“That Dear Ol’ Southland” and the Horrible Truth

I suppose that many people have the same image of the Ol’ South that I grew up with, genteel belles and gallant straight-backed gentlemen sipping mint juleps in the shade of moss-draped oak trees while Cole Porter songs echo among the rafters of stately homes… Visions of Scarlet O’Hara and Rhett Butler in “Gone With the Wind” (photo above) …

An idyllic, graceful setting that was shattered by uncouth invaders from the North – the Damn Yankees who live in infamy wherever the Confederate flag is flown… And it is still flown, as you probably realize from news reports of recent political developments.

I hate to tell all you romantics this, the Ol’ South ain’t what it used to be – and it never was.

I now live in a part of Florida where the Confederate flag still adorns the rear windows of pick-up trucks, and where people call each other “y’awl.” They still eat grits and red-eye gravy and they are apt to have a patch of collard greens in the back garden.

Moss-burdened trees abound – and they are a royal pain in the rear. I have just suffered through a dreadful allergy brought on by the live-oak blossoms, and I have strained my back sweeping up dead leaves for the past three months… But there’s more: the acorns are about to start falling… and falling … and falling …

But that’s not the most depressing thing. It’s the pervading political environment that gets to me. It seems everyone’s a Republican hereabouts – the foot doctor’s nurse, the pharmacist’s assistant, the lady at the jewelry store where I went to buy Sandra a birthday present, and every single one of my neighbors.

They are all having a fit because Barack Obama got himself elected President. They would never say it out loud of course, but I suspect they are horrified at the idea of a black family in the White House.

So when I read that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell proclaimed “Confederate History Month” recently – without mentioning slavery – I figured he was “playing to the base” as the TV pundits say. There’s a big surge of pro-Confederate sentiment in the conservative movement. Some southern states are even muttering about “secession.”

For a long time now, people around here have been saying “the South will rise again,” and I guess this is what’s happening. But, trust me, there’s nothing romantic about it.

Written on the back of the 1860s photograph above: “…Oh, let me live in Freedom’s Land, or die if still a slave…” (Photo: Okinawa Soba)

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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