Posted on January 17, 2019
by Steve Janowick
The sensibilities of the south.
Living just outside of Baltimore Maryland, I have no identity. Except for maybe eating crab cakes in a hail of gunfire, Baltimoreans aren’t known for much. We don’t possess the cultured nuance and politesse of our northern neighbors and we certainly don’t ooze with the easy charm and grace that our neighbors to the south do. Technically a southern state, because two guys named Mason and Dixon decided to draw a line at our northern border, Marylanders really dwell in in that boring, blah, middle ground.
The identity-less middle ground.
Needless to say, I’ve always been much more intrigued by the south; sort of captivated by the mystique and romanticism. It started when I was 14 and we visited some family friends in a tiny town called Parrott, Virginia. This was my first experience with actual “southerners”, and it was quite surreal. Even as a teenager I was already somewhat jaded growing up in the suburbs of a big city. I was used to the insolence, the cynical attitudes, the distrust, and the speed of everyday life.
So, when we arrived and stopped off to fill up the tank at the local Parrott gas station I was immediately taken back. This store attendant was nothing like the ones back home. Notwithstanding his thick drawl, I thought he was maybe some old acquaintance or long lost relative, because he certainly talked to us like we were. He treated us with a genuine kindness and sincerity that was, at first, suspicious. But come to find out he was no different from pretty much everyone we encountered during our stay. White or black-it didn’t matter-people just had a different outlook in this place. A positive outlook. Good manners were the norm. Benevolence was pervasive. Faith, family and patriotism weren’t mocked and made fun of. They were foundations. Pillars.
Even at 14, my naive self was rejuvenated with optimism.
And while pondering on the ride home, I realized there was a clear and distinct contrast between the north and the south-at least with folks’ values, attitudes and dispositions. And as I grew, I ignored the agenda-driven history lessons I was getting in school and the Hollywood stereotypes I was seeing on the tube. Oh, and Neil Young’s petty (Canadian) rants. I knew it was all BS. And there’s a lot of open-minded, decent northerners who know it too.
We are a complicated nation with a complicated past and, sadly, some elitist types choose to continue the perpetuation of outdated clichés and inclinations.
But I have a sneaky suspicion that the southern man couldn’t give a rat’s ass.
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