Andrew Sullivan has received some backlash in recent days for posting a reader’s screed against “the rump South.” Other readers have taken up the defense of the motherland in response, decrying the first reader’s stereotypes and generalizations. They seem to feel personally slighted by the first reader’s description of the Tea Party as Southerners holding on to a “planter mentality.”
I have moved away and, at this point, spent more of my life on the two coasts than in my native Texas, so some people might no longer consider me a Southerner. But, as all other transplanted Southerners know, you take that shit with you. I’m not sure the original reader was actually casting all Southerners in with a bad lot, so I think the rush to defend our brothers and sisters is a bit misguided. The first reader is actually saying that the Tea Party is composed of the remnants of an anti-federalist racist culture that was, for many rooted years, rooted in the South. He doesn’t say all Southerners are Tea Partiers, he says Tea Partiers are the most entrenched of what remains of that part of Southern history. I, as a Southerner, don’t feel implicated by that. I know that many Southerners are not Tea Partiers, that some are not even Republicans, and that many of all stripes are not part of that culture of fear and resentment. I also know for damn sure that many are. And I’ll bet Sullivan’s second readers know that too.
Second readers, just as you know that there are Southerners who are liberal and Southerners who are genuinely, small-c intelligent conservatives, you also know that there are some among us who still feel that something was taken away from them when black people gained equal rights , and therefore they’re skeptical of any kind of government action that might lead to more of that kind of social engineering. They don’t want anybody giving any more groups any share in the, in their minds, apparently limited pool of equal rights. You’ve met them at the store, you live next door to them, you went to school with them. And you don’t need to defend them.
No one is dissing Faulkner, and no one is making fun of your accent. They’re just saying that there’s a very long legacy of resentment in the South, and though it is dying, right now it has found a home in the Tea Party. The Tea Party might take offense at this, but I don’t think Southerners need to.
UPDATE: A third round of Dish readers agrees.