The South’s (over) Quarter Life Crisis…

“When life gives you lemons, put them in your sweet tea and thank God you are a southerner,” -unknown. The south, on the surface, seems to be congested with poverty, gangs, drugs, tragedies, low education, and alcohol abuse. These inadequate labels are nothing of what the south means to me. Southern culture is jam-packed with inferior pieces, but has so many superior qualities that outweigh.  I will be the first to admit that among much research the south has struggled with these unfortunate qualities, the south has also given the world lots of virtuous commodities. Out of all the bad that is portrayed on the south, southerners choose to ignore and make something honorable instead.

“When I think of the South I think of our sweet little small town where there are no strangers and mostly everyone gets along.” -Maggie Mcbrayer

“To me, the South means good food, lots of Jesus, and small town where everyone knows everything about everybody.” -Haley Fowler

“The South is when you go to the grocery store and stop to talk to every person you encounter because everyone knows everyone.” -Eliza Cook

As I explored different ideas for my blog post, I looked up “southern culture paper topics” It baffled me when the only things that came up consisted of poverty, gangs, drugs, tragedies, low education, alcohol abuse, tobacco, and cotton. The south is WAY more than those inaccurate statements. I asked friends, who have grown up in the south with me what they thought the south was about. Some may argue that we are just teens, but we argue back that we have grown up and had first hand experiences of what the south is really about. Our town may have fractions of the poor sides of the south, although past the inferior qualities is a small town where everyone knows and cares for each person. A few days ago I was riding with a friend and he saw a football teammate walking down the street, without hesitation, he picked him up and gave him a ride where he needed to go. That is one of many first hand experiences that show how the south is more then these faulty accusations.

 Where I’m From

 By- George Ella Lyon

“I am from clothespins,

From clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.

I am from the dirt under the back porch.

(Black, glistening,

It tasted like beets.)

I am from forsythia bush

The dutch elm

Whose long-gone limbs i remember

As if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses, 

From Imogene and Alafair.

I’m from the know-it-alls 

And the pass-it-ons,

From perk up! And pipe down!

I’m from He restoreth my soul 

With a cottonball lamb

And ten verses I can say myself

I’m from Artemus and Bilie’s Branch,

Fried corn and strong coffee.

To the auger,

The eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box 

Spilling old pictures,

A sift of lost faces

To drift beneath my dreams.

I am from those moments–

Snapped before I budded–

Leaf-fall from the family tree.”

The poem sited above describes the religious part of the south. The south is considered as the Bible Belt. While the internet tends to lack focus on that part of the south, religion (specifically christianity) has shaped how our governments along with many other factors run. For my life and my friends, God is our higher being. I attend a small town church called Life-point along with some of my closest friends. This summer I got the honor of traveling to Haiti on a mission trip and oh boy! I could right a paper on that alone. Many southern churches go on mission trips unlike northern churches. Also, christianity has many denominations, but the vast majority of southern churches identify as baptist. Along with religion this poem identifies the more country part of the south as in hanging things on clothespins etc. The south has a fair share of big cities but for every big city is a small country premises. People living in Franklin, city or country, contain a big portion of the home cooking, family gatherings on Sunday, and go to sonic or drive country roads because there is nothing else to do in town spirit. This poem exemplifies with most southern states in America instead of the stereotype of the inadequate perceptions of the south.

“My son,

You asked me today what it means to be ‘southern’.

It’s good that you asked. You are being raised in the South, and you will be shaped by its meaning. Now you are very young and were given a simple answer, but as you grow this meaning will grow with you.

Being southern means being tied to the land – overgrown and luscious, maddening in density. Our land is fragrant, and always resisting cultivation. The slopping fields, deep woods, and coursing rivers bear the names of British monarchs, founding fathers, and peoples long ago stripped of the land they alone had loved. We utter all these names and thus give them power to shape us.

Being southern means enduring our summers. The heat and humidity make us a little wild. This wildness permeates our language, our posturing, our emotions, our very ideas of life, and meaning. We often straddle a desire to be both gracious and raw in authenticity.

We’ve created literature, music and cuisine celebrated the world over. We’re a land of celebrated authors and musicians, as well as countless women and men who had to leave their work nameless.

We recognize that “y’all” is the single most satisfying phrase to utter.

We crave porch sitting and tea sipping.

We showcase in no quiet or subtle ways the very marrow of human nature. We as a people have loved intensively and hated in tragic proportions. Our language is spoken with meandering poetry, and with arresting derogatoriness. We are renowned for our hospitality and made infamous by our segregation. There always seems to be a war brewing. It will be your generation’s job to finally bring peace.

Southerners claim the most paradoxical of heritages. A heritage that birthed modern ideals of liberty and freedom while simultaneously enslaving many of its members. Some people liberated while still oppressing. Some people lived in chains, but never stopped dreaming of freedom. We have tended things that should have been left behind and neglected many thing that only propelled us toward justice.

We southerners are not a melting pot, but a boiling stew, in which the influences of countless civilizations are colliding and marinating with one another. You must remember those who still yearn to taste true freedom.

My son, you must one day come to terms with the paradox of your heritage. You will be proud, but you will also feel anguish. You may love, but only after knowing that loving something doesn’t make it perfect. You can speak of your experiences, but you must also listen and learn from voices of those who have not shared your experiences.

For you, being southern will mean carrying on traditions that bring beauty to the world and embracing changes that make our culture worthy of the land which nourishes us.”

According to the blog, “Things I Teach My Children,” this family is growing up in the south as well. The writers son asked her  what it meant to be southern. She did not say the south is full of substandard pieces, instead she told him the qualities of the south that are deeper than the surface. His mom said that the land you grow up on and around is surreal in a sense of the abstract things it unknowingly gives back to you. The mother told her son that he will be proud to live in the south but also feel anguish. By this she began to explain the south has numerous substandard pieces, although they are outweighed by the honorable qualities. This blog piece identifies well with Franklin. Franklin contains drugs, gangs, poverty, and numerous inferior qualities, but it has given thousands of people not just a house, a home. The small town vibe containing people that are not just friends but on the contrary family makes the imperfect qualities become a small fraction of what our town is really about.

Each article or piece of evidence I used in this blog post contradicts the bias view of the internet. The south is way more then poverty, gangs, drugs, tragedies, low education, alcohol abuse, tobacco, and cotton. It is overflowing with love, friends, family, and homes for many people. The quote “When life gives you lemons, put them in your sweet tea and thank God you’re a southerner,” -unknown, explains perfectly that the people living in the south ignore the inferior qualities of the south to be able to truly focus on the innumerable superior aspects of the south. It is important to see all aspects of the south from a impartial view.

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