Southern Manners on the Decline



Is it any coincidence that shortly after all of the Occupy Nashville brouhaha that the New York Times has an article on the decline of civility in the South?

Sure, it could be. But surely it's a gross display of bad manners to violate peoples' First Amendment rights and impolite to lock up the victims of crimes and say that it's because crime is so out of hand. And the snide jokes about how smelly and unhousebroken the protesters are simply outside the bounds of good taste.

Whether Haslam was the inspiration for the story or not, though, it sure is odd. It bemoans the decline of Southern manners, but then turns right around and acknowledges that "strict rules regarding courtesy and deference to others have historically been used as a way to enforce a social order in which women and African-Americans were considered less than full citizens."

Please, New York Times, just how mannerly was a society that turned hoses and dogs on children? Seems like it's really terrible manners to own other people, really. When was this moment of optimal civility in the South from which we have declined?

If that's not a clue that this story is more about the myth of the South smacking head-first into the realities of life, this line should be: "Some say the South’s great cities seem to be losing civility faster than country communities, where stopping to ask for directions can still end in an invitation to supper."

No, you know who invites you to supper after you've stopped and asked for directions? The most normal-looking member of Leatherface's family. Do you think for one second that Kim Severson, the author of the piece, would be on her way somewhere, get lost, ask for directions, get directions, and then go to those people's house for supper?

No, I'm sorry. That's like a daydream you have after watching too many episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, not how actual women behave in the actual world. Sure, I'd go eat dinner with Aunt Bea and Andy. I'm not going to eat dinner at the house of some random person I just met on the street of some small rural Southern town rather than getting to my destination.

Unless that random person is Bill Haslam. Because I do have some things I'd like to discuss with him.


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