I am a Southerner. A bona fide one. My direct lineal ancestor, Lemuel Lamb Hardy, was born sometime between 1695 and 1700 in Chowan, Bertie County, North Carolina and died there on Salmon Creek in 1750. Solomon Zant, my mother’s Great (times five) Grandfather on her father’s side was probably born in Switzerland, but made it to Ebenezer, now a ghost town in Effingham County, Georgia in time to hitch up with Elizabetha Keiffer on March 24, 1767.[i]
My point is: my Southern roots go back to before the U.S. became a country. We came early to this party and we stayed late. Which gives me the right to comment on this whole “Romance of the South/ Up with the Confederacy” CRAP coming up through the drains these days, poisoning our public discourse with pure vituperative nonsense.
Any student of American history knows that the United States was founded on a fault line – slavery – and that it was only a matter of time before tectonic plates shifted and the nation was rent asunder. A civil war was in the cards from Day One. In fact, pace Tea Party, it’s arguable that the Second Amendment had a lot more to do with assuring Southern whites that they would be able to surpress a slave rebellion than it did with ensuring that patriots could defend themselves from some nonspecific tyranny. It still does. “Don’t want too many of them brown people getting up in our white business, after all.” Isn’t that what you believe?
There was nothing romantic about the Old South. It was predicated on an abomination. The Southern “way of life” was a rare bloom growing from a great reeking heap of manure. Africans did not benefit from being dragged to these shores in chains and then treated worse than pack animals. (The wonder is that they have managed to succeed to the great extent that they have, enriching our culture beyond anything us honkies could pulled off under similar circumstances.) As for the ladies, corsets like Scarlett O’Hara wore resulted in everything from squashed ribs and hearts to displaced spleens. If childbirth didn’t get you, your corset surely would. (Not that you could ever hope for a seventeen inch waist. I’m talking to you, Paula Deen.)
And here’s the kicker, those of you just a-longing for those good old days upon the Swanee River, for most of you that will be a case of nostalgie de la boue. Because you descend from Crackers. Yes, Crackers. All of you who are so proud to call yourselves ‘Rednecks’? Crackers. Tenant farmers. Dirt Farmers. Poor white trash. You know how to tell? Do you have a great grandmother who belonged to the Daughters of the Confederacy? Is your daughter eligible to be a debutante in North Carolina or Georgia or Mississippi? No? I thought so. Crackers.
I’m a Cracker too. I once asked my Grandfather Hardy what his people had done in the Civil War. “Why, they hid in the swamp every time the recruiter came by,” he told me. “They didn’t think the war had anything to do with them. They were dirt farmers. They didn’t own slaves.”
And your relatives probably didn’t either, so stop dreaming!
When I was twelve years old, I read Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind for the first time. Then I read it four more times. I loved it. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. For a number of years it informed my view of the Civil War and the history of the United States and my own identity as a Southern woman. Excuse me. As a flower of Southern Womanhood.
Then I grew up.
So don’t save your Confederate money, boys. The South will not rise again. And you are not who you think you are and never will be. So just get over it. And, while you’re at it, learn to spell.
[i] (Interestingly enough, Ebenezer was established in 1734 by 150 Salzburger Protestants who had been expelled from the Archbishopric of Salzburg in present-day Austria for religious reasons. Elizabetha was a Saltzburger, as was Solomon’s mother. The town was intended to be a religious Utopia on the Georgian frontier, but that’s another story.)