Mississippi on my mind

I haven’t been down to Buddy’s on Delaware Avenue in a while, but after reading Paul Greenberg’s piece, I might just have to make a tamale run.

Enough of the New South; a longing for the old one had surfaced. As it regularly does. Come to think, is there anything older than the succession of New Souths that mark our ever recurring past in these fecund latitudes? Shiny New Souths just keep coming ’round and ’round-like the same garish motel you keep passing when, lost on some freeway in Atlanta or Dallas, you realize you’ve been going in circles.

The illusion arises in every generation: At last we’re going to be a nation like all other nations! The next big thing will finally free us from the dead hand of the past-from our choking Southernness. Industrialization, that was going to be the ticket! Or maybe truck farming. Then education-or at least technical training. Racial Integration! Air-conditioning! High-tech corridors! Name your shiny cure-all that will change everything.

But the more we changed, the more Southern we longed to be. There may not always be an England, but I’m beginning to suspect there’ll always be a South. Why else this sudden, inexplicable, atavistic yen to head for the Delta, cross The River, and rest under the shade of the trees?

NOW, AS the latest Ponzi schemes peel away, the Southerner experiences a familiar, dizzying sensation of deja vu. Haven’t we been here before? Isn’t this where we came in? There is a sweet familiarity to the slow dissolution of all that empty optimism. We won’t miss it. For when the blues begin to set in, the Southerner’s immediate reaction is to savor them, drown in them, exult in them. Oh, the troubles we seen! And are seeing. And we confess there is no health in us.

We rush to embrace disillusion like an old friend, like a witches’ brew we’ve developed a thirst for. After all that bubbly champagne that we never trusted anyway, we go looking for cheap bourbon, for the good old kick in the gut of Early Times. And head out for the Delta. For the mother warmth of home.

Like the Calvinists we’ve always been in the depths of our souls, we wallow in the evidence of our natural depravity. Our world hasn’t changed after all. There is something assuring about the realization. We can stop faking modernity, confess our sins, and return to our roots. What a relief.

At times like these, we want a taste of Mississippi and ruin. Just to restore perspective, to get back in touch with the patience and long view that only defeat can give a people. Of course Yankees don’t remember The War. Why should they? They won.

An excerpt really doesn’t do justice to this fine piece. Please, read it all.

(h/t n2l)

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