Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Red Like Me

As mentioned in the last post, I spent last weekend, extended by a day each way, driving through the American south. To get to New Orleans from Kansas City, you drive to St. Louis and turn right, tracing the courses of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. To make certain that we felt the full Republican experience, we left our Volvo behind and rented an SUV. Unfortunately, it did not come with one of those falsely patriotic magnetic ribbons. On the other hand, it did have plates from Johnson County, KS, so my pseudo-Republican disguise was complete.

The first hint that we were descending into a different world (other than the rice paddies and cotton fields of southeast Missouri) came in Blytheville, Arkansas, "where southern hospitality begins." We stopped at a filling station, and, there in the window was a rack of bumper stickers, most of which displayed the rebel flag.

What is it with the rebel flag and rednecks? This place even had a t-shirt that included a rebel flag and the ironic words, "These colors won't run. Never have, never will." Umm, yeah, they certainly did run. They ran and ran and finally surrendered, if I recall history. Where I come from, the Confederacy was led by a guy named Sterling Price, a man who would have been better off coaching a track team. One of my favorite Missourians, Samuel Clemens, joined the Confederates but quit after two weeks, "being incapacitated through continual retreating." I will never understand why rednecks choose to associate themselves with a group of losers that attacked an American fort and then got its ass kicked. They were the Al Qaeda of their time, except that their leader did not dodge Lincoln as effectively as Bin Laden has dodged Bush.

By the time we got to Tennessee, Republican behavior was showing up in the way people drove. Rather than cooperatively merging at construction zones, the drivers around Memphis and points south adopt a "Me first" attitude, rushing past the line of waiting cars and forcing their way in at the barrels, forcing additional delay on everyone but themselves.

Before the trip was over, I found myself listening to AM radio, where I learned that I should refuse to believe all news coverage unless it comes from a Christian broadcasting source, and that the goal of Islam is to kill all Jews and Christians. I could feel the IQ points dripping out of my ears. If you get your news from AM radio, it's no wonder that your world view would be skewed enough to lead you down the republican path.

From some great blues radio on the Jackson, MS, NPR affiliate to the best restaurant I have ever eaten in, there is much to like about the Red states I saw. Tulane is a beautiful place, and I'm confident my daughter will be happy there. That said, though, travelling through Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisianna in a gas-guzzling SUV gave me a glimpse into the red state south, and made me appreciate living in a swing state.


Blogger joe said...

I like the south. Allie and I once did a two-week road trip through the South, and we enjoyed it immensely. Every once in a while we fantasize about moving there, preferably to Oxford, Miss., which seems it would be a cool town.

8/24/2005 8:46 AM  
Blogger Brian Stayton said...

My wife was born in Montgomery Alabama and was raised from an early age in Albany Georgia -- I cannot comment negatively on the South. (Shoot, she says she wouldn't have married if me if she hadn't known my ancestors moved to Kansas in the 1880s from Kentucky, which means we were Southerners when it counted -- she thinks.)

I think modern day Southerners revel in the fact that their ancestors stood up to an invading and overwhelming force trying to impose their power over them. That's of course a grotesque and unsupportable over-simplification of the Civil War. But it seems to fit their pride in participating in a losing rebellion.

Ummm. See any parallels to the Iraqi "insurgents"? Why does Dubya et al believe Iraqis have any less pride in their country?


8/24/2005 3:21 PM  
Blogger George said...

I like the South okay, now that I'm living here (temporarily) again. The food rocks, and I like the lushness off all the fauna.

Drivers, however, suck. I didn't realize it until I'd lived in the Midwest for a few years.

8/24/2005 8:19 PM  
Blogger antimedia said...

Damn! Tulane? Man, you must make a lot more money than I do. One of my daughters wanted to go to Tulane. When we found out how much it cost we busted out laughing. I told her if she could prove to me that a degree from Tulane was worth 8 times as much as the school she ended up going to, then we might try to figure out a way to get her there.

Glad you found some things to like down here, but comparin' rebels to terrorists could get you shot in some places down here. Good you waited 'til you got home to say it. ;-)

8/24/2005 9:45 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Antimedia - I doubt I make much more money than you do, but I am willing to borrow more money than any sane person is willing to consider. And, yeah, you're right, the threat of violence against opposing beliefs is definitely part of the red state culture. I would not have felt safe mocking the confederate sympathizers, even though they have a proven history of running and surrendering. Maybe if I had Sherman in my posse . . .

8/24/2005 9:53 PM  

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