faith vote. In order to hold on to it, they should earn it.

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