I do not really think this proposal is feasible. For one thing, too many good people would suffer, maybe one in twenty or one in ten. For another, whole generations of children would be abandoned to savagery and ignorance. For another, there are good and hopeful institutions in the South which we must not abandon, like the Southern Poverty Law Center. But I’m furious with seeing decency hijacked by liars and human abominations, and must speak out.
There’s a wonderful William Faulkner story I used to teach, “Barn Burning,” in which one of the author’s famous Snopeses, Abner Snopes, defines white trash for all time. (And no, just because you’re poor and white, you are not white trash. Even if you live in a trailer, you don’t have to be. What makes you trash is the quality of your mind and your treatment of other people.)
Abner is so mean and rigid he won’t even vary his stride to avoid stepping in a big plop of shit. He’s on his way to the Big House, the house of the man who hired him, and, angry because the black butler asks him to wipe his boot, he smears the print of the shit all over the valuable white rug in the foyer.
Eventually, like the Tea Partiers, Abner gets his “revenge” by setting fire to the patrician’s barn. His son is forced to choose between his father’s way of life and something finer, and chooses against his father, alerting the barn owner.
The story is no simplistic fable. It does not hold out, in tv and movie-style, the promise that things will go easy with the boy thereafter because he made the “right” choice. Instead, he is alone in the world, without family, rejected. His life will be very hard. Nor is the finer world he has glimpsed uniformly good. It’s clear that landowners have corrupted the society, that in many ways they are responsible for the rise of the Snopeses. The butler, remember, is a black servant.
But the boy had no choice.
There are quite a few of us who had to make that choice. It was simple. The people who were supposed to be telling us the truth were lying.
Here are a few, but by no means all, of the Southern lies.
They lie about God. They proclaim Jesus and love and mercy, but they encourage anger, greed, violence, and bigotry. I’ve recounted several times how, at the Baptist preacher’s college I was attending by default, not knowing any better, upon the assassination of JFK, the good “Christians” gloated and laughed and celebrated. I’m not making this up. If you think this is Christian behavior, you are scum and a liar and the truth is not in you.
They lie about the law. They claim the law is fair to everybody, but one has only to look at the progress of most of the court proceedings to see what a lie this is. To take a recent example, a woman and her three children in Atlanta were forced to take the bus home late. The bus stop where they got off was half a mile from the nearest crosswalk. Their apartment was right across from the bus stop. They would have had to walk an extra mile to get home by crossing on the crosswalk. So they jaywalked. As most of us have done.
This time a drunk driver came out of nowhere and hit them. One of the woman’s sons died from his injuries. The drunk driver, who had two prior arrests, was given a five-year sentence and served only six months.
The mother was convicted of felony negligent manslaughter and sentenced to more time in jail than the drunk driver. By an all-white jury.
You can’t twist that into fairness. If you try, you lie.
They lie about facts. They ignore centuries of scientific evidence, and claim that evolution is only a guess, instead of one of the more obvious facts of life on this planet. We have not come up with an entirely satisfactory explanation for the mechanism of evolution. But there is no doubt whatsoever that it has happened.
They lie about how friendly they are. There’s the old meme of the friendly country Southerner, lifting a finger from the steering wheel of his truck as you pass in opposite directions, just saying howdy.
But they are only friendly if they know you, if you look like them, talk like them, and think like them. Otherwise they are murderous, and I do not say that lightly. These people have murdered hundreds of innocents.
They lie about who’s a real Southerner. I grew up in Mississippi. I am a native. I am as much a true son of Mississippi as that cretin Haley Barbour, and probably far more. I have picked cotton into a long sack. Has he? Yet somehow these people insist that only they are true and pure Mississippians.
When I first heard about Faulkner, we were told he was a bad man who had sold out to write pornography for the movies. This is what my teachers told me, and all they told me. The rest of the world finds his writing worth a Nobel Prize, and these inexcusably benighted “educators” lie about him.
So, my proposal: Forget the business about the South seceding from the Union. Let’s secede from them. They’ve had their chance. Now let them set up their own government and see just what benefits they can provide their citizens absent any federal money whatsoever. No road money. No post office money. No military bases. No grants for police or farmers. No Social Security. No Medicare. No money for education or prisons or hospitals.
Nothing. Nada. Zip.
Let them take care of it themselves. I give them ten years, maybe, before the whole thing crashes in on their deserving heads.
Certain arrangements should be made first: There should be an amnesty period of several years during which the decent people in the South are given a last chance to take their governments back from the scoundrels. Understand, this means speaking out. No more hiding your colors and pretending to agree because you’re afraid of your neighbors. Sorry, but that’s what it has come to. If you have principles, stand up for them. If you don’t, or do not have the courage to stand for them, then you have engineered your own hell.
There should be a period, perhaps a couple of years, during which anyone who wishes to leave the South may do so, and we will help them find jobs and lives in non-Southern states or other countries. Yes, the cost and disruption will be sizable, but nowhere near as bad as letting a small minority of greedy, hate-filled, and/or ignorant lunatics trash the entire country.
There should be provision for political refugees, for those who did not get out before the partition, but decide later they want to leave. Such refugees should have all the options for U. S. citizenship that any immigrant does.
And there should be an option for any state to petition for non-punitive re-entry to the Union, with, however, the firm and enforced demand that they henceforward obey all federal law and institute fair court systems.
And the requirement that their inhabitants pass citizenship examinations. If they don’t pass, they aren’t citizens. A poor demented class of mentally and emotionally damaged shleps that we have to care for, but not voting citizens. Further, NO ONE who held office at any level in any of the seceded states would be eligible for citizenship.
I’ve had with these bozos. A lot of people were sick of them a long time ago, but I kept trying to find commonality because I grew up there and I loved the place. But it’s too late now. They’re too diseased. The South is a suppurating wound in the Republic, and it’s time to amputate them.
They want secession? Good. Give it to them.
And throw in Oklahoma and Arizona for good measure.