“Depends on whose side you were on,” I said with the hint of a chuckle—but Frank looked like he was ready to go to a funeral.
“Well I’m south of the Mason Dixon,” he said, as though that explained it.
“So am I,” I replied. “Just like a lot of other Yankees 150 years ago.”
I gave him a wink so he’d know I was just doing a little Civil War trash talking–as much poking fun of myself for carpetbagging–but Frank’s walrus moustache seemed to droop even more. With his mane of white hair, in an Antebellum time he might’ve gone by the name “Colonel.” Today he seemed a little lost.
People still feel bruised 150 years later. Not everyone—but a surprising number.
What surprises me, though, is the number of those same people who turn around and shout the jingoistic-style “’Merica!” brand of patriotism: flags and eagles and “These colors don’t run.” Uncle Sam has his shirt sleeves rolled up and will punch you in the face as soon as the NASCAR race is over.
They often espouse smaller-government philosophies (a political point of view I tend to agree with myself, as it happens). Perhaps that is in keeping with their Confederate forbearers—yet the Confederate government trampled on personal liberties in far-reaching ways as it scrapped for its own survival. Folks tend to forget that in the post-war haze that is Lost Cause-ism.
Ironically, the banner of smaller government is carried today by the Republican party–the same party that forced Lee’s capitulation at Appomattox. The party of Lincoln and Grant.
The layers of cognitive dissonance to all that dizzy me, which is probably why so few people spend time actually thinking about it. It’s easier to yell “’Merica!” than examine contradictions.
And I’ll add one more layer–one I find oddly comforting yet sometimes disheartening. As a country, we are a marvelous tapestry of interwoven contradictions. That’s part of what makes us Americans. We might not always be all that tolerant of each other, but we do, by and large, manage to coexist okay. High-profile hate crimes of all sorts call attention to the fact that there remains a lot of work yet to be done, but like anything in the media, bad news gets disproportionate coverage. We don’t see a whole lot about all the folks who are getting along okay. They’re all around us.
There are a lot of “–isms” still out there: racism, sexism, classism, homophobia (which is still an “–ism”), Lost Cause-ism, carpetbaggerism, etc. That’s too bad, because most folks are just trying to get by. Most folks are a bit overworked, behind schedule, and hoping for the best. We want good things for our kids.
Mason-Dixon Line or not, that puts us all on the same side.