"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Where Have All The Bubbas Gone? The Forgotten Redneck

John Morton had been called Bubba since he was born, not because there were so many Bubbas in his corner of rural Mississippi (there were), but because he looked like a Bubba – chubby, smiling, drooling, and so cute you wanted to eat him said his aunts and uncles.  Whether function follows form or the Law of Foregone Conclusions was operating particularly well, Bubba Morton had a pickup with a gun rack, went fishing in his bass boat, went to an evangelical church, had four shotguns and five pistols, chewed tobacco, and was missing a canine and one molar.  He was the original redneck, and even his neighbors in the trailer park wondered how perfectly he could have turned out.  He seemed to have been untouched by Starbucks, sushi, Barack Obama, or Volvos.  He was an unreconstructed, unashamed, and unabashed white trash cracker.

Image result for images southern trailer trash

“The race is thankfully not dying out”, said Mabel Hutchins as she watched Bubba get out of his truck, hitch his pants, adjust his crotch, and walk into the Four Aces.  Mabel was 92 and had seen Bubbas come and go; mainly go in the last few years as the Northern Aggression continued the job it started in 1861 but was somehow never able to complete.  Black people might be free to come and go as they please, to vote and go to school alongside white boys, but what the North never understood was that race had nothing to do with Bubbas, nor slavery.  It was bass boats, muddy tires, cheap beer, cigarettes, and twelve-gauges that did it – an under-culture (although no self-respecting Southerner would ever admit to under-anything), cultural diversity at its best.  It was only these do-good, meddling, interventionist Northerners who wove race into everything.  Bubba could have cared less whether Lashonda Harris was the County Clerk or Pharaoh Jones the Deputy Sheriff.  Race didn’t amount to a hill of beans regardless what the New York Times said.

Image result for image good ol boy in bass boat in swamp

Of course there was no disabusing the New York Times of this silly and wrong notion.  Once these liberal terriers got their teeth into your pant leg, there was no shaking them off.  ‘Racist, misogynist, misanthropic troglodytes’ one Times reporter was heard to say when he thought no one of import was listening, and there would be no changing his mind.  Even if he went to one of Bubba’s squirrel fries – feasts as great, bounteous, and celebratory as any – and hear not one racial epithet, not one reference to black this or black that, and see only hearty, backslapping, beer-drinking camaraderie, the reporter would still somehow wiggle race into his story. 

The very fact that there were no black men in the group said something, didn’t it, an invidious form of racism far more pernicious than anyone shouting ‘Nigger’.  His readers sat back on the Upper West Side, as complicit in their racial assumptions as the worst Georgia cracker, nodding at the reporter’s story.

Bubba and his buddies gave lie to ‘diversity’, a concept devised with a political agenda and devoid of any currency or serious meaning.  Bubba was not gay, transgender, black or mixed race, Latino or Asian, and so he didn’t count.  As a matter of fact not only were there no Bubbas on any progressive cultural map, they were assumed not even to exist.  There were certain things best left unsaid in the march to a better world, and ‘Bubba’ was one of them.

Image result for images rednecks

Yet was not Bubba culture a legitimate, verifiable, valid American subculture? If race is removed from the picture, then good ol’ boys are simply fishing and shooting, hawking and spitting, and drawing a bead on deer, quail, and wild turkey and nothing more.

Bubba Morton, however, was no dope, nor were any of his friends.  Evolution, as many Northerners assume, did not stop short of the Mason-Dixon Line.  There was no genetic consignment, no permanent race of cretins and boors, just white folks poorer than most, not unhappy with their lot, dismissive of the accusative yelps and howls from the North, not unresponsive to new ideas but quick to determine the source, and above all not to be either criticized or pitied.

“What about Kant, Tolstoy, and Sartre?”, Northern entitled intellectuals ask.  Eventually even the most hardened bass boat, squirrel hunting hod carrier must face his Maker, and if he is goes to the meeting with only a chaw of tobacco and a Bud, his drop into Eternity will be a great, unpleasant surprise.  Time to get schmart, get existential, and shuck all that cracker nonsense before it’s too late.
Prejudices die hard and there is apparently no way that any Northern liberal can possibly a) disaggregate race from culture; and b) even consider such a backwoods, tooth-picking, corn pone-eating worth noticing.  At least the grandee culture of Southern Cavalier was noticed.  Even though it was hated, dismissed as ignorant, racist and reactionary, it had an appeal.  How could an aristocratic, European, graceful culture and offspring of the the great empires of Europe be ignored.

No matter how much Northern intellectuals hate the South and would like to finish the job that Sherman started – burn all vestiges of plantation life they cannot.  The very existence of manors and estates may be anathema and a constant reminder of the evil history of the South; yet few of these Northerners can look at the architectural beauty, impeccably tasteful interiors, long, live oak-lined allĂ©es, formal gardens, and sweeping lawns without envy.  Image and romance trump political philosophy any day of the year.

For however much the cavalier tradition may have contributed to the Civil War, there is something to be said for gentility – graceful good manners, good taste, sophistication, and romance.  There is a good reason why the Old South never dies in Americans’ imagination and why Gone with the Wind remains a popular favorite.

In other words in their heart of hearts, Northerners keep a special, warm place for the antebellum plantation owners, for they were not so different.  New England descendants of the pilgrims have never lost their respect for similar fundamental moral, ethical, and cultural antecedents; in their case piety, parsimony, community, and respect.

Pilgrimage is an event held in many towns in the Deep South to celebrate the antebellum period of cavalier manners, graceful elegance, and spacious homes.  It is time for the owners of these homes to show them to the public, and romantics from Maine to Michigan come down for the experience the recreated life of a plantation.  The houses are indeed grand, and most of them have been restored with patience and meticulous care by owners who want to preserve Southern or American history, descendants of the plantation owners who lived there and wanted to relive a part of their past, or simply those who loved old houses, antiques, and historical appointments.

So as much as Northerners may hate the South for slavery, racism, and introverted morality, they love it for its uniquely graceful beauty, manners, and expression.

Not so with the other Southern culture – John Morton and his Bubbas. While plantation owners were simply executing an economic imperative, morally heinous as it might have been, it was the Bubba Phillipses and their cronies who strung black men up and raped their women.  While the marvelously elegant antebellum house may represent slavery to some and the cherished Cavalier tradition to others, rednecks are irredeemable murderous racist henchmen.  There is no way that Northerners can possibly disaggregate valid, recorded, historical redneck culture from racism.

Image result for Images Sir Walter Raleigh

Of course this parsing of history, this political triage, is both ignorant and wrong. If guilt is to be sought, than slave owners are complicit in the murder of runaway slaves; and white descendants of antebellum grandees as complicit in racial discrimination as backwoods coon dogs.  Yet the Cavaliers are given a bye because of their aristocratic roots – an elite brotherhood – while the dirt poor redneck shoulders all the blame.

Such vindictive calumny taints the entire rural Southern culture.  It is possible and imperative, if dispassionate judgment is to be made, to separate race from culture.  If the KKK drew on a backwoods cracker support, it could not have existed without aristocratic complicity; and besides, Southern aristocracy is all but gone and rural rednecks are around more than ever. They have emerged from the contentious days of Jim Crow and Civil Rights and returned to their regular and more normal life of hunting, catfish noodling, and trailer park sex.  Respect is to be paid.

There are no more prejudiced people in America than Northern Liberals.  They have unequivocally, absolutely, and permanently dismissed the entire South and Southern history.  They want nothing more than to unearth Confederate graves and inter the remains in Potter’s Fields, to take down all statues of Confederate heroes and rename all army bases named for Southern officers, to expunge the names of Southerners from federal and state buildings, and to forget the South ever existed. 

Yet as much as they might be successful in such efforts, the rural coon dog Southern redneck will not go away.  He is not so easily removed as the statue of Robert E Lee.  He is still there, irrevocable, shopper at Walmart, consumer of fast food and fatty BBQ, squirrel hunter and bass fisherman, Bud sucker and Skoal dipper.  He will simply not go away.  He deserves recognition, knows that not only will he never get it but be shat on instead, but he keeps on keeping on.  True Southern heroes.

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