The South may rise again

I accumulated much of my CD collection long before things turned really hard for me, before I returned to school, and found out what was really going on. So yeah, I have some Lynard Skynard albums.

I was listening to my collection at random tonight and up came a combination Lynard Skynard played in concert that juxtaposed Dixie and Sweet Home Alabama. They announced it with a boast that the South would rise again “tonight.”

Sweet Home Alabama is an answer to Neil Young’s Southern Man (also a part of my collection). “Watergate does not trouble me,” the singer sings. “Does your conscience bother you?” Young had referred to the outright bigotry of an archetypal Southern white male. The history of that bigotry includes a slavery more brutal and dehumanizing than that practiced almost anywhere else, lynching, the death penalty (particularly as practiced in Texas), Jim Crow laws, school segregation, residual discrimination, media coverage and the political response to Hurricane Katrina, and white supremacist groups we rarely think of when we speak of “terrorism.”

Of course the present includes thirty death threats against President Barack Obama each day, police harassment and murders, a racist judicial system, and the Town Hell madness.

Such instances are far from exclusive to the South. Recently I was driving down the streets of Santa Rosa, California, and saw a pickup truck driving the other way with an oversize Confederate flag flying from its bed.

Lynard Skynard attempted to answer Neil Young’s accusation of racism with a reference to Richard Nixon, who like Neil Young, comes from California. But this is no answer to the decades of a particularly vicious racism which was largely centered in the South. Support for the Republican faction that has been behind the at least partly racist Tea Party and Town Hell insanity seems strongest in the South, with the rest of the country dismayed by the sheer nonsense that has gone on.

Lynard Skynard is simply one more example of white denial. We’re supposed to be in a “postracial” society, and the White House desperately and implausibly seeks to avoid accusing its opponents of racism. But the reality is inescapable.

As a country, the United States needs to ask itself if indeed the South is rising again. The South lost the Civil War, but won the Reconstruction, and has had an arguably disproportionate grip on U.S. politics ever since. Now it seems increasingly like it is the South against nearly everyone else, electorally and in a survey.

And Republican voters are more likely to want ideologically “pure candidates” even if that means electoral failure. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) revealed that his is not a strategy to achieve power through electoral means when he said, “I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.”

The “freedom” DeMint speaks of is for the wealthy to exploit everyone else and for African Americans to “mind their place.” Republican strategy is now not about freedom in any rational sense of the word nor is it about getting elected. If we understand politicians as having an unhealthy relationship with power, then we have ask what these Republicans’ strategy to attain power is. The South may indeed rise again. And the rest of us won’t like how it does it.

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