Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shame of Place

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," coming to you from the "Smokestack State" since 2005! I'm your hostess, Anne, and I live in New Jersey, USA. We just had a hurricane, and it was awful.

Lately I have been thinking a good bit about place. What happens if you find yourself living somewhere, and the people there don't share your values ... and you don't share theirs?

I think of this because we Northerners stereotype the American South as if the Civil War was still raging. It's Crackerville, it's the Bible Belt, it's the land of Honey Boo Boo and universities that did not admit minorities until the National Guard showed up with tear gas. It's the locus of violent reprisals against peaceful civil rights marches and the region that gives us country music.

This is partly on my mind because today I was discussing the death penalty with my sophomores, and certain states kept popping up. Georgia. Florida. Texas. Lots of other states allow the death penalty (including Pennsylvania), but it seems like Florida and Texas especially actually pull the switch. Often.

My own forays into the South have ended at the state line of South Carolina. It just felt prudent for me to turn around and head back to colder climes.

After the presidential election, many maps showed a distinct Southern bias against President Obama. (Actually it turns out that the bias is more rural than regional.) Facebook abounds with vitriol against Dixie, and I confess I snicker at it frequently.

Then, somewhere, I read a comment from someone who actually lives in the South and is an ardent Obama supporter. Point of fact, I know that one of my readers lives in the South and is a cheeky liberal.

It must be Hell on Earth to be stuck in an area where you disagree vehemently with almost everyone around you, and the local traditions make you sick, and you feel that you're being discriminated against or at least dismissed. Alabama liberal, I feel your pain. Every time you get into the car, you get smacked with Lynyrd Skynyrd lovin' the guvnor. Every corner a church. Every store a Walmart. And you're wiser than all of this ... maybe even a Pagan ... and you are stuck due to family ties, or work ties, or just inertia. Texas, I feel your pain. Electric chair working overtime, who cares if the poor defendant is guilty?

I used to hate New Jersey because it is so flat (mostly) and so crowded (truly), and so chock-a-block with industrial plants both active and inactive. But at least, in such a crowded state, it's possible to find like-minded individuals (many) and whole sections of roadway that are church-free. I don't think anyone would argue that it's easier to be Pagan in New Jersey than it would be in Georgia.

Am I as much of a bigot as everyone else if I express sympathy for Southerners who don't tear up at the sound of "Bonnie Blue Flag?" Are there more of these people than I think, based on my very unscientific collection of data from individuals?

I don't know, but all I'll say is this: If you find yourself living in a place where you feel like you don't belong, hold up your chin. It's your place too. You don't need to change the world, or change your location. To thine own self be true -- start there.

Hell is not in my future, but if I found myself in Hell, I would work at it until I made the best of it. Trust me, if you can find one thing to like about New Jersey, you could pretty much tolerate any chunk of the entire US of A.


Lavanah said...

New Jersey is flat? We live in a tiny, crowded state, it's true. But flat? Not up here.

Anne Johnson said...

I added (mostly) because I've visited your part of the state a few times, lucky you!

Anonymous said...

I live in the deep South, Atlanta, Georgia to be precise. I am not originally from the South so it was a huge adjustment when we were transferred here 24 years ago. But I have found kindred spirits here, both pagan and un, and have seen a lot of progress made regarding race and policy. I think you are correct in stating there is more of a rural and urban divide in politics than a north/south split. Enjoy your blog!


I pretend that the silence I receive when I wear my Obama Mama Tshirt is awe...not indignation..haha

aunttimmysoup said...

Born and raised southern girl from a town halfway between Athens and Atlanta. Cheeky liberal of the unsure about religion set in a VERY conservative and mostly religious family...Fun times. Oh and my husabnd works for the union... I moved away for a reason and found a family that understands me! I have to remind my very outspoken hubby that they give really good Christmas presents so he needs to keep his mouth shut :)