Yankee Doodling in the Land of the Cotton
Photo by Editor B
While scootering around New Orleans today a pickup truck passed by, and Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama was blasting through the windows. There were several southern pride bumper stickers on the truck, most notably the Confederate Flag. As the truck raced by I took a long look at the Jefferson Davis statue on the boulevard named after the president of the Confederacy. I just don't get this Civil War pride vibe. As far as I'm concerned, it would be like wearing a swastika in post-war Germany. Sadly nobody has tagged Mr. Davis' statue with "Slave Owner" graffiti lately, but happily I know they will. I then got to thinking about two incidents recently that baffle me.
First, city councilwoman Stacy Head allegedly called a woman at Jazzfest a "Yankee bitch." The witness of the altercation then goes on to explain that the woman comes "from Kentucky with as strong a Southern heritage (and accent) as it comes." Others furthered the lady's defense in a similar fashion. Thus it seems in post Civil War Dixie, being called "Yankee" is far worse than being called a "bitch." (Note to self: don't try this experiment on Therese).
Second, my contractor and my neighbor have been feuding via email over a broken window on my neighbor's property. Our architect and project manager, stepping in as an abritrator, explained to my neighbor that the contractor is "from New York." My neighbor wrote back saying "that explained a lot."
This all reminds me of creating ethnicity and identity out of dislike. For example, much of what defines Canadians is a dislike of the United States. Cultural identity in ancient Israel came from focusing on a dislike of those not circumcised, even though the material cultures of Israel and her neighbors were nearly identical at times. Similarly here in Dixie, an alleged superior identity is molded out of a stereotype of Yankee blatant straight talk and razor sharp efficiency instead of taking the time for small talk and pleasantries. And those pesky standardized test scores that repeatedly mark Yankees as superior intellectually... well, daaaawwwwlin, those test scores be biased, bless their hearts.
By the way, "bless your heart" in Dixie really means "go to hell." So in the end, like Moses, I'm a stranger in a strange land. I love New Orleans and consider it my home. But people born here will never accept me. Like Joshua Clark writes in Heart Like Water, "If you are birthed in Baton Rouge, say, and move here [New Orleans] when you're two weeks old and stay here until you die at the age of 100, your obituary will state, 'Originally from Baton Rouge, So-and-so moved to New Orleans when he attended...'"
I'm a big Neil Young fan by the way. And I know from the lyrics that blasted out of the southern-pride truck, "a southern man don't need him around anyhow." Same southern man don't need me and my family around neither. But we'se stayin', and my bags are not made out of Katrina soaked carpet.