Chuck Thompson recently wrote a book called Better Off Without ’Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession. Parts of that book he adapted for an article in Alternet. My co-blogger AROY have frequently discussed this idea. Racism and idiocy happen on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. The U.S. has a dreadful and sordid history of racism that extends to all parts of the country at one time or another. We all have some toxic, venomous extremists among us, all over the U.S. But talking about the here and now, in 2012, we have to ask what is it about the majority of people in the South of the U.S. that leads them to vote their toxic, venomous extremists into public office?
Thompson attempts to explain this by way of Southern anger. I'm not sure I buy this. Without a foundation of racism and/or belief in "the underserving other" no amount of anger can explain the support for the birther "movement" nor the belief that poor people remain so because they do not want jobs, or that women should not have the rights they have, much less acquire ones they should have had all along but still don't. Despite my disagreement on cause, the article (and maybe even the book) I find a worthwhile read. Thompson points out the disingenuousness (really outright dishonesty) of the southerners who attempt to distance themselves from the fanatics among them, and even work themselves up into a full-court press of martyrdom over anyone pointing out something such as "KKK-themed Redneck Shop" in their town.
In response to the martyrdom complex Thompson writes:
One wonders why this Southerner—and others who beat the same drum of outrage—are not instead asking, “Why is a KKK Grand Dragon able to operate a long-running business selling Klan robes, booklets outlining Klan rituals and related disease across from the courthouse in a town square in 2012?”
What prevents today's Southerners from asking this sort of question? (BTW, the old HQ in New Jersey served as a retirement home when we lived next door to it and you could not find any KKK themed anything sold anywhere).
What makes me most interested in reading the book comes from this passage in which Thompson deconstructs the lame excuse of "Don’t Look at Me, I Didn’t do Nuthin’"
However good and polite they may be, what the majority of Southerners are, and have always been, is willing to allow the most angry and “patriotic” firebrands among them to remain in control of their society’s most powerful and influential positions, be they in the realms of politics, business, education, religion or media.
Just as it was angry Southern zealots who pushed the country into the Civil War, it was angry zealots who, while the rest of the South turned its back, were allowed to construct and maintain the legal foundations of Jim Crow; who were allowed to turn the Scopes Monkey Trial into a humiliating circus; who were allowed to circumvent Brown vs. Board of Education and school desegregation by calling out the National Guard and building segregation “academies”; who were allowed to resist Civil Rights with dogs and water cannons; who are still allowed to denounce science as a liberal conspiracy and proclaim without ridicule that a black president’s birth certificate is fake and throw secessionist balls and insist that slavery had nothing whatsoever to do with the Civil War, and swear that all of this was and is somehow being done in the name of a liberty to which they feel deprived due to their miserable lives of oppression and persecution beneath the stars and stripes.
Embittered fanatics may represent a minority of Southerners. But they’re still an extremely powerful minority that the rest of the South enables—or succumbs to—or aligns with—or votes for—or prays alongside—or links arms in martyred brotherhood with—year after year, decade after decade, century after century.