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Response to Mind of the South

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Essay title: Response to Mind of the South

For a somewhat slow reader like me, Cash’s Mind of the South, while quite interesting, was a rather tedious read. But through stubbornness and shear power of will, I was able to complete it from cover to cover in just less than three weeks. I am tremendously happy that I did so. What I have learned from this experience is that just because I have lived in the South for 21 years and have married into a southern family, I am no more a southerner than the Pope is a Muslim (and rescind my previous paper stating that I consider myself as such.) Though I have during my time here come to have a great and sincere appreciation for the south, I am forced to be an outside observer to Southern culture.

The individuality of the Southerner, as pointed out by Cash, is a hallmark of the Southern man’s interpretation of the Legend of the South. “We don’t need us none o’ that Yankee, we know better, bull!” Due to the sheer ruggedness of the landscape that helped to define “The South”, the people that were able to scratch out a living here, and in their own particular way, thrive, had to develop a do-it-yourself mentality and a self reliance, primarily among the poor white population, that afforded them the ability to create their own particular section of the earth that did not require, or want for that matter, help from the outside. There was not a world that needed to exist north of Virginia, South of Georgia or west of the Mississippi River, save for the Old World where their Cavalier ancestors arrived from. Great Britain was perhaps the only place that an outsider could enter in from and have a small margin of credibility. One can’t necessarily claim a heritage from a distant land and not harbor some fondness of emotion for it, even if it were only marginally. But woe be unto the Yankee interloper! (My wife’s ancestors are almost certainly railing in the family crypts in New Orleans because of our unholy union. I am the first Yankee to enter the family in all of these years, and they have been here for a good long while.)

But how is it then that a culture who insists that they can make do for themselves be so easily lead by the colorful figures that make up the body of Southern politics? Interestingly enough, these same rugged individuals will band together in a common cause that, from a distance by the outside observer, seems wholly absurd. The Southern Man (more so perhaps in a past context than nowadays) can be charged by his base emotions to such actions and mindsets like the superiority of the white race or the nobleness of the agrarian society or the Protodorian Ideal of democracy. It is almost like a lemming mentality that says “I don’t care if I do have to run off of this cliff to prove my point! So long as it is a southern cliff, I will give my rebel yell and charge forward to the honor and glory of the Southern Woman (even if I don’t believe that she can think for herself or vote).”

The class structure of the Old South also ran contradictory to that sense of rugged individualism so espoused by the southerner. The Crackers didn’t need help from nobody, but if’n you could gimme a few acres to work, I’d be much obliged. The Yeoman farmers magnanimously did so. They held their place of superiority and ran things so that they tended, if only in the slightest and least degree that was necessary, to the needs of those whom they considered to be subservient. The Yeoman didn’t need help from anyone! He had them Crackers workin fer him! But, if’n you could extend my holdings on yer plantation and gimme a few slaves, I might be able to yield a few more bales for you next year. The Planters, who were kings of all they surveyed, held the power to make or break other men. They held total sway over their kingdoms and all those abiding within its borders were his to take care of, or utterly crush if they crossed the line. The Planter Class were truly

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