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Apologies to southern friends - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Apologies to southern friends
Okay. I got it out of my system, and probably should have in a private post or something. I apologize for playing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and going all Yankee regional on you all. I just... grrr. I think what bothered me about the commentators saying that Kerry needed to do more to win the South was that they basically suggested that he totally change his personality and behave in a way that is not natural to him. It's a question of... identity compromise, I guess. And the same things they complain about with him (bookish, intellectual, etc) are things I share and value. I would no more fit into a diner in the deep south than John Kerry does, at least in the way in which the commentators were discussing it... eg, being a "good ol' boy," and not being so high-falutin' and stuck up. Though of course, there's a certain element of condescension from those commentators in making assumptions about that diner. So when Kerry is instructed to change his very identity in order to win a region, it pretty much applies to me as well, so I took it personally. I'm really not after the Yankee-fication of everywhere; I am just tired of people asking us not to be ourselves. It's along with my frustration at people who use the word "Puritan" as an all-purpose insult without understanding how Puritanism has shaped the country in reality. And I snapped, because I'm anticipating a horrible day tomorrow, both on LJ and in real life.

Also, FWIW, I've also been arguing the point of view of the rural south in a separate argument. I don't necessariliy agree, but I do understand a bit.

I feel a bit...: thoughtful sorry

53 comments or Leave a comment
buongiornodaisy From: buongiornodaisy Date: November 2nd, 2004 11:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah. So many southern students come to my university and say that the people up north are "rude" because they don't talk to strangers the way Southeners do. They may have a point, but it may be a case of what you described. Up North we're used to that kind of communication. We don't like to have prolonged conversation with strangers. That's the way we are. It's not "rude."
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 2nd, 2004 11:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd go even further and say that Northerners find it rude for strangers to talk to them--what we tend to value is the ability to not bother each other, and we tend to look at the practice of randomly talking to strangers not as friendliness, but as nosiness. It's a different value system, and it's not a question of the north being "wrong" and the south being "right." It's just a question of differing cultures. It's like the question of covering your head--you put your hat on in a synagogue and take it off in a church. It just depends on the milieu.
buongiornodaisy From: buongiornodaisy Date: November 3rd, 2004 12:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Exactly, and, as people are wont to do, those from different cultures are going to make judgements based on the culture they were raised on. But it is true that Northeners view openness to strangers as rude. I don't even like to make prolonged eye contact with people. Maybe that's my shyness, but I do think it's rude to stare at someone for a long period of time.
cheshyre From: cheshyre Date: November 3rd, 2004 04:32 am (UTC) (Link)

totally nonscientific speculation

xiphias and I were discussing this after we visited Monticello and compared it to historic New England sites (John Adams Montezilla) for example. New Englanders had to live much closer together, at the expense of privacy. Thus, it became a face-saving and sanity trait to learn to selectively ignore what one's neighbors are doing.

Southern landholdings were more spread out, so they didn't have to develop that trait.
shezan From: shezan Date: November 3rd, 2004 07:05 am (UTC) (Link)
What fascinates me in this is that it's true of Northerners in every country I know: French, British, German. More reserved, less expansive. Why should temperature shape human behaviour so much?
sonetka From: sonetka Date: November 2nd, 2004 11:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oy. I'd settle for Edwards showing a little New England type class right now. Not conceding with a margin that huge? Oh, he could make this ugly.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 2nd, 2004 11:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
They're going for New England tenacity instead.

But hey... it's exactly what I predicted--recount fever!
sonetka From: sonetka Date: November 3rd, 2004 12:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh God, please no. Once was a surprise, two looks like habit.

I hear you on the New England tenacity thing, but you do realize that this isn't exactly the way to sell the rest of the country on the virtues of NE :).
shezan From: shezan Date: November 3rd, 2004 07:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Recount-fever when the other side has got 4 million more votes? Strictly constitutional, to be sure - but daft.
arclevel From: arclevel Date: November 3rd, 2004 12:09 am (UTC) (Link)
I understand what you mean, but I'm not sure that it's purely regional. Or maybe it is. Every time someone says something to me along the lines of, "well, that's how things are in the South!" I instinctively take a moment to be glad that I don't live in the South and am unlikely to do so. Yet I have no problems with the few Southerners I know. Being friendly and open and whatnot sounds great in principle; in practice, I expect I'd get tired of it very quickly.

In terms of the point about changing personality, I agree, but that seems to be how politics in this country works, and I find it terribly depressing. For their talk about Southerners and Clinton winning over black voters, I think they brushed by the real common denominator of winners. In at least the last four elections, voters picked a candidate who was charismatic, fun, charming, and at least doesn't seem intellectual, over a candidate who was preceived as dry, wooden, or aloof. Perhaps we're all voting based on the personalities, and the personalities we go for depends on our region. Pundits talk (correctly) about charismatic politicians reaching voters, but the same attitudes turn off others of us. I'll admit that I prefer my politicians a little dryer; I tend to distrust charisma and I want them to wear their brains on their sleeve. I don't think I vote based on it (and definitely not in this election), but maybe I do, especially in middle-upper races like Governor. I could hardly say that's better than doing the opposite.

I switched channels halfway through that discussion anyway, as it was getting too frustrating for me to watch. :-(
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 3rd, 2004 12:13 am (UTC) (Link)
I'll admit that I prefer my politicians a little dryer; I tend to distrust charisma and I want them to wear their brains on their sleeve

Wear their brains on their sleeves. I like it. Yes, that's what I'm looking for, and relying on emotionalism (charisma or no) tends to make me nervous because I just plain don't trust emotionalism, no matter who it's coming from. I like ideas, not feelings. Ideas can be argued and debated. Feelings just, you know, are.
dreagoddess From: dreagoddess Date: November 3rd, 2004 04:50 am (UTC) (Link)
See, that's exactly why I WOULD vote based on feelings. Ideas can be debated and minds changed. Your heart always defines who you are. While there are many Bush policies I disagree with, they're all things that debate and lobbying can change, or at least nullify. But I trust him on the Big Issues. That's why he got my vote.
arclevel From: arclevel Date: November 3rd, 2004 06:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I certainly prefer ideas to feelings, especially when it comes to politicians. OTOH, it's easy for the mid-level races to get lost in the mix. With the biggest races, you hear so much that you know each person's opinions and ideas; in the little races, it's a struggle to learn anything about them at all. In the midsize races, though, you see them, but you may not hear enough about their ideas to really tell them apart, or to get a very strong opinion on them. I suspect in those cases that even the best of us wind up being influenced by things like, "well, he seems like he'll take the job more seriously than the other guy. The other guy's more of a politician."
From: magnolia_mama Date: November 3rd, 2004 06:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Speaking as a Southerner who doesn't fall into the Good Ol' Boy/Gal stereotype (yes, America, Virginia is part of the South)I find the claim that if Kerry had been less of a New England Yankee he might've done better in the South patently offensive. Since when did Bubba Redneck become the defining character of the South? One of the reasons I most disliked Bush on a personal level -- and one of the few things I actively disliked about Clinton and Jimmy Carter -- was that whole "Ain't we all jus' folks here?" claptrap.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 3rd, 2004 06:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, come to think of it... didn't education and refinement always pretty much define Virginia... and didn't Virginia define the south?

It's a very condescending attitude, and I picked it up from Carter and Clinton, and I also pick it up from Bush--smart men who are actually trying not to sound as smart as they are, in order to persuade people they assume are dumb.
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: November 3rd, 2004 09:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Erm... actually, it gives me the creeps that being "just folks" can be equated with stupidity, or purporting to be with playing dumb.

There is a double problem -- partly the impression that "bookish, intellectual, etc." people think we're the only ones who are intelligent, and partly the people for whom it's true! I've been tempted to the viewpoint; I've seen it expressed or implied online; I've been at a scientific ethics retreat where some of the comments sounded breathtakingly contemptuous.

I am not, admittedly, an expert on public opinion. But I think that a "folksy" attitude is partly comfort zone on the part of the politician, partly manipulation (because how much in that field isn't?) and partly an attempt to avoid the appearance of that sort of contempt.
shezan From: shezan Date: November 3rd, 2004 07:11 am (UTC) (Link)
What people objected in Kerry was more the class thing than the region thing. A working-class Irishman could have won a lot of places where he was not liked.

Did you read Mark Steyn's hilarious piece about the Kerry campaign? "If I’ve been following the campaign correctly, the typical John Kerry day involves an early-morning stop at Bud’s Truck Stop on Rte 103 at which the Senator orders a hot dog. Asked what he wants on it, he says an aubergine and lemongrass coulis..."
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 3rd, 2004 10:24 am (UTC) (Link)
The thing I object to is the concept of "class"--that the working class couldn't possibly enjoy eggplant and lemongrass coulis is where I get tetchy. I grew up poor and working class, as far as having a mother pulling double-shifts at a low-paying job and still coming up short on the bills, but she still took time to take me to the art gallery, teach me to properly pour tea (I never mastered it, but I was taught), and generally to appreciate a well-formed sentence and a large vocabulary. Isn't the point of America that we're all supposed to have access to the things that were once only the property of the aristocracy?
violet_quill From: violet_quill Date: November 3rd, 2004 07:16 am (UTC) (Link)
I really hate living in the South. This time next year I expect to be somewhere where it snows in the winter, and the majority of people aren't complete bible-thumping, redneck idiots.

At least, that's the hope.

I'm a little upset about the marriage provision passing here as well. Okay, a lot upset. But yes, not feeling much Southern pride at the moment.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 3rd, 2004 10:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, you could try Massachusetts, if the entire state hasn't flung itself into Boston Harbor by the end of the day...
violet_quill From: violet_quill Date: November 3rd, 2004 10:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, I am applying to MIT... *crosses fingers*

The only way I'm going to stay in Georgia is if I don't get into a single other school that I apply to besides the one I'm already attending.

And as a side bonus, if I move north I'll actually get some snow in the winter. Or, you know, a lot of snow.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 3rd, 2004 10:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Be careful what you wish for...

Good luck with the MIT app. It's a little crazy over there, but where else do you get a bunch of students who amuse themselves while drunk by inventing a new measuring system. (See top article here.)
lothi From: lothi Date: November 3rd, 2004 10:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I really hate living in the South. This time next year I expect to be somewhere where it snows in the winter, and the majority of people aren't complete bible-thumping, redneck idiots.

I'll resist the temptation to tell you not to let the doorknob hit you in the rear on your way out. ;)

I'm a Southerner who at least partially falls into the Good 'Ol Boy category. I think of myself that way despite not being a fundamentalist Christian, being fairly smart if not particularly well-educated, and not being a knee-jerk Republican in a red state. I voted for Kerry because I spent a lot of time thinking about the issues that were important to me.

If Kerry had come south and tried to behave like a good 'ol boy, he would have been called out as a phony. John Edwards can do that - John Kerry can't because it's just not in his nature. Southerners like people who are genuine, and that means not trying to be someone you're not. I keep thinking about Al Gore and his plaid shirts and desperate attempts to be an "Alpha Male."

The thing I object to is the concept of "class"--that the working class couldn't possibly enjoy eggplant and lemongrass coulis is where I get tetchy.

Same here. I may be a construction worker, but I was raised to appreciate art and literature, to use proper manners, and behave like a gentleman. The fact that I make a living working with my hands doesn't mean I'm incapable of working with my brain or enjoying the finer things in life, when I have the means and chance to do so.

If there was one advantage that Clinton's "Bubba-ness" gave him, it was that his opponents tended to underestimate him. I think that's worked to Bush's advantage as well - he's not nearly as dumb as his detractors would like to think.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 3rd, 2004 11:16 am (UTC) (Link)
John Edwards can do that - John Kerry can't because it's just not in his nature

Yeah... actually, if I had a piece of advice to Kerry if he tries again, it would be the exact opposite of the advice the pundits want to give him: If you like caviar, then bloody well eat the stuff. People will respect you more for being genuinely John Kerry than for doing a watered down Bill Clinton act with a different accent.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: November 3rd, 2004 11:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes - I loathe caviar myself, but if the guy comes out and says "I love caviar and skiing and living in my deluxe mansion and I'm not ashamed to admit it!" I'd like the guy a lot more because, hey, there's no shame in enjoying a life that you have the money for, and as for caviar, well, we can agree to disagree on that point :). I think part of the point of the Mark Steyn piece above was that it wasn't the lemongrass coulis, but the truck-stop hot-dog ordering that was so cring-making (or whatever it was - sorry, read it rather quickly). It isn't the lemongrass that makes me wince, it's the hot-dog, because you could tell he was just hating every minute of it.
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