The Southern Problem

Avatar

Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

Related Post Roulette

234 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    Good piece. I’m not sure i have much to comment on. There is this unhelpful dance around racism that drags down most discussion. The US had a massive race problem that we have dealt with to a degree but far from completely. The South had a unique and unfortunate part of that history which denying is pointless. Regional pride often makes a place interesting and a bit self-righteous, you don’t really get one without the other. There was that recent study that looked at income mobility and found almost all the low mobility areas to be in the south which would be a different side of the Southern coin. But good piece.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I think the problem with Southern pride is that the South has a stronger regional identity than any other part of the United States. We talk about the North East or the West but in every other region local pride is more important than regional pride. I identify as a New Yorker, not as a North Easterner. Southerners seem to identify more by region than locality.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott says:

      I guess that’s part of my problem with “Southern pride”. I feel like various parts of the south are so distinct from each other that that their only unifying theme is a legacy of racism and insurrection.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      I’m proud to be from Appalachia.
      If you aren’t proud to be from the Mid-Atlantic (which ain’t the North East!),
      well, do me a favor and read up a bit about where you’re from.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Appalachia is the only other region besides the South with a really distinct regional identity. A large part of Appalachia is in the South though.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Lee,
        That ain’t true. Midatlantic (of which Pennsylvania is truly a part) certainly has its own distinct identity… it’s muddled more north than the Puritan/Boston has come south, but it’s different.

        And then you have the empty quarter, where the culture is distinct in its blandness. It’s what you don’t see that distinctifies it.Report

  3. Avatar Chris says:

    What “Southern Pride” folks don’t seem to understand is that it’s possible for there to be racism everywhere, and for the South to still have more of it. Not only is it possible, it’s actually the case. I say this as someone who has a great deal of pride in where he’s from, and much of the rest of the South as well. It’s possible to have pride in where your from while recognizing its glaring flaws. Hell, I love the people where I’m from (mythological being knows the assholes in Austin make me miss them and their very real hospitality and just general niceness, plus their sweet tea and their shrimp and grits and their cornbread and their pulled pork sandwiches and their biscuits with sausage gravy… damn, I need to go home and eat for a week), but I recognize that a pretty high percentage of them are racists. I wish they weren’t; I wish I knew some way to convince them not to be, but ya know, I loved my grandmother from Hapeville* who used to ask me why there was a Dr. King day (she didn’t call him that, needless to say), because “What did he ever do for white folk?”, so I can love them too.

    Also, rednecks are everywhere, which is a big part of why there’s such a big redneck trend on television. Some of the biggest rednecks I’ve ever met were from Indiana, Michigan, and Montana.

    Oh, and Kentucky may be the South (I say no, but people disagree), but it definitely ain’t Dixie.

    *True southern: My grandmother lived in Macon for about 65 of her 83 years, but she was from Hapeville. I remember reading a story about an obituary that read something like, “Mary Sue Stewart, 92, died Thursday in Oxford… She lived in Oxford for 90 years, but she was from Natchez.” Even though I moved from Nashville when I was 2, if someone asks me where I am from, I say, “Nashville, but I was raised in Franklin.”Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Additionally, I’m not entirely convinced that the South’s failure to adequately, or even superficially, deal with its racism problems (they are myriad) isn’t at least in part a function of its constantly responding to suggestions that it has racism problems with, “Racism is everywhere, not just in the South!”Report

      • Avatar Philip H says:

        Southern Racism isn’t an issue of quantity – i.e. there is some measurable “more” racism in the South then every where else – look at recent legal issues with immigrant communities in Arizona – but that Southern Racism has never tunneled underground or tried top ut on a veneer of any kind. the Northeast likes to brag about being post-racial, except there’s probably as much racial profiling (on a percentage of population basis) in Boston and New York as in Memphis, Montgomery, or New Orleans.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Phil,
        in any of those towns, you hear about people being profiled for “driving while white”?
        … my city does colorblind profiling. Which is still stupid and wrong.Report

  4. Avatar NewDealer says:

    “A review of state business climates by CEO Magazine found that eight of the top 10 most business-friendly states, led by Texas, were from the former Confederacy, while former Union strongholds California, New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts land firmly at the bottom. “

    Yup. I see all these Silicon Valley companies just hopping to Jackson and Fort Waco now.

    I don’t really care about what the CEO Magazine considers to be “business friendly”. Why should I? Business friendly seems to mean a race to the bottom in terms of union-busting laws and lows providing for the lowest worker protections in terms of worker’s comp, pay, benefits, vacation, family leave, and loads of other life-style issues, and the most narrowly-defined anti-discrimination statutes possible.

    If that is what it takes to be labeled “business friendly” by CEO Magazine, you can have it. I want nothing of it and will probably stay in the North and West with pride. I like that San Francisco provides a high minimum wage, health insurance reimbursement funds, and sick leave for anyone employed over three months. The liberalness, dignity, and decency of California and New York’s anti-discrimination laws is worth more than 500 trillion endorsements from CEO or any other business magazine.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      While I question whether “business friendly,” as these things are usually defined, is something a state would want to be, businesses (including tech businesses, and businesses from Cali) are moving to Texas at a pretty high rate. I dunno about moving to Waco, though. I mean, why would anyone?Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Proof. I see no proof that tech companies from CA are moving whole-sale to the South. Google is still here, Apple is still here, Twitter and Facebook are still here. The Bay Area is going through another tech boom that is driving rents through the roof. Despite being a conservative punching bag, California is still the most populous state in the union and this is not going to change anytime in the near future (probably).

        Wikipedia shows a 2.1 percent increase in population since the 2010 census. It also mentions that 3.4 million Californians have left since 1990 but does not give reasons. Perhaps these are people who left because of a lack of a cultural fit.

        They might be opening up branches or offices in Texas and the South but that is different from moving entirely.

        My main issue was as a liberal about questioning why I should care about how CEO magazine defines business friendly. I see no reason to give them any special authority.

        I care about what is good for the majority of people. Not what makes CEOs dub an area “business friendly” If protecting the rights of minorities and other non-conformists makes New York and California “business unfriendly” according to the Koch brothers and their allies, so be it.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        First, something in the neighborhood of 150,000 Californians moved to Texas in the last decade.

        Second, the California-to-Texas business pipeline is pretty well documented, and has been for years. Google will help, but here’s a start:
        http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/27/economy-california-texas-idUSN1E76L1XI20110727

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/rexsinquefield/2013/02/21/texas-experiences-meteoric-rise-of-relocation-inquiries-from-california-companies/Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Whether you or I consider “business friendly” a good thing, and whether companies do, are two different things. It’s true that Google and Apple are not likely to completely relocate anytime soon, or ever (though both have recently opened campuses in Texas, if I’m not mistaken), but if those are your measures, you’re missing the point.

        Also, I’m trying really hard not to interpret your comments here and below as knee-jerk anti-Southern, which I find as irksome as Dwyer’s knee-jerk pro-Southern. I wonder, though, have you spent much time in the South?

        Oh, and no Jewish people here. I know I enjoy the Kosher deli at the grocery store down the street, but I dunno why it’s there. Or why we have synagogues or the Jewish schools. They’re always empty.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        The point was a bit anti-Southern kneejerk* but also more of a challenging on the metric.

        How many people relocate from the South to escape bigotry and homophobi and find a place where they can be themselves? That has to count for something.

        *Okay there is something in me that always wants to react at Southern apologia.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Chris,
        yeah, they’re also moving to Pittsburgh.
        NewDealer,
        The general trend is rural to urban. You want to talk about bigotry?
        Ain’t the south what burns people’s houses down for fun.
        (and you can’t name where I’m talking about, either, I’ll bet).Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        The CEO commentary is also because I’m a bit anti-CEO. As far as I can tell, the modern American CEO (and upper-management) think that they are the Masters of the Universe and everyone else is a replaceable cog in the machine. Any attempt at legislation to get them to act with dignity and decency is met with screams and cries and threats.

        For once it would be nice to meet a CEO that thinks they can have a profit while treating their lowest paid workers with dignity and decency instead of shaft.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Kim,

        No I can’t because you purposefully speak in vague riddles and enigmas as a rhetorical tool and this makes it hard for people to argue with you and I suppose allows you to claim some kind of victory.

        If there is some area where they “burn down people’s houses for fun” and this area is going to be “surprising”, provide evidence. This is not a Batman comic and you aren’t the RiddlerReport

      • What makes California and New York “business unfriendly” is their heavy taxes and heavy regulation of business. You would not believe what it takes to start a business in New York as compared to other states. You can like the effects that those regulations have on NYC and San Francisco all you want, but the thing is that New York is more than NYC and California is more than San Francisco. People are fleeing upstate New York in droves, and have been for decades, because there’s no jobs thanks in large part to the aforementioned taxes and regulation – it’s one of the most economically depressed regions in the country. In fact, it’s so economically depressed that the recession barely registered there – it’s hard to go into a recession when you’ve already hit rock bottom. And the unemployment rate in California outside of SF and LA is absurdly high, as you’ll see if you look here:
        http://data.bls.gov/map/MapToolServlet

        Being “business unfriendly” isn’t killing NYC and San Francisco because NYC and San Francisco. It’s just killing the rest of their respective states.

        A few years ago when I was visiting some friends in Charlotte, I noticed that the local school district was hosting an annual “Foods of Buffalo” night. This is because so much of Charlotte is transplants from Western New York who moved south to where all the jobs were. The friends I was visiting are amongst those transplants, as are all but four of my 12 surviving relatives with ties to Western New York.

        People from downstate New York should be embarrassed by this rather than glibly bragging about NYC’s permanent economic clout.Report

      • While I question whether “business friendly,” as these things are usually defined, is something a state would want to be…

        When I worked for the Colorado legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, I had oversight for the Governor’s Office budget, including the Office of Economic Development, for a year. They get multiple requests per day from businesses considering establishing a presence in the state. I asked them about the kinds of companies they looked to help — since they couldn’t devote large resources to more than a handful of cases — and what those companies were looking for. At the governor’s direction, they looked for companies that were clean, techy in some fashion, and paid above average wages/salaries.

        What they said about what that type of company was looking for was interesting. IIRC, the typical order of importance went like this: transportation (airport and roads), communication, varied and educated workforce, quality of the public schools, arts and culture, and quality of the state universities. Tax rates were seldom mentioned. Concerns about regulations simply didn’t come up. I got the impression that in a lot of cases, you could sum up what the companies were looking for as “California or Massachusetts, with a central location and without the high prices.”Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        In terms of tech, those jobs that move to Texas are moving to Austin.

        Which is, basically, the anti-Texas part of Texas. Highly educated, socially liberal, very Democratic…..

        There’s another nucleus in Houston, built around JSC and the aerospace firms that work there (with crossover for the refining business. You’d be surprised at how much, oh, materials science and engineering crossover you can get between spaceships and deep sea rigs). Houston is also a ‘blue’ city of Texas.

        I’m not sure what it says that the jobs moving to “business friendly” Texas seem to be moving to the cities that most oppose Texas’ current regulatory setup.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Morato, do you, by chance, know where I am?

        And Dallas-Fort Worth is growing really fast too. Lots of businesses moving there.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Texas is just too goddamn big to be considered as a whole. It certainly encapsulates more than one culture. More than five, if I’m counting right. Houstonia, Dallas/FtWorth, Austin, Lubbockrillo, Midlandia and the Howling Wastelands of the West.Report

      • Even blue cities in red states are under the red state regulatory and tax regime. They might have more local regs than Lubbock, but local+state in Austin is likely to be quite different than local+state in San Fransisco. And a lot of those jobs and people are in the red suburbs rather than blue cities, if that matters (I’m not sure it does, for the reason just mentioned).

        (I think taxes are pretty much a non-issue. Or rather, it’s a factor in the larger issue of cost of living or cost of operations. If cost of operations are high for other reasons, then tax rates don’t really matter. If other cost of operations are low, then higher taxes can be afforded because you’re spending less on real estate and so on.)Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Will,
        Yup, pretty much.
        Austin has high taxes (so does Pittsburgh), but they both have cheap as heck real estate to compensate.
        (I assume commercial works about the same as residential, which I know more about)Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        “People from downstate New York should be embarrassed by this rather than glibly bragging about NYC’s permanent economic clout.”

        The decline of Upstate NY is linked to the decline of manufactuing and large employers like Kodak. Add to the fact that what was once valuable, exclusive asset, a navigable waterway to New York City, no longer has the value today that it had in decades past. Because of that, the value of being in upstate has gone down precipitously.

        As for cost of living/operations, that’s primarily linked to land value and costs. That is linked to demand for land. Then you start getting close to the “Nobody goes there it’s too crowded” argument.Report

      • Avatar Badtux says:

        California has a lot of “carpetbaggers” (as us Southerners would put it) — people who move into California during the boom times, and move out of California during the bust times. That has been true for as long as I’ve been around. During the dot-com boom times, for example, a million 21-year-old Iowans who knew a few HTML tags moved to California to become dot-com kajillionaires. When the dot-com bubble busted, they all moved back home to live in Mommy’s basement. So inflow-outflow information has always depended on what slice of time you chose to look at.

        But what about business unfriendliness? Aren’t businesses leaving California in droves fleeing its high taxes? Well, first of all, according to The Tax Foundation California is not a high tax state — as a percentage of gross income (GDP), the actual amount of income that Californians pay in overall taxes is somewhere in the middle of the pack. Second of all, there has been only one actual study on the subject (vs. anecdotes) of whether companies were fleeing California, and what it found was that there was no large outflow of California companies. When California companies expanded it was to open call centers and factories elsewhere, not to reduce their California footprint, and this is largely driven by real estate prices which in turn are driven by geography (the fact that California is quite mountainous and its only livable parts are in relatively small bowls by the sea and the geographically-difficult-to-get-to Central Valley), not taxes. Intel, for example, has expanded worldwide, and has a major presence in “business friendly” Chandler Arizona (as an example). If you drive by Intel’s original microprocessor fab in Santa Clara, you realize why — it is surrounded by other high tech companies and would be impossible to expand. It’s an Intel R&D facility now. The lack of *space* drove Intel to build fabs in other states, not taxes.

        Over 50% of high tech startups occur here in the SF Bay area, and some of them have grown into major companies like Google and Facebook and Intel. Does Intel have a major footprint in Texas? Yes — three facilities in Austin. But Intel employs more people in the Silicon Valley than it ever did back in the days when its only facilities were in Santa Clara. They just don’t manufacture the chips there anymore, that’s all — the massive scale of modern foundries requires massive amounts of *cheap* land that simply don’t exist in the built-out Silicon Valley.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        Will: Still doesn’t change the fact that, tech at least (which is the shiny apple Perry claims he’s going for) keeps moving to the blue areas of Texas — more educated, more liberal, more expensive, and higher taxed than the REST of Texas. (Probably because, you know, that’s where all the tech workers are).

        Texas, of course, attracts a second sort of industry (that awful Waco fire being an example of the perks there).

        But there’s still this…disconnect..between the common definition of “business friendly” (low taxes/low regulation) and the sorts of places Texas is really growing (which are, in fact, going to places in Texas with higher taxes and more regulations).

        In short — and as an example — while Perry might be luring the odd business from California — they’re coming to the parts of Texas most like California, and which are growing and seeking to make Texas…more like California.

        I’m not sure that’s Texas attracting business as much as California colonizing. 🙂Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Mo,
        Price of gas goes up?
        Tonnage on the Erie Canal rises real quick.
        Expect a lot more movement back to upstate NY,
        as gas prices continue to rise.Report

      • Morat, I’d still argue that Austin is state+local regulated and taxes less than Red City in California. I could be wrong on that, but I don’t think I’m wrong on SF vs Austin or LA vs Houston and I think that the differences there are relevant.

        I think the pertinent question (to which neither of us can definitively state the answer) is whether Texas (including Austin and Houston) would be attracting these businesses but for its business-friendly environment. That they move to the most blue places is interesting, but I don’t think disproves much. It may make a case that blue cities in red states provide the best of both worlds: an educated population, urban amenities, but less taxes and regulations in their Blue City Blue State counterparts.Report

      • @Mo: Sure. Absolutely. I’ve even written about that in the past:

        https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2011/01/04/death-of-a-city-and-a-region

        The problem is that taxes and regulation make rebuilding near impossible.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        Again: Austin, Houston — these are places trying to change those low-regulation stuff. (And yes, taxes as well. Nobody likes taxes, but some people still remember you have to pay for what you want. Like education, and roads.)

        As pointed out, California doesn’t suffer from regulations and taxes so much as lack of room. They’ve moved to Texas, but chosen places as much like California as possible and areas of Texas that are politically PUSHING for more regulation (especially environmental and worker protection), and higher taxes to pay for things like better schools and better education.

        I think claiming Texas is “business friendly” is a bit of a stretch, mostly because “business friendly” as a term means “Things I think business likes based on my own personal opinion”.

        I’m sure Lufkin is ‘business friendly’ in some senses — lots of cheap, cheap land, the least regulation you’re gonna find in Texas, cheap work force…

        But not a lot of businesses go there. Why? Something about it must be “business unfriendly”.

        So why are the blue cities growing, the red cities turning blue, and the boonies not seeing all this friendly business in Texas? Why are the cities more “business friendly” the less like Texas as a whole they get?Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Austin does have high property and sales taxes to make up for the lack of a state income tax, and it is liberal (though it’s becoming less so), but Austin generally offers large businesses amazing tax breaks to move here. Texas then tacks on its own state tax breaks for those businesses. At times it almost seems like Austin and Texas are paying businesses to move here.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        People are fleeing upstate New York in droves, and have been for decades, because there’s no jobs thanks in large part to the aforementioned taxes and regulation – it’s one of the most economically depressed regions in the country. In fact, it’s so economically depressed that the recession barely registered there – it’s hard to go into a recession when you’ve already hit rock bottom.

        Just to point out the following:

        1. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rates in both Upstate and Downstate New York hug the national means (at around 7.5%)

        2. There has been a decline in the relative economic prosperity of Upstate New York over more than four decades. By way of example, personal income per capita in the Genesee Valley was about 12% above national means in 1969 but about 5% below national means in 2007. However, this loss of position (in the Genesee Valley) occurred between 1969 and 1998.

        3. You can slice Upstate into sections and detect some variation in experience.

        a. The capital region and the lower Hudson Valley have seen modest demographic increase and more than held their own economically. This also applies to. the outlier counties (Tompkins and Jefferson).

        b. The Genesee Valley, Central New York, and the remainder of the North Country have been on balance demographically stable (or stagnant), with slight increases in one county matched by slight declines in another. The ratio of local per capita income to national means remained stable over the decade antedating the most recent recession.

        c. The Mohawk Valley, the Southern Tier, and Western New York continued to sink (slowly). Collectively, about a third of Upstate’s population is in these subregions.

        ==

        You have seen some odd and variable data since 2008. It looked for a while like the situation had stabilized in the Mohawk Valley, but perhaps not.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        As i remember Texas survived the housing bubble bursting pretty well. The explanation given was that TX actually has significant banking regs that prevented most of the worst abuses that had occurred other places.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        greg,
        Pittsburgh is the real star of the housing bust — basically because there wasn’t any boom here to begin with. We’re outrunning everyone else because our housing is so affordable.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        In short — and as an example — while Perry might be luring the odd business from California — they’re coming to the parts of Texas most like California, and which are growing and seeking to make Texas…more like California.

        It’s the “Silicon Valley, but with cheap land” holy grail. I think that our primary business problem in the SF Bay is not that we regulate businesses to heavily but that our land use limits housing availability and drives up prices. I just paid $725,000 for a house that would be worth a third of that amount in the central valley. We just don’t have a lot of housing and demand is high.

        But “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded” is not an especially damning criticism. It seems to me that the only objective measure of business friendliness is whether business thrive there. I’m sure that all manner of magazines that CEOs read have metrics about what makes CEOs happy and call it “business friendliness,” but revealed preference trumps stated preference any day of the week and twice on payday.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        I decided to have a look at the Commerce Department data again. The only counties in Upstate New York which saw a decline in their relative economic position (personal income per capita as a share of national means) over the period running from 2000 to 2011 were Steuben, Madison, and Montgomery Counties (in the Southern Tier, Central New York, and the Capital Region respectively). Twenty-two counties have been suffering population declines. A half-dozen are in various parts of the state and are adjacent to counties increasing. The remainder are in Western New York, the Southern Tier, and the Mohawk Valley.Report

      • Art – I think my point is more that upstate declined so far that it almost can’t decline further. The issue is that it can’t really start to reverse that decline.

        The other part of my point is that it makes no sense to brag about how well NYC does without recognizing the decline and stagnation of upstate.Report

      • Morat, you can talk all you want about how Austin and Houston want to change the state, but the fact of the matter is that they still exist under existing state law. There is room in a lot if states other Than Texas including some bonafide blue ones. They’re choosing Texas. Maybe because of it’s economic policies and maybe not, But Houston and Austin are still in a state with low state taxes and less regulation which affect even the blue urban places. The two cannot be divorced.Report

      • There are weakness in The Texas Model as something other states should do (namely the other states it isn’t working as well for), but Austin-Houston isn’t it.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        TF,
        SF’s housing may be skyhigh, but that limits cost of living in ALL other areas.
        SF’s food costs are cheaper than Pittsburgh’s for crying out loud!Report

      • Avatar Badtux says:

        “It’s the Silicon Valley, except with cheap land!”

        Except, err, it’s not.

        Over 50% of patents issued in the United States come out of the San Francisco Valley area. Austin is barely even on the map there, barely cracking double digits. Austin is a colony of the Silicon Valley where we do things we don’t have the land to do here in the Valley, that’s pretty much it.

        Regarding high housing costs in the SF Bay area, there are two reasons: 1) Geography (it’s a bowl surrounded by mountains and most of the cheaply buildable land has been built out, the remaining land is either earthquake jello that’s expensive to build due to the deep pilings needed to construct buildings there, or very hilly that’s expensive to build due to earthquake landslides), and 2) Proposition 13, which interferes with the normal flow of housing where people growing older sell the 2,000 square foot ranch home they no longer need to families with children then move to a smaller home. Under Prop 13 they’d have to pay higher taxes on their new 800 square foot condo (since it is assessed at market value rather than 30 year old value) than they paid on their old 2,000 square foot ranch home… so they stay in the old home. This means you have a lot of people living in inappropriate housing for their stage of life because of that law.

        None of which has a bloody thing to do with high taxes overall (California is not, as I mentioned, a high tax state — as a percentage of state GDP its taxes are mid-range according to the right-wingers at The Tax Foundation), or regulation (the expense of regulation is trivial, we don’t even have a line item for regulatory compliance expense in our business plan for our startup because it basically is line noise in the “administrative costs” column), the two things that these “business friendly” magazine surveys look at. If you ask a business what their primary cost is, they’ll say “payroll.” *Not* taxes (other than payroll taxes, but those are the same wherever). The next thing they’ll say is “Real estate.” Regulation? Not even on the map.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        badtux,
        cite numbers.
        From what I recall, most of America’s new patents are pharmaceutical.
        are those all from silicon valley?Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        @will-truman There are lots of states with low tax and regulation climates, but businesses aren’t flocking to those states. Forbes has Wyoming, South Dakota Nevada and Alaska at the top of their “business friendly” states lists, but they are not getting the hype that Texas and Florida have.Report

      • Mo, yup. That’s what I meant by it not working out well in other states. It all ties into something significant. There is, to my mind, no set of “right policies.” Different places have different challenges and different policy prescriptions are appropriate in response. Silicon Valley is a gem and so wealthy that it can afford to do things that Boise can’t. It seems like the Texas Model is working reasonably well for Texas, but that doesn’t mean that California can – or should – emulate it. California has a challenge (namely, land scarcity in high-population areas) that Texas doesn’t. Meanwhile, California has a bonus (the Silicon Valley collective brain) that Texas doesn’t have.

        I myself tend to prefer lower-tax, lower cost-of-living kinds of places. When I lived in the Pacific Northwest, I loved it except for the fact that it was so insanely expensive. I wouldn’t move to California for similar reasons. i’d avoid trying to start a business in both of those places (if I could, and depending on what kind of business I don’t know that I could without shooting myself in the foot). NewDealer has a different set of values, though, and that’s fine. But Texas might do well not to try to make him happy, and California the opposite.

        I do worry about mismatch, though. What Mark refers to with New York. I think there’s an argument to be made that inland California is suffering for the policy preferences of coastal California. Or not, I really don’t know. But that’s the nature of states.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        Will, I think we’re talking past each other.

        Let me try another tack: Why Austin, and not Lufkin? Why Houston, and not El Paso? Why pay more in taxes, property, and wages in those cities than others — still in Texas?

        Why is Austin and Houston trending more toward California, politically? (The whole state is actually looking to replay California’s history of 20 years ago. Growing hispanic minority, Republican majority running on increasingly xenophobic terms….)

        Texas is a BIG state. Yet the biggest tech cities were the two cities least like the rest of Texas. Why those two?

        Again, we’re back to “business friendly”. What’s that even mean> You seem wedded to “low taxes and low regulation” (or if not you, the original article). If that’s true, then Austin and Houston shouldn’t be getting new businesses, and El Paso and Lufkin should.

        Frankly, I think the assumption that there IS such a thing as “business friendly” — as if there’s some combination of tax rates and regulations that creates industrial nirvana — is pretty stupid on the face of it, and I think what’s happening here is conflicting assumptions of what that fundamentally stupid concept actually is.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        Ah, you just basically said the same thing I did — “business friendly” is kind of a pointless term.

        Business friendly to one is not business friendly to another. Offhand, I think the tech industry is going to remain concentrated in heavily liberal states, because they need highly educated workers (and the infrastructure that creates and maintains them) which is…difficult to do in low-tax states. And highly educated workers tend to be rather firm about some things like pollution and other regulations often considered bothersome to some industries.

        High tech manufacturing, well — as noted above — they went with the best combination of cheap real estate and educated workforce, which has little to do with taxes. (If anything, due to the lack of income taxes — Texas is VERY expensive in terms of real estate taxes. Businesses don’t pay income taxes, but they do pay sales taxes and property taxes — which Texas will slam them with, far more so than other states).

        Lower tech, well — there’s a reason that lovely fertilizer plant was where it was when it blew up.Report

      • Morat20,

        I honestly tend to take a limited view of how much true business-friendliness is a matter of government policy, liberal or conservative. But for business-friendly policies I would actually put lower taxes and low regulation on that list (conservative things), as well as public transportation. Other things, such as wages and cost-of-living, are influenced by policy but not determined by it. Other things, like real estate availability and weather, are entirely circumstantial.

        To answer the question fo “Why Houston and Austin?” I think it’s because it has a crucial third component that the other cities lack. Namely, an educated population. And yet, that in and of itself is not sufficient to attract businesses because other places that have an educated population don’t attract companies. This is where I think low cost-of-living (taxes being a component, if a minor one) matters, as does regulatory environment or lack thereof. But as other cities with these policies demonstrate, that’s not enough.

        Where I take issue is the claim that business-friendly policy environments are not benefiting places that have them. If Alabama had California policies, I have my doubts whether they would have gotten the Airbus plant. South Carolina got Boeing in part because of it’s labor-unfriendly policies (and culture, to an extent). That doesn’t mean that all the states should do this, of course, but it also doesn’t mean that these policies don’t matter (on the margins, at least). (Especially for things like manufacturing, I tihnk regulation matters considerably less for tech).

        If I were governor of California, there are changes I would make to make it more business-friendly, but I definitely wouldn’t be to try to emulate Texas (see my comment to Mo). And if I were governor of Texas, I might be interested in revenue enhancements, but wouldn’t seek to make Texas like California. Texas has advantages that California lacks, and can’t be California anyway because California is California. I do think Texas has a niche as being a cheap place to operate and that would not be something I’d want to mess too much with.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        1. The area in question (Upstate New York) has a per capita personal income about 4.8% lower than the national mean; the nation in question is among the world’s most affluent.

        2. Over a period of 11 years, its prosperity has improved in comparison with the rest of the country (i.e. personal income per capita has been growing faster than the national mean) Fifty of fifty-three counties have seen an improvement.

        3. The demographic decline is confined to counties making up about 1/3 of the whole.

        I cannot see how you draw the conclusion that the region has “fallen so far it cannot fall further”.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Houston is actually closer to much of the South than it is to the rest of Texas.

        Austin is, well, Austin is it’s own thing, though I don’t think California is its model. More like Seattle.

        And don’t forget Dallas-Fort Worth. Hell, even San Antonio’s growing rapidly, population and business-wise.

        The reason cities get most of the business growth is because cities have the infrastructure. I’m not really sure what you’re getting at. “The only reason Texas is getting business is because it has cities” is a wholly uninteresting point.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        @will-truman I don’t find much to disagree with there. Especially around the mismatch. The problem with CA is that it’s essentially two states glued together (though geographically it’s 3). You could make a viable state from greater SF/Oak/SJ, one out of Ventura county through SD county with Riverside as the Eastern border and than an ag state for everything else. California state government is dominated population-wise by urban demands, so ag demands get the short shrift. It would be better overall if they just split into three states.

        NY should probably split at Putnam/Rockland and have all of that plus LI part of one state w/ the city and have another state for upstate. That way, New York will get more say in things like congestion pricing and upstate won’t get saddled with costly rules that are relevant for the wealthier downstate part.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        I think “the part of Texas getting the most growth seems to be the least ‘Texas’-like parts of Texas” isn’t, however.

        In terms of “Southern”, the growing parts are…less so. A lot less so. They’re not rural. They’re not east Texas (which is, basically, the same as the worst of Louisiana but with extra love of football), not west, not north. They’re cities…

        The ones that reliably vote against most of those pro-Texas policies.

        Which even if you think “Oh, well, businesses are moving there despite those opposing views” — they’re bolstering them, growing them.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I think maybe you just have the wrong idea about what Texas is like. The Texas cities are basically all growing pretty rapidly, and the Texas cities have been blue for a long time (except Fort Worth). But they’re growing because they’re cities, not because they’re not Texas-like.

        The areas surrounding those cities, which are also growing at fantastic rates, are pretty much what people think of when they think of Texas, too.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        I live in Houston — well, Harris County. In fact, I lived for many years in Tom Delay’s old district. Voting against him never got old.

        I’m quite aware of the politics of Texas — and I’m quite aware that Houston wasn’t always this blue, and that Dallas and Fort Worth are less conservative than they used to be. (Austin was always Austin). Part of that is demographic change, of course.

        I’m also quite aware of the growth of Texas — and the divides between the various areas of Texas. I have family near Lufkin and some out in North Texas and some near Amarillo.

        FYI: The cities are growing at a far faster rate than the rural areas — in fact, there’s a sizeable net migration to the cities from the rural areas. *shrug*. If the GOP doesn’t change their national tune on xenophobia, it’s gonna be prop 187 here in Texas by 2025 or so.Report

    • Avatar j@m3z Aitch. says:

      I like that San Francisco provides a high minimum wage, health insurance reimbursement funds, and sick leave for anyone employed over three months

      Which doesn’t make up for the fact that it’s damned hard for anyone making minimum wage to afford to live there. In the south–a place for which I have no love, mind–wages are less, union protections are less, but the cost of living is so much lower that folks can still come out just as well off or ahead. I mean, they can afford to buy their own damn houses on a 30 year mortgage instead of just having to pay rent their whole lives or hope for a 50 year mortgage they’re likely to leave unpaid off when they die.

      It’s really wrong to focus just on wages and not cost of living. I bought my house for $78,500, and the median home price in my Midwestern town at the time (before the crash) was about $135,000. You don’t need anything like good California wages to afford a decent home here.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        And it’s also really wrong to look at housing and not look at the actual rent paid, even if you’ve got a mortgage. That’s interest plus decrease in principal.
        And the expected decrease in principal down south is … significant.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Fair point but San Francisco (or California more broadly) and New York are still places where outsiders/dissenters from small towns go and feel like they are part of the community and safe for the first time in their lives.

        That counts a lot more for me than an endorsement from CEO magazine for business-friendliness.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

      Frankly, I think the assumption that there IS such a thing as “business friendly” — as if there’s some combination of tax rates and regulations that creates industrial nirvana — is pretty stupid on the face of it, and I think what’s happening here is conflicting assumptions of what that fundamentally stupid concept actually is.

      Exactly. If you graph “growth rate of actual businesses” against your “business friendliness” metric and don’t see a correlation, your metric is crap. Objectively so.

      People who personally pay high taxes and have to deal directly with the (admittedly real) headaches of government regulation want to hear that what’s good for them is good for everybody. As such, there’s a market for publications that tell those people (and, if they’re really lucky, policymakers) what they want to hear.Report

  5. Avatar NewDealer says:

    And don’t tell a New Yorker, A Californian (or West Coaster) that there love for their region is lessor or different than Southern Pride. West Coasters and transplants call it Best Coast with the same fervor you will find in any Southener.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      People who think that “Southern Pride” is quantitatively different from New York or Boston pride need to look up those “The World According to New Yorkers” and “The World According to Bostonians” maps.Report

      • The difference, I think, lies in there being a difference between city pride, state pride, and regional pride. I think the south is unmatched in the last even if others are similarly proud of being from where they are from on a narrower scope. The south identifies, and is identified, as more of a region than other regions are. I think that’s not unimportant.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Saul Steinberg at his finest:

        http://bigthink.com/strange-maps/72-the-world-as-seen-from-new-yorks-9th-avenue

        🙂

        There are not many Saul Steinberg’s in the South*

        *Okay there was one bar reviewer named David Epstein and he had a very thick Southern accent but would always tell Jewish jokes. He said they accused him of anti-Semitism in LA and his response was “I know I sound like a gubber but my name is David Epstein”Report

      • I think Will is indisputably correct on this- most of the country outside of the South is rife with all sorts of petty regional rivalries that make the notion of anything in the middle ground between state level pride and national pride more or less laughable.

        Indeed, if someone suggested to me that I should start wearing my Mid-Atlantic Pride, my first reaction would be to look at them like they had three heads, and my second would be to start screaming at them about how insulted I was that they just lumped me in with those assholes from Long Island and Staten Island.

        And if we’re being honest, we need to recognize that the South has a shared history and culture in the way that other parts of the country do not. That the reason for this shared history and culture is slavery and secession and Jim Crow does not change the fact that it exists.

        The problem is that “Southern Pride” all too often denies the importance of slavery and Jim Crow in the creation of that culture, and as a result winds up excluding black Southerners. As long as sympathy for the Confederacy remains a core element of Southern Pride, the role of blacks in creating Southern culture must be denied, as to acknowledge that role would be to bring attention to, for instance, the fact that most of the South’s magnificent cuisine originated with slaves. Worse, as long as sympathy for the Confederacy remains a core element of Southern Pride, the “Southerness” of some of the South’s greatest heroes cannot be acknowledged – surely, MLK should be a greater rallying point for Southern Pride than Stonewall Jackson, and surely Captain Robert Smalls’ name should be on more lips than that of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

        The South has every right to be proud of its culture, and in a way that no other region of the country can be. But that pride is hollow if it excludes the people and events that built that culture.

        The symbol of Southern Pride should be the crest of the Tuskegee Institute, not the battle flag of the Confederacy.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        This is a great point, Mark.

        Look at this map here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Most_common_ancestries_in_the_United_States.svg

        Just about every Southern state has a plurality of people who trace their ethnicity to Africa. And while I recognize that most white Southerner’s identify themselves as Southerners first, Americans, second, probably whites third, and than their ethnicities fourth, it is still telling that “Southern pride” and “Southern culture” seems to ignore, dismiss, or reject the contributions and even mere existence of a huge swath of the population.

        Does the Southern food revolution include soul food? Does Southern music include the hip hop coming out of Atlanta and New Orleans? Hell, does it acknowledge that “barbecue” is rooted in Native and Spanish traditions from the Caribbean?

        It is fine if the distinct culture Mike is discussing does not do all these things, but it also seems a bit of a misnomer to call it “Southern culture” and “Southern pride” if a huge swath of the population of the South is not asked to participate in it.

        White Southern culture might be more apt, but that isn’t ideal either.

        To compare it to my own home state, I don’t and can’t claim Jersey Pride in the same way that Snooki can, despite her not even being from New Jersey. This is frustrating and I always wish there was a qualifier in there. Then again, Jersey Pride ain’t the same as Southern Pride. But I do have to always say, “I’m from New Jersey… no no, not that New Jersey.”Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        A bit more sleuthing…

        Mississippi is 38% black, per the 2010 census. That leads the nation. It is followed by Louisiana (33%), Georgia (32%), Maryland (31%), South Carolina (29%), and Alabama (27%). Save for Maryland, all of these states fall firmly in the South. Yet massive portions of the population are not included in this “Southern pride” and “Southern culture”.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        The problem is that “Southern Pride” all too often denies the importance of slavery and Jim Crow in the creation of that culture, and as a result winds up excluding black Southerners.

        Exactly! One might say that we see precisely that here, in this post, where examples of Southernness include rednecks and the “mint julep crowd,” and how Southerners feel mistreated and misunderstood because people like Paula Dean are treated as representative of them, but they’re not all like that. Something tells me that’s not a worry black Southerners have — that they will be mistaken for Paula Deans.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Ugh, Paula Deen, not Dean… Look, I’m living up to the stereotype that Southerners can’t spell.Report

      • It’s actually kind of funny. Whenever I am far away from “back home”, one of the places that make me feel nostalgic and wistful is when I run across a “black diner” or “southern kitchen” somewhere. It’s not even the food. It’s the black folks. They are in many ways the ambassadors of a lot of aspects of southern culture because when they left the south, they took a lot of it with them. The segregation of culture from black southern culture and white southern culture (to the extent that we can talk about a singular culture, which is iffy) is one of the more problematic things. Not just morally, but if the region is to move forward, logistically as well.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        I’m trying to reply to Will here: I was born on an army base, and grew up all over the South: East Texas, Jackson MS, Winston-Salem NC, with stints in Alabama and the Alabama parts of Florida. Growing up in the south meant growing up with black Southerners. I hardly knew any black kids when I lived in the North, cf Randy Newman’s brilliant “Rednecks.”

        The year I left the US, not realizing at the time it’d be permanent, I watched When We Were Kings, the great film about the Ali-Foreman fight in Zaire, and seeing James Brown, Jim Brown, BB King, the Spinners, all those guys, it really hit me for the first time that I am an American, and that much of what the world knows about American culture is black culture.

        I’ve seen a lot of friends and family adopt a political attitude that basically scoffs at the notion that African-Americans have been anything more than a bug in the software of US culture. I don’t know if spending time out of the US would change their minds, but I wonder if it would make them more open to the idea that they share their culture with a wider swathe of Americans than they might think.Report

  6. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    This was excellent, Mike. I’ve read a bunch of “this is the way the South works” pieces over the past year or so; this it the best of the lot at giving me something emotionally familiar to be able to grasp and get a better understanding.

    The question I asked in the post you linked to is answered really well here.Report

  7. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    My sister is moving to Mississippi to embark on a teaching career next month. I’m very interested to see what kind of experience she will have as a Northerner down there, and to glean some of the perspective she may gain.

    On the issue of representing pride, or, “do we Southerners really need a visual representation of the pride we feel in our hearts?”, to me it seems quite clear that you have every right to want to have that. The issue is choosing. The Stars And Bars is a representation of a part of the South’s history that I have a hard time understanding why you’d want to have as the visual representation of your regional pride. The Stars and Bars simply have no relation to the culinary rebirth that may be emanating out of Louisville right now, for example (that I can see). The message it sends is not one of cultural pride in good aspects of culture, but of an inability to move past settled conflicts, and intransigence in the service of disgraced ideals. That sounds harsh, but the point is that the choice to embrace that flag means those things to Americans outside the South (and not a few in the South, I imagine), and as such doing so is a singularly bad choice to make, since that symbol isn’t the only option that Southerners have to use to express cultural pride. Yes, others may seem a little less weighty by comparison (Cheesehead, anyone?), but they’re not insignificant.

    Will has a fair point above that there may not be any symbol that really speaks to the broad regional identity like the S&B. (He’s right that there’s really no equivalent for the North qua The North.) But it’s not impossible that it could be developed. The question is whether it’s not being developed nor therefore embraced, not because people are so reluctant to give up just the visual symbol for their region that they have now, but because of what doing that would symbolize for them with respect to a final giving up of the fight over the historical freight that the Stars & Bars represent for them? In other words, is it really just the reluctance to give up a regional symbol that is preventing the South from moving on from the one they have, or is it actually the difficulty of truly, finally moving on from the baggage that that symbol represents, even if at this point that only involves resentment and hence resistance against those who they feel still won’t let them forget it?Report

    • A few things:

      1. Whatever she reports, please do not judge the south by Mississippi!

      2. I may have a stock post that comes up any time I see this, but “The Confederate Flag” and “The Stars & Bars” are two different flags. That don’t even look alike.

      3. I don’t consider it a positive of negative thing, really, that the south is more tightly regionally identified than other regions. Given the history that unites them, I am at times uncomfortable with it. Especially when it leads to states that are not Mississippi sometimes being thought of as being more like Mississippi than they are.

      4. It should be pointed out that the Confederate Flag isn’t what it used to be. I saw it a lot growing up. I see it much less commonly now and it has started to have class implications. Middle class folks in the suburbs have increasingly abandoned it. But if you go to the other side of the tracks, or outside of the cities, you’ll see it more often. Your question of what is driving what is a good one. I am ultimately disinclined to blame the outside (for not letting them forget) even if I find a lot of the criticisms unhelpful from a progressive-insider’s perspective (at least, progressive on this cluster of issues). Cultural change is hard.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        I don’t expect a lot of ugly reports; my sister usually simply doesn’t convey them even when they happen directly to her. Also, I wouldn’t even judge Mississippi by her reports, since they’ll be mostly confined to her experience in and aroundOxford. Generally, I’m just interested in about her experiences.

        I didn’t actually use the two flag terms interchangeably; I just used Stars & Bars, though for the purposes of what I was trying to say, it’s entirely possible that that was the wrong term to use.

        I can only rely on others’ reports of how things are developing down there, but my sense is also that there is something of a revanchist, and also a class, element to the practice of embracing that symbol. Change is indeed hard, and I wasn’t meaning to be totally critical in suggesting that some of it may be a refusal to back down to a rival culture that seems never to let it be forgotten just how wrong and backward the cause represented by that symbol was (nor, by any means, to blame the outside for the South’s struggles in this regard)!. It’s a (thankfully now mostly symbolic rather than violent, as such things often can stay for centuries) instance of how resentment over a fight can extend the fight long after any real causes of the conflict have passed into history. At least, I’m inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt that that’s what’s going on rather than an actual embrace of what that symbol was actually composed to represent.

        In any case, as now Mark and as Mike originally pointed out, it’s not an essential part of what makes Southern culture distinctive and worth having pride in, though it’s an indelible part of its past. There are better things to point to, and symbols that are available to do the pointing. They just have to be chosen and embraced.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        I will say, though, that to the extent that the South finds it difficult to identify a truly regional alternative symbol to the Stars and Bars and is left with more locally relevant symbols along the lines of what the rest of the country is able to embrace, to me that does raise the question of to what extent that larger regional identity actually is truly separate from the very tradition that they want to move beyond by setting aside the symbol.

        It only raises the question, though. It doesn’t answer it. At the very least, if it’s a valid question at all, it has a very complicated answer. By no means am I denying that the kind of Southern identity and culture that Mike relates in this post really is inextricably tied to the worst of the South’s past. But if it turns out that without that shared reference point, the culture in question turns out to be more local (and this less distinct from other local American cultures) than it had been conceived to be with it, well, then that’s the reality. If.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        …or, by no means am I saying that.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        I remember the subject coming up years ago, while my grandmother was still alive. The Stars and Bars was always fraught with troublesome connotations. She recommended the symbol of the magnolia blossom as a quintessential Southern emblem.

        The magnolia is already the state flower of Mississippi. Were someone to rig up a flag resembling the Tudor Rose of Lancashire, only substituting a magnolia for it, with red and white, as in the emblem of the Cross of St Andrew, an Irish symbol. The resulting heraldry is essentially the state flag of Alabama with the magnolia at the centre.Report

    • Avatar Badtux says:

      If she is white, her experience in Mississippi is likely to be okay. The children will be amused by her accent (she has an accent, they don’t 😉 ), but they will be polite about it, treating her as some exotic import from a strange and foreign place. She is also not likely to have problems with the school administrators. I did consulting work for a number of school districts in Mississippi and the school administrators are pretty much standup people, they’re better educated than the typical Mississippian and while not liberal, will be polite to a visitor from the North because that’s just how proper Southerners (as versus those white trash down at the trailer park) are supposed to behave towards visitors.

      If she is one of the “exotic” minorities, like Asians or Indians, she’s likely to have an okay reception too. One rural K-12 school that I taught at had Asian (Chinese) science and language teachers who did just fine. The students respected them and there were no problems.

      If she’s black… uhm. There’s still unwritten rules in many areas of Mississippi. She’s likely to get a cold shoulder from a lot of white people when she breaks them. Black administrators might clue her in, white administrators won’t (that would be impolite). But it’s not likely to be a pleasant experience for her, even if she is going to one of the desperately poor mostly-black school districts where she doesn’t have to daily experience the way white people in some areas treat black people. The grinding poverty in and of itself is dispiriting in those places…Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        She’s white, but she’ll be teaching college… probably mostly well-off Southern white kids, but I imagine also more non-whites than she would if she had ended up teaching in her home state of Wisconsin. I’m sure the accent thing will be a thing, but not as much as for K-12 since presumably a number of college teachers there aren’t from the south.

        I don’t have any worry about her safety. (I’m not even sure why I should, though as you say, if she weren’t white, I certainly would, fair or unfair.) My dad was a little concerned initially, and asked if she minded if he made a visit to sort of “check it out” (“for her”). She said, Yes, she would mind.

        So he read this book instead, which for reasons I don’t entirely understand, put him more at ease.Report

  8. Avatar Badtux says:

    Well, the thing about not making Southerners into racist stereotypes… well… erm. I’m a Southerner, born into a particularly inbred clan in a part of the hill country of Louisiana. And I can tell you for a fact that the N-word and racial discrimination are not only real but common there. I know this because when I go back home, they tell me. Proudly, sometimes. “That N**** was gonna buy up my general store, but I wouldn’t sell it to him, ’cause white people don’t need to be goin’ to no n***** store!” “I don’t get it, my daughter is running with a n*****, and now she even wants to shack up with him! It ain’t right!” “Oh, you teach at a behavior center? Are all the children n*****s?” (The last got a frosty look and a two word response, “They’re children.”).

    And Paula Deen doesn’t help, so there.

    I live in California now. I have absolutely no intention of returning to Louisiana again other than to bury my mother or do a short visit with my brother and his family (who, thankfully, are *not* that kind of racist stereotype). The willful ignorance of far too many Southerners, the disdain for the intellectual, the rejection of reason in favor of faith, all annoy me and have resulted in most of the South — outside of a few islands of sanity — being a festering cesspool of ignorance and poverty. Of course, these are not unique to the South, but as a defining trait in the South’s history — even the storied “southern gentlemen” of old were only barely literate for the most part (believe me, my Louisiana History professor did extensive research on the records of the old plantations, and they were an utter mess) — there is certainly something to be said about the notion that the South is special. Short-bus special, that is.

    But hey, I’m just from the South, so what do I know? [/snark]Report

  9. Avatar DRS says:

    I think people would have a lot less issue with Southern Pride if the Proudest (to coin a word) would just up and admit what the rest of the world knows to be true: “Yeah, the Civil War was based largely on an unwillingness to the point of violence to give up the system of slavery. We called it states’ rights but it was largely states’ rights to support slavery. That whole Jim Crow thing really should not have happened – we did our region no favours with that because it held us back from a more rational approach to economic development. Not to mention treating people like shit just for the hell of it is majorly Not Cool and would greatly upset Jesus.” That willingness to face unpleasant reality would probably go a long way towards making southern pride more respectable.

    But that’s the point isn’t it? Southern Pride is what you do when you’re determined to deny reality.

    Personally I find the whole “companies are moving here isn’t that great? we’re #1!” argument less than compelling. What kind of companies are moving there? Small head offices with 5 employees and overseas manufacturing facilities in mainland China who are looking for a low-tax locale? Or companies that are actually setting up manufacturing facilities and hiring locally and importing employees from other parts of the country to the South? Because there’s a difference. New Dealer is quite right – CEO Magazine is not the best arbiter of that kind of difference.Report

    • What kind of companies are moving there? Small head offices with 5 employees and overseas manufacturing facilities in mainland China who are looking for a low-tax locale? Or companies that are actually setting up manufacturing facilities and hiring locally and importing employees from other parts of the country to the South? Because there’s a difference.

      Yes, there is. And it’s quite interesting how many people assume that it must be the former rather than the latter. (Truthfully, outside of Texas I’m not sure how many large corporations the southern states are getting. But they have been doing quite well at getting new plants and expansion locations in various industries. Really, for the sake of discussion, Texas should be removed from the other states because their economy is doing one thing while the others’ are varying degrees of doing something else.)Report

  10. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Great post, and to continue a nitpick from above, I’d put Maryland in the South and take West Virginia out of it. (WV is more like a cross between Ohio and Central Pennsylvania). Curiously enough, the only time I’ve seen Garden and Gun (which I like) is at the barber shop in suburban Maryland that I go to.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      Which, now that I think about it, illustrates another problem. “Southern Culture” is too often defined (solely) around white people, (by both supporters and critics) which is a fundamental category error.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller says:

        I’d say that there’s Southern white culture and Southern black culture, and while there’s some overlap between the two, there are also plenty of strands that are totally distinct (most obviously the flag, but other aspects as well). When people complain about Southern culture, they’re mostly referring to Southern white culture.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller says:

        Although full disclosure, I’m from Chicago and live in DC so this is definitely an outsider’s perspective.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Maryland has a few pretty distinct cultures. Western MD might as well be West VA. You have the shore areas, which I can’t really speak of. And you have the I95 corridor which looks much like other mid-Atlantic urban areas… Racially diverse though somewhat segregated and massive class range/divide.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      If we were going to include WV, we’d have to include Deleware, and I refuse to include Deleware.Report

    • Avatar Lyle says:

      To make the point on West Virginia further, recall that it is the only state that split off an existing state. Very early in the civil war (summer 1861) the union forces got control of what is now west virginia. Then in 1863 the West Virginians set up a rump Virginia legislature (and approved the splitting of the state), adjorned and set up a constitution for West Virginia. The rest of Virginia was not at the rump session since they were on the confederate side, and did not hold elections for the rump.Report

  11. Avatar Paleoprof says:

    I’m a proud southerner (for reasons that have nothing to do with the civil war) and was really enjoying your post but then you had to go and write this:

    “Confederate flag gets a special distinction because it was adopted by people opposed to Civil Rights in the mid-20th century. Basically, they ruined it for the rest of us. ”

    That flag was ruined long before the civil rights era. That flag was ruined when the southern states committed treason to maintain the right to own people. There is a dark side to southern pride and that flag is a symbol of it, one that we would do well to not pine away for.Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      Good point. I’m Godwinning, but it’s like a neo-Nazi movement taking up the Nazi flag as a deliberate symbol of racial hatred in the middle of the 21st century; it’s not like they ruined a symbol of something good.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        Pale / Barry,

        You might note that slavery existed under the Stars and Stripes for almost 90 years and somehow that has been forgiven. Not to mention the Trail of Tears and a hundred other terrible actions. The Japanese still use roughly the same symbol under which they raped Nanking. Ask a iPalestinian what they think about the Israeli flag or Catholics in Northern Ireland what they think about the Union Jack. But national flags are complicated, just like the Confederate flag.

        My point was that the flag was not directly associated with racism until the Civil Rights era. I think that is an accurate statement.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        Mike,

        The difference is the raison d’etre for the Confederacy (and therefore the Confederate flag) was slavery. If the Confederacy had existed long enough to get a complicated history it would be different. However, instead it was merely the symbol of people who were willing to go to war over the expansion of the institution of slavery. The Stars and Stripes, on the other hand, stands for a lot of things, good and ill.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        From what I understand, the only people who fly the Union Jack in England are White Supremacists and Ex-pat Americans.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @jaybird – this was my understanding in the 90’s – there was a big kerfuffle when Morrissey draped a UJ flag around his shoulders at a UK concert (lots of breathless “Is he racist/does he support the National Front?” coverage).Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Lincoln stood before the assembled crowd of six state governors and 15,000 people at Gettysburg Cemetery, about 3,000 freshly-dug graves around him. The detritus of battle lay all around him: broken wagons, uniforms both blue and grey, rifle pits, canteens, cartridge boxes. Souvenir hunters wandered across the battlefield: Cemetery Hill had been the scene of some of the most vicious fighting.

      The persistent smell of death was everywhere: these graves were reinterments, men hauled out of the Valley of Death, where the unburied corpses had stacked up to decompose.

      Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers. That would be 1926 for us, fourscore and seven years. In 1863 the Constitution was hardly the Ten Commandments and the Founding Fathers were not yet enshrined in myth as they are today. Lincoln’s question Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. It hadn’t endured all that long. Eighty-seven years?

      More people died in the American Civil War than all our other wars combined. We can’t look back on the Confederacy and call them mere traitors. They weren’t. In the words of Jefferson Davis: If the Confederacy falls, there should be written on its tombstone: Died of a theory.

      I don’t begrudge anyone the right to fly the Stars and Bars. If that flag represents stupidity and racism and treachery, the winners of the Civil War weren’t particularly wise or noble men. And if there is a dark side to southern pride, there is a dark side to the Union victory. Lincoln had said the nation was created upon the principle of all men are created equal and the Civil War did not make men equal. There are people today who oppose every effort to make men equal, damning every such effort, calling it Overweening Federalism. Part of that Overweening Federalism is strict enforcement of the First Amendment: flying the Stars and Bars is protected speech.

      Many years later, long after the grass had grown up over the graves at Gettysburg, a veteran’s reunion was held at Gettysburg. A re-enactment of Pickett’s Charge was staged by veterans of both sides. As the Rebels came out from those woods across the field, the Union veterans rose from behind their stone wall, weeping, and ran across the field to the Confederates to embrace them.

      Men do not fight for a cause but for each other. If the Civil War is to mean anything, we must not forget that fact. Wars begin when the politicians stop doing their jobs and they end when the politicians start doing their jobs again. The Stars and Bars was never really ruined: honourable men fought under it and honourable men fought against it. But there is no glory in it, as there is none in the battle flags of the Union. They represent something true and horrible about mankind, that he resorts to war to solve his problems.Report

  12. Avatar Barry says:

    Chris: “First, something in the neighborhood of 150,000 Californians moved to Texas in the last decade. ”

    Let’s see: From wikipedia, the population of California is 38,041,430. (150,000/38,041,430) /10 = 0.04% per year. And Texas is one of the most populous states in the country.

    Please, numeracy.Report

  13. Avatar Chris says:

    I love the South. I love New Orleans, I love Atlanta, I love Nashville and Natchez, Memphis and Montgomery, Charlotte, Charleston, Savannah, Richmond, Asheville, Chattanooga, Macon, Muscle Shoals, and Mobile. I even kinda love Tallahass… oh man, I almost got that out. Pensacola ain’t bad, and Tampa. I love that the South is the birthplace and perpetual home of the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, country (the good kinds and the bad), and bluegrass. I love eating at the Varsity, Loveless Cafe, or Mary Mac’s Tea Room. I love going to a show at the Ryman. I love blues at a Mississippi juke joint attached to a gas station, with Christmas lights up year round. I love the beaches in Alabama, the peaches in Georgia, the mountain rivers of Tennessee and North Carolina, and the Louisiana swamps. I love Macon’s Cherry blossoms. I love that restaurants in Charleston call sweet tea the “house wine.” I love that someone in the South thought it’d be a good idea to make a full-sized replica of the Parthenon, complete with statue of Athena. I love that pickles in Kool-Aid exist, even if I ain’t touchin’ one. I love shrimp and grits, biscuits thick as cake with sausage gravy, pulled pork sandwiches with pickles ‘n cornbread, and fried everything. I love Poe, Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Welty, Hurston, Robert Penn Warren, Richard Wright, Flannery O’Connor, even Capote and Mencken. Mostly, though, I love the people. I miss them the moment I leave the South. I love how nice they are, how polite and eager to help they are. I love that many of them have a genuine sense of their history, the good and the bad of it. I love the ways they talk. I just love them, period, and all things being equal, I tend to prefer their company.

    I don’t need a battle flag for any of this. I don’t need to defend the South against charges of racism for any of this either, because my love for the South means I’m not embarrassed by the racism of its history and its present, but saddened by it. That love means that I have a genuine and urgent desire to heal its wounds and help it overcome its divides, something denying or diminishing those wounds and divides only delays or prevents altogether.

    Maybe people in Kentucky don’t really understand this. I mean, the only thing seperatin’ y’all from Ohio and Indiana is a crick. Oh, and Kentucky’s almost 90% white, which means that much of Southern culture, some of the best of it, just ain’t there in large numbers. Plus, since pretty much everyone else in the South only includes Kentucky when it’s convenient (“We need to get our numbers up… let’s let Kentucky in”), I get the impression that Kentuckians have a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to their Southernness. Maybe all the white folks up there overcompensate with what they think Southernness is supposed to be about (like rednecks and mint juleps). We’ll take Bowling Green, though, so that we at least get Corvettes and Nappy Roots.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Bullcrap.

      Pensacola sucks and you know it.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Man, I had to throw Florida in there somehow, but it’s tough, because it’s, well, Florida. Beautiful beaches and wilderness, though.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Florida is really tacky place besides Key West. I like other parts of the South like Louisville or New Orleans. They just need to be more walkable and have better transit.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        They say in Pensacola, it’s not the heat, it’s the humanity.Report

      • WTH?! Pensacola is awesome, man.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Pensacola: Wings of Gold!

        If you know what that is, you too may have suffered from insomnia in the late 90s.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I got on trouble for saying this elsewhere, but there are southern states I am interested in visiting and those I have little use for.

        Louisiana, Texas, Florida, the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee… my experience and/or knowledge tells me these places have something uniquely positive to offer.
        Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia… my experience and/or knowledge tells me these places have little to nothing uniquely positive to offer (yes, yes, I know Kentucky makes bourbon… but I don’t need to see it being made).Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Kazzy,
        If you’ve never been to the Dolly Sods, you ought to schedule a hike.
        Beautiful country up there.
        North Fork has cactuses way up on the mountaintop in WV.
        Nothing like watching an entire thunderstorm heading around where you’re standing.

        Also, there’s a cool Swiss village up in the mountains of WV.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Kim,

        I don’t doubt that there are beautiful, fun, or cool places in each of those locales. But I have yet to learn of something uniquely beautiful, fun, or cool. New Orleans is amazing AND like no place else in the union. Likewise Nashville.

        If a friend were to reach out and say, “I’m going to X, want to come?” and X was from that first group, I’d jump at it. If it were from the latter, meh. I am open to having my mind changed, but you’re going to have to do some real work to convince me Little Rock is worth visiting.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      I like all the stuff you listed here. This is good stuff to be proud of.

      Why Mike choose to talk about the Mint Julep crowd instead of what you listed, I have no idea….

      Also I like Billy Reid clothing.Report

    • Serious question – what is there to love about Charlotte? I have never found anything particularly unique about it in my visits. My experience of it has uniformly been that it is just a poorly designed amalgam of sprawling subdevelopments populated by transplanted Northerners and formerly rural Southerners.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Raleigh/Durham is really no better. Worst barbeque in the USA. There’s a suburb of R/D called Cary. Stands for “Containment Area for Relocating Yankees”Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Probably it was the Northern Carpetbaggers who scrubbed it of all its Southern Charm…

        I kid, folks. I kid. 😉Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        She was a true friend and a good writer.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I have to admit, I haven’t spent much time there since it’s late-90s early-Aughts boom. IT used to be a charming little city. Maybe I should have said the Research Triangle. Or the Wake Forest campus. Or the Carolina Coast, which really is striking (so is the Virginia coast, particularly in the southern part of the state).

        When I was a kid, one of my Mom’s best friends from college lived in Charlotte, and we used to go stay with her there in the summer for about a week. We’d drive out to the coast for a day or two of swimming. I loved it, and thought North Carolina was just about the best place on the planet outside of the fishing holes of central Georgia and the Eastern edge of the Cumberland Plateau.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        That Southern Charm schtick is for the rubes, anyway. It’s just a mask to disguise the seething cauldron of guile and assbitery. The only author who ever got the South right was Faulkner. Maybe James Dickey.Report

      • Heh. Cary is where all of the relocated upstate NYers I know who didn’t move to Charlotte wound up.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Charlotte is infested with Baptists and bankers and other horrible persons of that sort.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Re: Southern Charm

        My mother likes to say that southerners are the most charming people on the planet, until you turn around. The gossip thing is… annoying, and no one can give an underhanded compliment like a southerner. But really the niceness is real.Report

      • I do miss the outgoingness of the South. There’s a certain gregariousness, at least from my corner of it, that is actually good for an introvert like myself. It forced me to push outside my comfort zone.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Will, my southern outgoingness has served me well socially here in Austin, where people are introverted and rude almost to an exaggerated degree. Though it irks me every time I say hi (or more likely, “howdy”) to someone as I pass them on the sidewalk and all I get back is a puzzled look.Report

      • Avatar NoPublic says:

        My mother likes to say that southerners are the most charming people on the planet, until you turn around. The gossip thing is… annoying, and no one can give an underhanded compliment like a southerner. But really the niceness is real.

        No. It’s really not. The politeness is real. They’re not nice.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      This is all good, except for The Varsity. I mean, if you are drunk or hungover it’s OK, and everyone should go once for the experience, but it ain’t great.

      Seeing Ryan Adams at the (old) Ryman was amazing.

      And how could you mention Tallahassee/FL, without mentioning that America’s wang has an appropriate capitol building? Why they didn’t go whole-hog and put a dome on top of the central tower is beyond me.

      http://www.coyoteblog.com/photos/uncategorized/capital_2.jpgReport

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Yeah, the Varsity ain’t about the food.

        Mary Mac’s Tea Room tea room is about the food, but it’s also about the back rubs.

        Loveless… that’s just about everything.

        Oh, and: http://www.complex.com/art-design/2012/11/the-10-most-ridiculous-phallic-buildings/9-buffalo-city-hallReport

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Besides, only northern Florida is actually in “The South”.

        Central to South Florida is something else entirely (it’s still weird – REAL weird, ask Carl Hiassen – but it’s not The South, in the way we usually use that term), due to Latin influences from the (further) south, plus all the Northeasterners who come down to retire.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Oh yeah, that’s why I tried to pick Tallahassee, though I think Tampa has a bit of a southern feel, as does Orlando (but I hate Orlando with a passion).

        Southern Florida is basical New York meets the Caribbean.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        That Buffalo one isn’t bad, but it’s just not quite as – ah – striking. That pic I posted is actually what you see as you approach the FL Capitol from the long straight shot in of Appalachee Parkway.

        So you spend a lot of time thinking about phallus, as it grows ever larger in your windscreen. Even my famously prim and religious grandmother and great-aunt had a colorful name for the building.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Bluehairs and dry rot and the occasional alligator in the swimming pool. Carl Hiassen is the great spokesman for Florida.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I like to think that when The Good Doctor wrote “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”, he had Florida in mind.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        The Florida in my novels is not as seedy as the real Florida. It’s hard to stay ahead of the curve. Every time I write a scene that I think is the sickest thing I have ever dreamed up, it is surpassed by something that happens in real life.

        Carl HiassenReport

    • Avatar j@m3z Aitch. says:

      I mean, the only thing seperatin’ y’all from Ohio and Indiana is a crick.

      To be fair, it’s a pretty big crick.

      (Glad you spelled it right, though!)Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Will, this is why you and I will be friends 4 ever!Report

    • Avatar Don Zeko says:

      +1 to all this, but I want to add a little bit of my conflicted attitudes about it all. Because I like the South too, and yet the South does so many damn things that anger and sadden me. It’s very frustrating. Because at a gut level, I like being Southern. I like hearing the accents, I like the weather, I like the trees and the countryside and even the humidity. When I found out that my ancestors owned slaves and that my great great great great grandfather walked home from Appomattox, I took pride in that in a way that didn’t even begin to make sense. Because yes, those people were wrong, they did horrible things, and they were complicit in an unspeakably horrible system. But they gave me a sense that I came from somewhere with its own tragic and glorious history. Now if only we white Southerners did a better job of making our black neighbors part of that story, and also didn’t elect stupid shitty politicians, we’d really have it made.Report

  14. Avatar j r says:

    “Southern Pride scares people.”

    I don’t buy this. Southern pride doesn’t scare people. White supremacy and the Lost Cause scare people. To the extent that Southern pride has become cover for white supremacy and the Lost Cause, people are right to be… scared is not really the right word, but people are right to call it for what it is.

    Consider New Orleans, and other parts of Louisiana, which has a very strong regional identity. People generally don’t take umbrage to New Orleans culture. That is because New Orleans is fully aware of all the different sorts of people who are there and recognizes the contributions of all of those people. There seems be a new sort of Southern identity that, like New Orleans, embraces all of the people who actually live in the South. There’s nothing scary about that and it should be applauded.Report

  15. Avatar NewDealer says:

    “Additionally, there is the problem of the Confederate flag. While it would be easy to point out all of the horrible actions carried out under other national flags still in use (including the Stars and Stripes) the Confederate flag gets a special distinction because it was adopted by people opposed to Civil Rights in the mid-20th century. Basically, they ruined it for the rest of us.”

    No. Fort Sumter ruined it for you.

    I agree with j r. Southern Pride does not scare people. Lost Cause stuff scares people.Report

  16. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    Southern pride doesn’t scare me; it irritates me. It’s excessively boastful and assumes everybody else surely does, or ought to, recognize how awesomely superior the south is to the rest of the country.

    At least that’s how it comes across to me. But I’m a Midwesterner, and that kind of boastfulness is anathema in our culture. Of course southerners will take pride in their culture, as the rest of us do in ours. But they need to STFU about it, or at least tone it down, and stop thinking the rest of us should admire it any more than they’re willing to admire ours.Report

    • Avatar krogerfoot says:

      Well, that’s sort of the problem, isn’t it. Southerners take turns boasting about and needling each other about their regions when they get together. Outside the South, people don’t do that so much, and that sort of thing falls flat or annoys unsympathetic non-Southerners. Taking it too seriously is bad form in the South. I say this as someone who tires pretty quickly of the Southern Pride thing, so I don’t want this to come off like I’m trying to pick a fight.

      The Lost Cause stuff, the South Will Rise Again stuff, and Dukes of Hazzard flag-flying are by and large ways of saying “I’m a badass” for people with not a lot of expressive firepower. It’s usually best ignored, but this is hard to do when one is talking about a state flag or senator.Report

      • Avatar j@m3z Aitch. says:

        Taking it too seriously is bad form in the South.

        To be fair, my worst experience has been with Texans, whom Mike explicitly excluded from the set of southerners relevant to his post. I’m willing to believe you when it comes to other southerners, who haven’t irritated me nearly as much as Texans, who are matched in their boastful pride only by the San Francisco Chronicle.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        I will slightly defend Southerners here but more on universal scales.

        A lot of people are very proud of where they are from even if they haven’t lived in the region for X amount of years. I will always be a New Yorker even if I never return. It is a core part of my identity.

        However, I have been told by people that my New York boosting was seen as pronvincial and off-putting by other people especially when I would talk about things I loved but other people just don’t care about. A lot of people can live happy lives without cultural institutions like the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center, MOMA, the Frick, the Met, tons of off-Broadway theatres, etc. These are not draws for them.

        The same we are number 1 attitude can be heard in West Coasters (West Coast is the Best Coast), Bay Area people (and here it can divide by Bay. Hence shirts that say “Oaklandish”) Boston, Portland, etc. Pride in where you are from can be an insider/outsider single and those are always alienating to outsiders.

        It was extremely off-putting when Mike wrote that Southern Pride scares people but whether he realizes this I am not so sure. Just like it took me a while to realize how my New York boosting was off-putting to people.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        There is nothing innately wrong with the stuff Mike wrote about like the Mint Julep crowd* or anything else but it just doesn’t appeal to me at all. If he mentioned the Actor’s Theatre of Lousiville and there Humana Play Festival, I would be more receptive. The Actor’s Theatre of Lousiville is one of the best theatres in the US. The Alabama Shakespeare Festival is also worthy of esteem. If he talked about how Billy Reid (from Alabama) was one of the best fashion designers out there today, I would also be in agreement.

        *Though a magazine called “Guns and Gardens” sounds incredibly kitschy to me.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        James, dude, I can tell you that Texas ain’t the South. Texas makes me miss the South, terribly. I miss trees, and nice people, and trees, and rain, and seasons, and trees, and real sweet tea, and trees.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Well of COURSE Texas isn’t the South…it’s this.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I am printing that out, framing it, and putting it over my desk. That is the best thing I have ever seen, in my life.Report

      • Avatar j@m3z Aitch. says:

        Yeah, Texas is the border between the south and west, partaking of each to create its own unique (thank god) thang. I remember fucking with a student from Texas once. He had on his “Don’t mess with Texas” shirt (a good slogan that’s taken on an a real asshole meaning, IMO), and I said, “I like to mess with Texas. Sometimes I fly down there and rent a car just so I can drive around throwing trash out the windows.” He looked at me with shock and said, “But why would you do that? Texas is such a nice place!” I told him I was just joking, but that I really didn’t think Texas was all that special compared to any other place I’d been. If anything he was even more stunned–“You really don’t think Texas is a great place?” Jesus, they’re raised from the womb to think the place is the single greatest place on earth. Texans who’ve actually spent time elsewhere aren’t so bad. They still love their state, which is perfectly OK, but they understand there’s a beautiful world and great people outside it, too.

        But to us in the North, anything from Texas over to Florida is the south. Y’all may disagree, but that’s just a fact of life.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        @jm3z-aitch
        In the anecdotes illustrating your how irritating Southerners (especially Texans) and Southern Pride are, the only person who comes off looking bad is the college instructor who insults his students’ homes, then mocks their bewildered hurt. Am I missing something?

        Being from there, I have zero time for the “everyone picks on us Southerners, boo-hoo” crap that I hear. Maybe this is a case where just because they’re paranoid doesn’t mean people are out to get them.Report

      • Avatar j@m3z Aitch. says:

        Krogerfoot,

        A big part of my job as a college prof is simply to challenge students’ assumptions, and get them to devote some actual cognitive effort into thinking about their preconceived beliefs. If that makes me a dick–and it might–I can live with that.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        Fair enough. I didn’t realize it was a part of your duties.Report

    • Avatar Just Me says:

      Unless it is about football. Midwestern football pride is akin to Southern pride in my opinion.Report

  17. Avatar James B Franks says:

    I’ll never live anywhere again where there isn’t 4 seasons. I’ve lived in both San Diego and Pearl Harbor; I dislike both.Report

  18. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    What is the difference between a German guy saying he has German pride while flying a swastica and a Southern guy saying he has Southern pride while flying the flag from the Duke’s of Hazzard?

    Nazi swastika and “stars and bars” are the same to me.

    Look, I can imagine a German person expressing pride in being German. But that person has to do it in a way that recognizes that German pride is still connected with the Holocaust and an unnecessary war. So no Nazi symbols. Say you’re proud of the new Germany with no pining for the old Germany.

    So it is with the South and slavery and the civil war.

    Confederates = Nazis

    Confederate Flag = Swastika

    The South = Germany

    Slavery and Jim Crow = The Holocaust, Final Solution, and a whole lot else

    Southern Secessionism leading to Civil War = German Aggression leading to WWII

    You can pick holes in those identities, but the point stands.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      Except that the Confederacy didn’t actually try to exterminate black people, or Jews, or gypsies, or homosexuals, or communists, or anyone who was insufficiently loyal.

      Further, not all Southerners supported slavery or Jim Crow, only Democrats did. In many areas the Southerners fought for the Union. Democrats in the North were okay with slavery too, and even during the war campaigned on readmitting the South with slavery intact.

      So by your analogy, the Democrat party is the Nazi party.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        FIsh yeah G…the Dems were the suck in the 1800’s. Is there a point there. The confeds were kinder and gentler that is for sure. Try getting many Southerners to admit places in the South were pro-union isn’t always that easy. That seems to a part of history that has been lost.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian says:

        Wow so its really the Democratic Party flag. No wonder they don’t parade it around at conventions. Are all those Southerners in the media really expressing a frustrated desire to return to the Democratic Party then?Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

        By analogy, not all Germans supported the Holocaust, just as not all Southerners supported slavery.

        The Confederacy fought a war in favor of enslaving black people. That is just one wrung below exterminating them.

        So, yes I would agree that the Confederacy was just a little bit less evil than the Nazis.

        Lots of people and groups supported slavery in the past. But many renounced that support. The Confederacy didn’t. It died defending slavery. There is a difference.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Much of the Appalachians was pro-Union all the way into Georgia, and people in other areas also served in the Union army. The 1st Alabama Cavalry regiment escorted Sherman on his march to the sea. Georgia also fielded a white Union regiment. Florida and Texas fielded 2 (it was hard for Texan Unionists to get involved due to travel issues). Virginia fielded 3 (plus the state of West Virginia). South Carolina fielded 5. North Carolina fielded 8. Arkansas fielded 11. Louisiana fielded 16. Tennessee fielded about 40, east Tennessee having tried to secede from the rest of the state to become a Republican stronghold.

        BTW, Rebels in Blue is a fun book about the only couple known to have fought in uniform on both sides of the war. It would make a great movie.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

        A better counter, George, than saying the Dems supported slavery would be to say that the U.S. supported slavery. So, maybe symbols like the American flag should be seen as tarred by slavery as the Confederate flag is tarred?

        But that counter misses the point. The whole U.S. has renounced slavery. There is shamefulness there, but there is and should be some pride in the repentance and healing that is and has been taking place. (One could say the same about the D party, which has taken great pride in being the voice of many African Americans during the Civil Rights movement and the favored party of most African Americans.)

        But the Confederacy and all it’s symbols are like Nazi symbols. The Confederacy didn’t repent and try to help slaves become free. It fought a war to keep slaves enslaved.

        The Confederacy should be like the Empire to anyone with any libertarian bent.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian says:

        George, certainly you know that many Germans acted against the Nazis. They would not have had any allegiance to Nazi flag. I doubt that the pro union Southerners were any more inclined to support their flags.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Yes, some Germans opposed the Nazis, but the only somewhat organized opposition came from the conservative elements who eventually tried to assassinate Hitler. That reinforces the point that it’s not a regional problem, it’s a problem of supporting a party that’s based on evil. Many people throughout Europe also supported the Nazis, fielding large numbers of soldiers to fight the Allies. We might liken them Democrat Copperheads.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian says:

        I’m with you up to the copperhead swipe. If you scratch the surface of civil rights in the PNW you will see many of the same elements.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

        “Yes, some Germans opposed the Nazis, but the only somewhat organized opposition came from the conservative elements who eventually tried to assassinate Hitler.”

        No, there were alot more Germans who didn’t support the Nazis than that.

        And you’ve jumped the shark by saying that the conservatives were the good guys in Nazi Germany.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        George / Shazbot,

        Let’s quickly bring the Nazi discussion to a close, which would be preferable to shutting down the comment thread. I understand why Shazbot made the analogy, even though I wish he hadn’t, however debating the history of Nazi Germany is not the point of this thread. You all have gotten too far off-topic to allow the discussion to continue. Right the ship or drop the line of discussion please.Report

    • Avatar krogerfoot says:

      Shazbot3, a little moral certainty is just what this comment thread needs. Now you’ve gone and given George T a chance to be correct about something. Why, sir?Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

        I am as certain that the Confederacy was evil as I am that the Nazis were evil. The latter were more succesfully evil, but the difference is in degree, not in kind, and it is a smaller difference than you might suppose.

        Lots of Germans are also upset that they can’t express German pride and pride in early to mid-20th century symbols of Germany without being labelled anti-semitic or pro-fascist. To which I say, “Get over it. Those symbols are imbued with evil now.” I say the same to the analogous Southerners.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Yes, the Confederacy was evil, but they didn’t kick out Northerners our round them all up, they just banned the Republican party (their dream to this day). To them, where a person was born or where he was from wasn’t nearly as dangerous a threat as whether he might vote for the party of emancipation and equal rights instead of the Democrats.

        In fact, the Democrats did everything in their power to keep blacks from being able to vote, for about a century, and didn’t stop until they were sure they could get the blacks to vote Democrat. Then they insisted that every African American should vote at least three or four times.

        And all the while Jim Crow was going on, and even afterwards, Democrats in the North were busy herding African Americans into ghettos like Cabrini Green, farming them like a crop of voters chained to feeding troughs.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Ya see Kroger, George is only going to stick to being right, on obvious and banal points, until it leads to showing his true self. Which is good for everyone to see what is at the heart of his arguments.Report

  19. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Shazbot,

    This: “A better counter, George, than saying the Dems supported slavery would be to say that the U.S. supported slavery. So, maybe symbols like the American flag should be seen as tarred by slavery as the Confederate flag is tarred?

    But that counter misses the point. The whole U.S. has renounced slavery. There is shamefulness there, but there is and should be some pride in the repentance and healing that is and has been taking place.”

    Sure, the U.S. ‘repented’ on slavery…and then allowed blacks to be treated as second-class citizens for another 100 years. In addition they spent the next 20 years destroying the way of life of American Indians in the west, spent a couple of decades trying out imperialism in South America and the Pacific, etc. And if you ask the average citizen in the Middle East how they feel about our flag and the thousands of civilians killed in our two wars there…how does that stack up to four years of Confederate government? Do you really want to compare the two? Visit an Indian reservation in Arizona sometime and tell me how proud you feel about the U.S. flag afterwards.

    As I noted in the post and in this comment thread, the Confederate flag was ruined when it became a symbol of hate in the mid-20th century and I’m totally okay with allowing it to fade away. Blaming it’s offensiveness on the Civil War alone while not also being equally ashamed of the Stars and Stripes requires a deliberate disregard for American history.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      And you aren’t listening to any of us who thought it was a symbol of hatred since the first shots on Fort Sumter. There was no 20th century reinvention or revisionism that destroyed the Confederate Flag or Stars and Bars. Both have been destroyed since the first day of their existence.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        This demonstrates the difficulty in ascertaining what a symbol means when different people use it for different things and many of those who use it view it differently than those who receive it.

        It is why I favor more explicit forms of communication.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Kazzy,

        I’ve never been one to buy the “Heritage not Hate” line of argumentation/defensive rhetoric.

        Things are open for interpretation but that does not mean all interpretations are equal or correct.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill says:

        This is important. And this is what a lot of wavers of the Confederate Flag refuse to acknowledge. For those whom it is not actually a symbol of the Confederacy itself, it will be received as such and that reception is justified by its history. Some people seek reasons to take offense, but this is pretty straightforwardly not a case of that. And someone is acting like a jerk when they refuse to recognize that. It’s not the problem of the recipient.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        NewDealer, I heard you, I just don’t agree with the logic. If it was only about the Civil War then the flag would have been given a second chance if it had been adopted today to simply represent contemporary Southern pride. To demonstrate that point I mentioned how the U.S. flag has been forgiven over and over even when it was responsible for nine decades of slavery before the Civil War and then hundreds more atrocities after the Civil War. So to say one flag was destroyed by offensive actions when another keeps getting forgiven…well that just doesn’t really make sense. Americans have forgiven Lee, as evidenced by the kindness shown to him by most historians. They have forgiven southerners for the Civil War too.

        The reason the flag hasn’t been forgiven is because of the Civil Rights era. that was when people felt like its use crossed the line. If you don’t see that then you simply don’t understand American history on this topic.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill says:

        ND, symbols are entirely subjective, though. And the person sending the signal is the only one who gets to decide what they mean when they send it. On the other hand, others can talk about what it means to them when it is sent. That it makes them uncomfortable, this is why, and so on.

        In other words, it often is meant as heritage and not hate. But that it is so often received as hate should be sufficient to stop using that particular symbol. Because when we know, we are responsible for how our signals will be received. (This is true even when the reception is unreasonable – such as “niggardly” – but especially so when the receivers can point to a history of the signal – such as the Confederate Flag.)Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Ugh Mike, it’s like talking to a brick wall.

        Will, ND, symbols are entirely subjective, though. This isn’t true, and where it is wrong is important for this particular conversation. Symbols have a subjective component, because they have to be interpreted, but they have an objective component as well, perhaps two (depends on whether we’re dealing with Pierce or with Putnam, I suppose). Symbols exist in a system of symbols, and that system, as well as the interpreter (and perhaps, in addition, what the symbols signify), determine its meaning. Without the objective component in the form of the system of symbols, we wouldn’t be able to use symbols to convey intended meanings, because their meaning would be entirely determined by the receiver.

        That’s important because the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia doesn’t exist outside of that system of symbols, within which that army itself symbolizes the fight to maintain slavery. It is not possible for Mike and his ilk to separate those symbols, today or 100 years ago, because they are not the only ones navigating the symbol system, and one of the symbols in this system didn’t, and doesn’t, affect them the same way it affected others who are not like them.

        Mike’s continued obduracy stems from a complete inability to recognize that he’s not the only type of person who sees the symbol, and he’s is not the only type of person who can determine its meaning. That people like him didn’t recognize what others did 100 years ago does not mean it hasn’t always been the symbol it is today. It’s just that they didn’t need to recognize it, because the people who did were, for them, non-entities. Now they are entities, and the best he can do is deny that status to their ancestors, which he (perhaps unwittingly) continues to do here.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Lee was not forgiven. His beloved home was taken from him and the Union buried their dead in his front lawn. Lee was never allowed to vote again, either, nor was he considered a citizen of the United States until Gerald Ford pardoned him in 1975. Robert E Lee was an unreconstructed racist all his life.

        If Lee has become a myth, he joins a thousand generals who inspired awe and terror in their enemies. Erwin Rommel, Heinz Guderian, Napoleon Bonaparte, military monsters all of them and not a hero in the lot.Report

      • Chris, you’re right that the history of the symbol is not subjective. I guess I wasn’t clear on that. I was referring, strictly, to what the symbol means. I don’t know how you take that out of the realm of the subjective. Or rather, I don’t think history takes it out of that realm, even while I believe it renders some interpretations as more understandable (and justified, to an extent) than others.

        This isn’t something that I am going to go to the mat for. It’s one of those areas where I am weirdly “post-modern” (which isn’t actually what post-modernism means, but it’s how people use the phrase).Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        ND,

        I don’t mean to defend the flag or its supporters. I’m just pointing out that symbols by their very nature leave open certain room for interpretation. As with all symbols, their is a tension between the intended meaning and the received meaning.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        What I mean is that there is an objective component to the meaning. Sure, we are the ultimate determiners of meaning, but our determinations are restricted, and that’s where the the issue lies here. The problem for Mike is that he is not capable of stepping outside of himself long enough to see that for others there have always been limits on how to interpret symbols of the Confederacy — not just that flag, but any symbol associated directly with the Confederacy. It doesn’t matter how it was used between 1865 and the 40s; its meaning was still restricted by its association with the Confederacy, which is not an entirely subjective thing.

        I wish people like him would be able to recognize this. I used to think the people who didn’t would die off soon enough, but Mike is young, as are many others who think as he does, so we’re stuck with this sort of view for a long time. Mike seems to be averse to displaying the flag, but many people who think the way he does here are not, which means we’re stuck with that flag for a long time.Report

      • I guess I don’t see, even if the flag is flown for heritage not hate, how this makes the gesture not necessarily rooted in the historical cause of breaking up the United States because the federal government wouldn’t allow human slavery the room to expand enough to survive. A person can subjectively herald that heritage believing it can be done without hate – that’s their business, but it’s an objective fact that the heritage the flag represents is that heritage, or at least includes that history. That’s the cause that that flag was put together to represent. Hate in your heart or none, it’s ugly to want to glorify your heritage using a symbol that inextricably tied to that cause.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I think the subjective/objective dispute can be reconciled to some extent by recognizing an objective fact: that some people (subjectively) view the Confederate Flag as a symbol of slavery. The further question – whether there is in fact an objective symbolism attached it – is meaningless given that symbolism is entirely a human construct.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        (Not going to get into a philosophical debate about the objective reality of symbols. Not going to get into a philosophical debate about the objective reality of symbols. Not going to get into a philosophical debate about the objective reality of symbols.)

        Seriously though, symbols aren’t just constructs. I don’t construct symbols, or their meanings. They get them from a system of symbols that, ultimately, determines the bounds of their meaning, within which I have some, but not very much, leeway (further constrained by immediate context) in deciding what they mean for me in the moment.

        The reasons that the Confederate Flag is associated with the Confederacy, and the Confederacy, are not entirely captured by saying that there are people who believe it is so, because it is so independent of any individual believing so.

        We could do a quick counterfactual about all of the people who believe such a thing dying off, and anthropologists discovering a thousand years from now the flag, and its history. Would its connection not have existed for the intervening 1000 years? How does it suddenly come back? Is it because of the interconnection of symbols? If so, what is in that interconnection that the anthropologist can discover?

        Wait, I said I was not going to get into a philosophical debate. Suffice it to say that the objective aspect of the symbol is not irrelevant, because its connection to slavery is an objective fact as well as a subjective one.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        The reasons that the Confederate Flag is associated with the Confederacy, and the Confederacy, are not entirely captured by saying that there are people who believe it is so, because it is so independent of any individual believing so.

        I’m curious about this, the metaphysics of this. In what way is the symbol of the Confederate Flag more than, or different than, the sum of individual beliefs about the symbolism of the Confederate Flag?Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Yes, it is, but that’s because it’s qualitative, and qualities don’t really add like quantities. It’s a whole, and its a whole because of its interconnectedness not only with minds, but with other symbols. It will always be connected with those other symbols, regardless of whether minds continue to see those connections (which is why, if someone sees those connections 1000 years from now, they will be able to recognize them as connections).

        Besides, it’s signs all the way down. If signs are strictly subjective, then we’re in solipsism territory now.Report

      • Still,

        Will made a similar point, though not as strongly, and as much as I don’t think you can fly a Confederate flag without symbolizing the struggle to preserve slavery for the reason I just set forth, I actually differ with you here. Basically, you are saying that just because some people will think a symbol means X, that if a symbol-displayer knows that and displays anyway, they really can’t not subjectively mean for the symbol to have the subjective meaning it will have for those who observe it. I think that’s right inasmuch as if they know it will have that effect and do it anyway, they must mean to take an action that will have that effect. But that doesn’t define all of their subjective intent behind displaying the symbol. It’s really just putting a subjective understanding up against another subjective understanding. There are too many possible subjective understandings to end up with one being dominant.

        What makes the Confederate flag example different is that it has an objective history of representing something that apparently some people now to use it wanting to not intend for it to still represent that thing. In that case, I think there’s something that resolves the clash of subjective perceptions/intents. One side is basically actively denying the objective history of that particular symbol (if you want not to represent that history, then get a different goddam symbol already!), while the other is having that symbol thrust at them while having it insisted to them that they are mistaken in thinking that the intent is for it to represent the thing that it was objectively designed to represent.

        So it’s not just a general question of symbol-displayers needing to be aware of the reasonable likely subjectively perceived meanings of their displays (although that is necessary for decent communication and civility), but in this case it’s a question of the objective history of a particular symbol.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Yes it is.

        It is what? More than what individuals determine that it is? I’m not sure what you mean.

        The reasons that the Confederate Flag is associated with the Confederacy, and the Confederacy, are not entirely captured by saying that there are people who believe it is so, because it is so independent of any individual believing so.

        I think you’re misunderstanding what I’m saying. I’m not saying that any particular – preferred! – individual gets to decide what the meaning of the flag is for anyone else. IT’s that the flag has any meaning at all because of the symbolism people attribute to it.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        MD, I broadly agree with your comment so I don’t want to pick at it too much, but this

        What makes the Confederate flag example different is that it has an objective history

        is pretty much the point of contention, no? That there’s an objective symbolism that attaches to the flag irrespective of any subjective considerations?

        I don’t see how an argument justifying that is supposed to go, actually.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I’m saying that all the flag is is a symbol, or perhaps better put, a sign. If it is only a sign because someone attributes something to it, then it isn’t a sign at all. It’s nothing.

        How, if signs are signs only because someone (anyone… I got that, but my reply meant that if it’s not dependent on any one person, how is it dependent on any? what does this dependency entail? shared minds?) attributes meaning to them, are we able to communicate with them at all? (Through other signs of course… where’s the first sign? Or is there an objective meaning in the system of signs that is not dependent on us?)Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        In what way is the symbol of the Confederate Flag more than, or different than, the sum of individual beliefs about the symbolism of the Confederate Flag?

        A heraldic device carries a freight of meaning. There are rules to interpreting such things, special vocabularies. Per fess Argent and Vert, a dragon passant Gules, the device of Wales. Translation, in horizontal bands, silver and green, a red dragon walking to the left. The dragon of Wales comes from the Mabinogion. Heraldry regularised these symbols. The College of Heralds maintains them.

        Same goes for clown faces. They obey rules. You have to register your clown face. It’s bad form to use another clown’s face.

        A symbol speaks. It is intended to communicate a specific message. It’s not up for discussion if the symbols on the Men’s and Women’s bathrooms mean anything, even if in Indonesia, men wear skirts. When the Nazis took over the symbol of the swastika and all the other symbols they misappropriated over time, they attempted to give those symbols fresh meaning. The swastika is still a Hindu and Buddhist symbol but for us in the West, it carries another set of meanings. When a prisoner’s tattoos are photographed, nobody is confused by a swastika. Everyone knows this prisoner is a white supremacist.

        Unlike other forms of communication, symbols aren’t up for discussion. Either you understand what they mean or you don’t. All those stupid little symbols on the buttons and tabs of Microsoft software, what I call Corporate Chinese? They might be confusing but they imply specific meanings. Anyone can make up his own mind about the subject of the Confederacy, make all the excuses in the world for it. But nobody’s going to misinterpret the Stars and Bars. It means “The Military of the Confederate States of America.” There can be no other interpretation.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian says:

        Oh this is bringing back Junior year Witgenstein. Please make it stop.Report

      • Still,

        Ultimately it’s a truism that symbols only have meaning because people attribute meaning to them. (What up, CK!) If you want to be really hard-core about it, then, I guess, yeah, you can push that point to the point where no one can be wrong about what a symbol means (to them). Are you sure you want to do that, though? that basically suddenly means that no historical narratives are any more correct than ay other ones (all photos, written matter, etc. are ultimately nothing more than symbols), that laws have no objective meaning (I’m kind fo okay with that one), and all the rest. To me, when it comes to history, that seems like a way to smuggle in all kinds of distortion and forgetting under the cover of symbols only having the meanings we feel they do. Sure, Southern dudes can fly the Stars and Bars saying that it doesn’t mean anything other than pride in their land or whatever. Ultimately, it can’t mean anything more to them than that if it really doesn’t (though they can also just be lying through their teeth about that, and then we’re faced with the question of whether we need to grant them the validity of subjectivity on the issue anyway). But in the context of a shared memory of history (in both the South and the North), it does seem to me that the claim that as a social act, the flying of that flag has no relation to the history of its invention is hard to swallow. So while I obviously couldn’t argue that it has some ultimately metaphysically objective meaning, in the context of the social life we all more or less agree we live in it’s about as objective a meaning as a symbol can have without basically throwing out our entire semiotic infrastructure and starting out from scratch trying to attach meaning to symbols. We’d have to throw out much more shared understanding about meanings of symbols than people who try to use that symbol while denying it has that meaning are proposing to do, to get to the point where it doesn’t, for practical purposes, objectively have that meaning as a social matter. (Again, what’s truly their subjective intent is ultimately inaccessible by anyone but them.)

        Note: I am absolutely not arguing that the objective part of that meaning is the sum total of the symbol’s meaning – I don’t for a second argue that it can’t mean other things in addition to representing the cause of the Confederacy in the Civil War – only that representing that cause is something that symbol objectively does in our social reality, unless you’re willing to divorce symbols from their traditional meanings to a really considerable degree.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        And you said you weren’t gonna get into a philosophical debate about the nature of symbols!

        Let’s see if this is right: are you suggesting that a symbol like the Confederate Flag as it’s used in contemporary society is similar to (or identical with?) a symbol like the equal sign (“=”), in that it’s causal source and correct use are independent from individual or idiosyncratic attributions of intent when using that symbol?

        If so, I’ll have to disagree. Man, I hope I don’t have to disagree!Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Oh this is bringing back Junior year Witgenstein.

        Graduate school for me. Those great ole days!Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        MD,

        No, I don’t think symbols mean whatever a person intends them to mean. But I do think that the Confederate Flag, when used as a symbol, can mean more things than merely, or only, signifying slavery.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Blaise,

        Unlike other forms of communication, symbols aren’t up for discussion. Either you understand what they mean or you don’t.

        Is it possible for different people (or groups) to use symbols in different ways? To communicate different intentions or content or desires?Report

      • Still,

        Are you saying the equal sign is objective? I’d say it’s less objective, again, in the social sense, than the Confederate flag because of how particularly bound to a place and time and series of events and so forth the Confederate flag’s origin is. The meaning of the equal sign, on the other hand, has basically become more or less an abstract concept that takes on various uses depending on context. The actual origin of the symbol itself of course has a concrete history of its own, but the actual practical meaning for people of the symbol has genuinely evolved in a way that it can’t be argued, in my view, that the meaning of the Confederate flag has. This may ultimately illustrate your point that the salient question is the objective fact that people’s subjective understandings of these symbols haven’t evolved to the same extent, but I’d also point to objective facts about the symbols themselves as partial explanations for that: the equal sign is much older and from the beginning was invented to represent a more abstract concept, than the Confederate flag was, which was invented to represent a very historically particular political cause.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Erm, who gets to reassign meaning to a symbol? Or, more crucially, who gets to say the Stars and Bars doesn’t represent the Military of the Confederate States of America, which murdered black Union prisoners? A collection of barbarous rednecks, deniers of historical fact, contemptible crypto-racists who want to entertain their own private onanistic fantasies about the Glorious South? Peckerwood populists, states’ rights mouthbreathers, bucktooth, piney woods beady-eyed ignoramuses with a chip on their shoulder and a head full of nothing? No, they do not get to redefine the Stars and Bars.Report

      • But I do think that the Confederate Flag, when used as a symbol, can mean more things than merely, or only, signifying slavery.

        No, I’m definitely not arguing that’s not true. (I realized that may have been a cause of confusion, and added a note to that effect.) but I don;t think that the people who deny that their flying of the flag represents the cause to preserve slavery are merely denying that their act only represents that. They’re denying that it represents it at all. Indeed, my sense is that they deny it even represents the Confederacy at all, but rather hold that today it only represents the geographical region and its culture and pride in itself.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian says:

        Symbols have meaning in communities inbetween users. There can be different and overlapping communities that have different emphasis or meanings on any given symbol. There’s certainly sport in playing inbetween the margins.

        I certainly hope deep historic symbols can alter their meaning or the whole SSM thing is a waste.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Consistently with my thesis, MD, I cannot argue that you’re wrong! We’re talking about symbols here, and my argument is that there’s no objective fact of the matter which will settle their one, true meaning. There is certainly a historical connection between the confederate flag and secession, and that secession was more or less (=!) motivated by a desire to preserve the institution of slavery. So on that we don’t disagree. I’m just saying that it’s entirely possible for a Southerner to wave the confederate flag as a symbol of something other than advocacy for slavery. So the flag can become a symbol for something different.

        The equals sign isn’t subjective, in my view. Just like the meaning of the numeral “4” isn’t subjective, nor the addition function. We use symbols to represent those abstract facts, tho, and philosophers often get confused about their meanings. Dostoevsky wrote a famous book on the premise that for the narrator 2+2=5! Existentialism!Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Is it possible for different people (or groups) to use symbols in different ways? To communicate different intentions or content or desires?

        There’s a begged question in there. In every such context, the symbol or gesture is either correctly understood or it isn’t. Without that locked-in meaning, symbols wouldn’t work and we enter Humpty Dumpty’s “there’s glory for you.” We do not get to decide what words mean. I’ve already furnished the example of the swastika, which just happens to have been carved in the choir loft where little Adolf Hitler was a choirboy. The symbol clearly meant something to him. It means other things to Hindus and Buddhists. There’s a difference though: most of those Eastern swastikas form the letter L at the bottom. The vertical of the Nazi swastika is reversed to form a squared-off letter S, for Sieg == victory.

        Even when words change meanings, it’s almost always through euphemisms and patter, secret speech. “Gay” changed etymology when homosexuals began to use it of themselves in patter. It only entered regular parlance for a few years and became a childish insult much later, as often happens with discarded patter. Nowadays if some ignorant child says “That’s so gay!” decent people will tell that child to Get Right and will hopefully cuff the little brute in the head. But when an etymology changes that drastically, old meanings are abandoned: it’s too confusing to hold with several definitions.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian says:

        @stillwater Funny you say that. In the PNW lots of people put the “=” sign on the backs of their cars to support marriage equality. There’s just no telling what people will use signs for. It used to be that words like faggot, queer, slut were pejorative. I know you get it. Just sayin’Report

      • I think what it comes down to for me is this. That people who fly the Confederate flag claiming that its meaning is divorced from the cause that gave rise to it are engaged in some combination of bad faith and self-deception (or else just flat-out deception of others) regarding both its likely received meaning and their own intentions in using it. Yes, certainly the meaning of symbols can change. Objective doesn’t imply immutable: a symbol’s meaning can be (at least in part) more or less objectively one thing as a social matter at one time, and more or less objectively something else at another. I just don’t think that people who fly the Confederate flag really think that has happened.

        Does that mean tha I think they’re calling for the restoration of the cause of preserving slavery? Of course not! The use of symbols is certainly at least that flexible for them not to be necessarily doing that. But I think it’s necessarily the case because of current objective social understanding of that symbol (including in their minds, whatever their claims), that they’re using that understood, near-objective current social meaning of that symbol to say something. I think the objective facts about the current social understanding of the symbol, as well as the relation in time and space to the objective reality of the origin of the symbol itself (they’re not doing this in Japan in the 23rd century!), makes it untenable for them to deny they are using that meaning to say something.Report

      • I ain’t afraid of your subjectivism, Stillwater! I’m down. Ultimately ultimately, ULTIMATELY, yep, it’s all subjective. But there’s a social context we all exist in, and that’s the sense of objectivity I’m working with.

        And if you were working in that same conceptual space with me (I’m not sure I’m having any success in getting to come along with me), I strongly feel you’d see that your intuition wrt what you see as the objectivity of numerals, say, compared to the subjectivity of historically specific artifacts like the Confederate (or, say, Soviet) flag is, again, in that conceptual space, more or less bass-ackward.

        Consider: if you saw two guys marching in two separate one-man parades down Main Street in your town, one waving a flag with the numeral four on it, and the other waving the flag of the Soviet Union, whose basic message would you have more clarity about? That’s the sense of relative social objectivity in these symbols that I’m talking about.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        MD, we’re working in the same conceptual space. Cascadian’s reference to Witt.genstein was apropo. That’s the context here.

        Signs only have a determinate meaning (if ever) in a context, and symbols are signs, yes? So the meaning of a symbols will be determined by context. That’s sorta too quick on the one hand, but all there is to say on the other. I’m not sure how much or where we disagree at this point.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Is it possible for different people (or groups) to use symbols in different ways?

        That’s called a clash of symbols.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Right on. I think my point is that, once you assume the social context into place more or less at it actually exists at a given time, then various degrees of objective meanings of various symbols (widely varying depending on the symbol, not ever exclusively objective, and not in all cases!) do effectively sort of click into place. It’s only on a blank slate without a previously constructed social reality where no symbol’s meanings are at all objective. And we’re very much in this social reality, so for out purposes, a lot of symbols have some quite objective meanings (and others that are totally subjective). If that’s all you were saying, we’re on the same page entirely.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian says:

        @michael-drew Isn’t this kind of like Scalia and originalism? Languages are funny. There’s not always truth in advertising. The current meaning of Federalist is the opposite of what it originally was. Try figuring out the political spectrum of Canadian politics on just the name.

        Ultimately, if I feel generous, I think about SSM and the desire to alter the meaning of marriage that has peeved some folk. I then think of a southerner that wants some sort of symbol that says they really aren’t as bad as all that, that there’s still something positive in the region. It’s not going to actually have that meaning or effect on me in my West Coast enclave but I can’t bring myself to say they can’t try to create that meaning for themselves.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Cascadia,

        Though certain aspects of the fundamental questions remain somewhat constant as we move from a symbol like a flag to sets of symbols like language to language that is performing the particular complex social function of being law, it becomes sufficiently more complicated that in my view it may not be useful to just think of those as similar problems. So I’ll demur on that question.

        On their ability to create new meaning, I absolutely agree they have that ability and support it. New meanings can attach. At the same, if that coincides with the erasure or denial of another meaning, that can also have great social significance to me. And all such erasures may not be created equal. One could be just the abandonment of some previously constructed association, while the other could amount to an attempt to change social understanding of the symbol in such a way that an objective historical fact about the symbol might be forgotten. To me, to deny that the Stars and Bars represents the cause to secede from the Union in order to preserve slavery is to promote the forgetting of the objective fact that it was originally stitched together by people doing that with the intent that the resulting object would represent that cause. Yes, the connection between that objective fact (which is now gone into history) and modern incarnations of the symbol is no more metaphysically tight than would be a connection between a made-up story about the flag that had adhered to it over time the people were now trying to break and those modern incarnations. But it’s still an objective historical fact that is true about the original incarnations of this symbol, and as such, to break that association while maintaining others is simply to advance the cause of forgetting in history while sustaining the proposition of using of symbols to preserve history and mediate culture. Unless you’re going to toss out symbols having salient meaning altogether, you can’t toss out that meaning of that symbol without basically just being lying and engaging in selective forgetting (all while affirmatively claiming to use the symbol to herald heritage (which means history!)!)Report

      • Avatar Cascadian says:

        Oh, I agree with you to a degree. The historic significance is the overwhelming interpretation given to the flag in the broader community. The meaning of the flag will be difficult to change outside of that particular region. It’s just that the South seems so utterly distant and foreign from my local. Hence, I feel uncomfortable saying without reservation what the symbol actually means to them. In a way our communities are too distant to guarantee understanding. When I watch the Republican primaries in Ames I may as well be watching bull fighting from Spain.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      I’m curious, Mike.

      I don’t know that I’ve flown a US flag since I was a young lad waving one at a parade. I don’t have one in my classroom, unless there was one hung inconspicuously somewhere before I arrived and I’ve yet to notice it 3 years later. I don’t teach my students (4- and 5-year-olds) the Pledge of Allegiance. On the rare times we attend all-school assemblies and the Pledge is recited, I stand respectfully but silently.

      I don’t hate our country or its flag. But I’m also not sure I take any particular pride in it, for many of the reasons stated. There are things about our country I love, things about American culture I enjoy deeply and passionately. So I’m curious… why can’t Southerners seem to do the same?Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        Kazzy – i don’t follow. Are you asking why southerners don’t take pride in American culture/Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        No. What I’m asking is why do I seem capable of relishing in the positive aspects of American culture while maintaining an uncomfortable and distant relationship with the flag because I’m conflicted about what it represents (and patriotism and nationalism in general), but Southerners cannot revel in the positive aspects of their culture without their controversial flag?Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        Kazzy – as I said in the post, I guess some people need some kind of visual symbol and that’s what they have grabbed on to. They have spent the last 20 years trying to put a positive spin on it but it really hasn’t worked. As a whole though, I don’t think the majority of Southerners need the flag, although to also be fair, it doesn’t offend most of it either. We’re basically indifferent on the subject.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill says:

      Mike, you’re off-base here.

      The US flag represents a nation of over 200 years with high points and low points. It was a nation founded with slavery, but one that did dispense with it. One that has, over the years, evolved from what it was into what it is, and will evolve further still.

      The roots of the Confederate Jack are in a would-be nation that existed briefly. One that strove for independence so that it could keep men in bondage. And one, because they lost the war, never advanced beyond that point. The flag was then picked up and used, primarily, by those who defended said would-be nation and sought to halt progress for the descendents of the slaves that said would-be nation attempted to found to keep in bondage.

      There’s really just no comparison between the two. Had the Confederacy succeeded and become a nation, and had it eventually shed itself of slavery and achieved some degree of value beyond its slavery-laden roots, then its flag(s) would represent more than the slave-nation, segregation, and the sad dark history. But none of that happened. It formed and was destroyed in defense of slavery. The flag was resurrected for use in further abhorrence. That’s what the flag is.

      The flag, and waving the flag, isn’t (always) intended to be what its critics say that it is. I think it is often misunderstood. But the critical interpretation on it is not only widespread, but has more than enough historical justification that the view is not unwarranted. It’s often correct. And even when it is misunderstood, the stubborn waver of the flag is consciously disregarding the limited history of its use in a way that one who flies the USA flag isn’t.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Thank you, Will. This is a very good comment.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Like ND says, well said.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        Will – I disagree. As noted above, I’m simply looking at a timeline.

        1865 – Civil War ends

        1865 – 1941 Little or no use of the flag

        1941 – 1945 Flag is popular with southern soldiers during WWII

        1947 – Flags waved by Univ.of Va. students in game against University of Pennsylvania

        1950s – Flags become more common as Civil Rights movement begins

        1956 – Georgia adds Stars and Bars to their state flag

        All I am saying is that the flag we all call the Confederate flag was not considered offensive until the Civil Rights movement and I think history proves that point. It’s revisionism to suggest that it was considered widely offensive from roughly 1865-1950.

        All of this is moot, which is why I am going to drop this topic. I’ve already stated that I don’t like the flag being used today and because certain commenters want to dispute historical facts I am going to end up looking like a Confederate apologist, which is not my intent. Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        The Stars and Bars was always offensive to black people and all the abolitionists.Report

      • Mike, you’ll notice that I worded by comment carefully. I talked about how the flag was “rooted” precisely because the Rebel Flag was not, as you correctly point out, in wide circulation during the war. But that is where the flag originally surfaced (at least in the American context) both as a battle flag and an emblem on the second and third national flags. And that it was found aesthetically more appealing than the Stars & Bars doesn’t really change that. It is based on an emblem of national flags of the Confederacy. That’s where it started.

        (I was actually going to to into this in my original comment, but I consider it tangential.)Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        The flag was used by veterans groups and veterans relatives groups pretty much from the end of the war (after its display was made legal). You can find photos of it at veterans group meetings dating back to the 19th century.Report

      • Mike, I think you’re confusing the question of whether the flag was offensive to people with the question of whether it was being used in ways that brought that offense to the fore and became actively controversial. After the Civil War, the flag wasn’t flown with the kind of pride in the shameful past that it came to be in the mid-20th century very much, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t represent the same ideas that it did in the 1860s, or that it wouldn’t have been reacted to with similar revulsion by blacks and in the North had its use started again sooner than it did. It always would have been offensive if used, but (I’m willing to take your word on this), apparently it just wasn’t used much from 1865-1941. But it’s not the case that it only came to represent or be associated with racism because it was used to rally opposition to the 20th c. CRM. It was used for that because of what it already represented.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Ruined for whom? It was never not ruined for former slaves and their descendents. That it was ruined for people who look like you when the Klan and other hate groups began actively using it in the 30s and 40s doesn’t mean it didn’t mean, before then, what it means to many today, which is to say that it represents the people who fought to ensure that millions of other people remained in bondage, legally considered property.

      It’s frustrating that you, and so many people like you in the South and elsewhere, can’t grasp that.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        This is a great comment in the well.

        In the end, I think Mike revealed his thoughts in the essay but perhaps inadvertently with comments like “Southern Pride scares people” I think this reads more as wishful thinking than anything else. On a certain level it feels like he wants people to fear the specter of the South rising again…..Report

      • Avatar Badtux says:

        The fact that a lot of Southerners didn’t fight for the Confederacy yet the descendants of people who did not fight for the Confederacy are the biggest wavers of a flag that represents a cause their ancestors did not fight for has always baffled me.

        In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about: President Jefferson Davis (who had been elected by the secession convention, then “elected” in a Soviet-style election by “popular vote” shortly thereafter, an election where no other candidates were allowed to run) immediately recognized the South’s manpower problem upon taking office and instituted the draft. A very, very broad draft. A draft which, if it had ever been 100% implemented, would have resulted in mass starvation. Draft dodging in the South started immediately — especially among the rural “white trash” population who largely were *not* slave owners and had little reason to fight to preserve slavery. Many of these families were on the verge of starvation even in normal times *with* Daddy and the oldest kids working the land. Yank Daddy and the oldest kids (those over 17 years of age) away from the farm, and their families would *die*.

        But there were no exceptions to the draft, and Jefferson Davis was soon the most hated man in the South (only rivaled by William Tecumseh Sherman by the end of the war). The rural “white trash” population responded to the draft by taking to the woods and hills and swamps. I remember reading some accounts of the first attempt by Union soldiers to march from New Orleans to Shreveport, the scanty lines of Confederate soldiers retreating in front of them were in as much danger from the draft evaders in the swamps, who were afraid they were about to be drafted into the Army, as they were from the Union soldiers. Those same draft evaders also fired on the Union troops when the Union troops tried to enter the swamps — they weren’t really pro-Union, they were more pro-put-food-on-my-family-table, and anybody who seemed to threaten that was the enemy.

        Yet the descendants of those bushwhackers and draft dodgers, the poor white trash descendants of generations of poor white trash, are the same ones who are waving the battle flag of a cause that their ancestors did their best to not support. Inexplicable.Report

    • Avatar Cascadian says:

      I’m not from the South. I used to think the flag was cool when I was really young. It was on the Duke’s of Hazard car ‘nough said. There was really little more to it in the under six crowed I rolled with.

      Again, I’m not from the South. My current understanding is a mix between your objections and their historic links vs young idiots. We had Che Ts but the anarchy sign was always reliable with the blue hairs.

      I hope everyone remembers the Maddow show where she’s discusses the meaning of Tea Bagging and the Republican rally “M4M”?Report

  20. Avatar Chris says:

    Still, replying down here:

    Let’s see if this is right: are you suggesting that a symbol like the Confederate Flag as it’s used in contemporary society is similar to (or identical with?) a symbol like the equal sign (“=”), in that it’s causal source and correct use are independent from individual or idiosyncratic attributions of intent when using that symbol?

    Not independent, but interdependent. But you’re right, I said I wasn’t going to get into a purely philosophical debate, and I have been trying to express the philosophical views quickly as a result, so all that’s going to come of it is confusion I’m afraid; confusion of the major issue here in this thread, at least (I’m happy to discuss it elsewhere, where less, or more, depending on your view of these things, is at stake).

    Let me reiterate my point though: regardless of whether you share my theory of signs, the truth is this: Mike doesn’t own the flag, and he doesn’t own the South or its history. These things are symbols/signs that people other than Mike (and I use Mike here as an exemplar of a much larger category, and he has shown himself to be an excellent exemplar), and what they signify is quite horrible in many cases, and in many others perhaps good but quite other than what they signify for Mike. But what Mike does, in the threads about the flag and the post entirely, is ignore those people and what it signifies for them. This would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that what these things signify for them has been ignored throughout history, and ignored at great cost to them (and little or no cost for Mike). They were treated as non-entities, so ignoring them was perfectly OK. And by treating the South as entirely Mike’s white South, and the flag as, until it was “ruined” for him (again, as an exemplar) at the advent of the Civil Rights movement, as an innocuous symbol, Mike is treating them as non-entities as well. Whether he’s doing so out of… how did Kazzy once put it the last time we had this discussion about Mike? tone deafness about race, I think, or whether he’s aware that he’s doing so, is something I made the mistake of speculating about before, and therefore won’t do so now (you’ll notice he doesn’t respond to me; that’s why). But he does it, and the more he does it in the face of people pointing out that he’s doing it, the more disgusting it is to me to see.

    I am Southern. I am forever attached to the South. I love the South. I hate that people bring the South down through ignorance, fear, and hate. I hate that there are people like Mike who excuse them, not necessarily because they agree with them, but because they not only refuse to see them clearly, but because they repeat and reinforce many of their behaviors by (actively or inactively) ignoring the very others who those people actively ignore.

    Mint juleps and rednecks! Southern pride is Southern white pride, even in Mike’s post, and in his defense of the flag historically (not today). How are we supposed to take that? Why shouldn’t we be enraged by that? Particularly those of us who really do care about the South, not out of pride but out of love, not just for what it is and was but for what it could be?Report

  21. The children may not have read the book, but it’s worth a look for you from Michael Kors Outlet. As WSJ reported earlier this month, analysts at Canaccord Genuity called Michael Kors Outlet” one of the a lot of buzz around the company.Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *