If you know me, then you know that I am deeply, immensely proud of my southern heritage and upbringing. I believe the south is a special, magical place set apart for a special, magical people. Being southern is not just a happy accident or some random occurrence in history. It’s divine providence. It’s destiny. My very being – the most central and sacred part of who I am as a person and a man – is anchored and cemented deep beneath Alabama’s sacred red clay. In fact, there are only two things that stand above my love and allegiance to the south: my family and my faith in the holy Catholic Church.
But here’s the rub. When I talk about southern heritage, I’m talking about one of the richest, most complex cultures to ever exist among men. I’m talking about a history drenched in music, art, religion, culinary witchcraft, superstition, good manners, hard work, bourbon, fellowship, community, and love for the land. I’m talking about a rich tradition pieced together by outlaws, storytellers, moonshiners, snake handlers, writers, growers, preachers, pickers, grinners, hot damn banjo players, buck dancers, and the wisest (and meanest) old women you’ve ever met.
When I talk about the south, I’m not just talking about a place. I’m talking about a spirit. There is something *else* down here. As a good friend once said, the south is a rhythm. It’s something you can’t experience unless you really slow down and let it talk to you. You can feel it in the furious spring wind and those light summer breezes that offer you only the slightest respite from the heat in the evenings.
But let me be clear. When I talk about my love for the south and my southern heritage, I am NOT talking about the Confederacy. The Confederacy is and always will be a black stain. It’s nothing to be proud of. It’s nothing in which to take pride. It’s a part of our history, yes, but it’s a sinful one. I will not celebrate it, and I will not let my children celebrate it.
The south is complicated. Our history is checkered with darkness. But we do not have to let it define us. There is so much more to the south than a failed rebellion built on prejudice and sin. There is so much in which we can take pride, but not that.