Southern By the Grace of God

Kaitlin Beard of the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune covered my Thursday speech:

You can’t know who you are without first knowing something about your ancestors, a speaker told the Rome chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans on Thursday night.
Stacy McCain, a former Rome News-Tribune reporter who also worked as an editor for the Washington Times, spoke to the group at the Rome-Floyd County Library. . . . McCain’s topic for the night was “Beyond the Flag: Defending Our Honor in the 21st Century.” He said that it is a sin for people to forget their past.
“A personal connection is what leads to a love of history. That connection makes all the difference in the world,” said McCain. . . .

You can read the whole thing. The lovely Miss Beard, a junior at Berry College who is interning this summer at the RN-T, slightly garbled one of my quotes. What I actually said was that when you go to defend the South, you had better be prepared to defend it “down to the last boll weevil on the last cotton patch beside the last tar-paper shack on the last dirt road in Mississippi.”

As I told my friends in Rome, it’s like the song from “West Side Story”:

When you’re a Jet,
You’re a Jet all the way.
From your first cigarette
To your last dyin’ day.

When somebody puts down the South, I’m a Jet all the way. This has had terrible consequences for my reputation and frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. I’d rather be denounced by the Southern Poverty Law Center than to be a coward who apologetically cringes for fear of being called names. Call me what you will, just don’t ever call me a scalawag.

This is why I was more amused than outraged by Sonia Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” remark. To me, ethnic chauvinism is entirely comprehensible and, in most circumstances, inoffensive. Man is by nature tribal. Edmund Burke’s famous observation about the “little platoons” that make up society eloquently expresses how every person’s natural loyalty to their own particular group constitutes the mortar that bonds them to the larger society.

If you’re Jewish, be a proud Jew, if you’re Italian, be a proud Italian, and if you’re a Newyorican, be a proud Newyorican. A proud Southerner doesn’t mind that at all.

Damned Yankees, Damned Theories
The problem occurs when someone tries to turn their own ethnic pride — a natural and admirable trait — into a larger, universalistic theory, as the Damned Yankees have always done.

Where I come from, “damned Yankee” is not considered cursing. In fact, most folks down home count “damnyankee” as one word. I have frequently described the widespread prejudice against the South as boreal supremacy, the belief that everything about the North is superior to everything about the South. Such prejudice against the South is so common that some people don’t even notice it, but I do, and I resent the hell out of it.

Confronted with the assumption of Northern superiority, some Southerners will react by attempting to ape Northern ways and adopt characteristically Northern attitudes, and start “putting on airs,” as Alabama folks would say. Next thing you know, they’re espousing Buddhist economics and shopping at Whole Foods like some kind of effete pansy. But I digress . . .

There is a right way and a wrong way to deal with being the object of prejudice. Michael Steele thinks that Judge Sotomayor’s response to prejudice is the wrong kind and, given his own experiences with prejudice, Steele’s views certainly deserve consideration.

For the past week, some people labored diligently to convict the judge of “racism.” Having experienced the same kind of treatment, I would be inclined to hear Judge Sotomayor testify to the Judiciary Committee before judging her fitness for the Supreme Court. There may be other controversies — including her judicial decisions — that would be more relevant than her “Jet all the way” Newyorican pride.

Perhaps Judge Sotomayor’s experience of being condemned as a “racist” will enhance her Latina wisdom. It might cause her to re-examine the liberal presumption of inherent “white male privilege” that is the theoretical justification for much of the malicious social engineering practiced in the name of “diversity.”

Redneck Privilege?
When I think of my own ancestors — hard-working people who toiled from dawn to sundown on the red clay hills of Alabama — I am quite naturally filled with pride. The suggestion that I should be ashamed of my ancestors is an insult I deeply resent. And to suggest that I am the beneficiary of an undeserved “privilege” is another sort of insult.

Certainly I have been less “privileged” than the Ivy League-educated Sotomayor, and any suggestion to the contrary amounts to an assertion of my own inferiority. This is an insult to me, and is compounded by an insult to my intelligence if you deny that you have insulted me.

If you say that the descendant of Puerto Ricans is deserving of a privilege that no descendant of Alabama rednecks could ever deserve, you implicity assert that my ancestors were inferior to Sotomayor’s. When I point out the self-evident insult involved, and someone then tells me, “Oh, you don’t understand . . .” or otherwise denies the insulting nature of their argument, they have then asserted that their own understanding is superior to mine.

“Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s rainin’.”
The Outlaw Josey Wales

There may be legitimate arguments in favor of having a “wise Latina” on the Supreme Court, but insofar as those arguments deny similar consideration to an Alabamian — say, someone like Sen. Jeff Sessions — an entire class of Americans has been thereby disadvantaged by your presumption of their inferiority. No one ever points this out, because the prejudices of boreal supremacy are so universal in elite culture.

Justice Clarence Thomas represents me as well as, if not indeed better than, any of his white associates on the court. From his own experience, Justice Thomas learned that the liberal’s claim of “tolerance” and “civility” is a vicious lie — a lie I discovered through experiences of my own.

It has long been my opinion that, whatever their disagreements and differences, black Americans and white Southerners share the experience of being the objects of prejudice. After years of encountering the patronizing condescension of one’s alleged superiors (a certain bowtied fops’s insulting contempt has been noted), one’s skin grows thick enough that it is no longer a constant struggle to withstand the urge to punch those arrogant bastards right square in their stuck-up noses. If nothing else, one can simply walk out of the room when David Brooks walks in.

Be a Good Jet, Jeff
At some point, however, such insults pile up so high that you feel compelled at least to mention the insult, lest the damned Yankee suppose that you are such a cowardly scalawag as to be insulted with impunity. I consider it beneath my dignity to defend myself against the accusation of “racism” — not even to point out that some of my best friends are Newyorkican — since I understand the accusation as an invitation to crawl in abjection before the shrine of boreal supremacy.

Therefore, I hope that Judge Sotomayor will not withdraw her nomination before she’s had a full hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and further hope that Senator Sessions will ask her whether she believes a “wise Latina” is inherently superior to a wise Alabamian.

Down home, there is a popular bumper-sticker slogan, “American By Birth, Southern By the Grace of God,” and no Southerner should condemn Judge Sotomayor for proclaiming herself “Newyorican By the Grace of God.” But if she’s trying to insult and disadvantage the people Senator Sessions represents, a matter of honor is involved, and she ought to expect a rumble.

You’ve got to be a Jet all the way, Senator.

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