Before this summer’s trip, my exposure to the American South had been extremely limited. I’d been to Washington, D.C., and I’d visited Florida and lived in Texas — both of which are technically a part of the Confederacy but are, because of their unique cultures, are rather sui generis when compared to the core Southern states.
This most recent trip, however, really gave me a chance to drop below the Mason-Dixon line. We traveled almost entirely in Virginia, that core Southern state that sent so many early presidents to the White House, with small detours into Maryland. I came away with a few impressions that I’d like to share with you:
It seems as if every inch of Southern soil has historic significance. No matter where we were, there were connections to American history, whether the settlement in Jamestown, the Colonial era in Williamsburg, or the Civil War in Fredericksburg and Manassas, just to name a few examples.
I have never felt closer to America’s past. I came away with an even greater than usual appreciation for our Founding Fathers, some of whom may have had feet of clay, but all of whom lived in a brilliant and rarefied world that revealed itself in our founding documents.
I also felt in my bones, rather than just intellectually, the scourge of the Civil War, the repercussions of which still resonate in our world. And if those who chant “Black lives matter — but no one else’s lives do” think they are any different from those who believed in slavery and segregation, they are completely delusional. The takeaway is that the Democrat party never changes: It is now and always will be devoted to racial hatred enforced by government power.
Speaking of the South and race, I’ve never seen a part of the U.S. that’s as racially integrated as the South. Wherever we went, people of all races dined together, traveled together, worked together, or were clearly dating or married without regard to racial boundaries. In my part of the world — the uber-Liberal San Francisco Bay Area — people of various races tend to stick with their own kind. If you walk into a restaurant, the blacks will be at one table, the whites at a second, and the Asians at a third. They won’t be fighting, but they sure won’t be mixing.
In the South, the races seem to be comfortable to mix-and-match. This integration was so obvious that even the Leftist in our party, who had already delivered a lecture — predicated on the Confederate flag kerfuffle — about the South’s racism, was forced to comment upon the harmony we saw.
Apropos the Confederate flag and other symbols of the old South, the continued existence of these symbols is what you’re going to see when you don’t leave a long-term occupying force behind in a region you’ve defeated militarily. While the South may NOT have won the war, its decades-long hegemony over the territory (if one ignores the short Reconstruction era), allowed Southerners to achieve a cultural victory.
We Americans were smarter victors when we stayed behind in Germany and Japan after WWII to ensure the erasure of all the symbols associated with the Nazis and Imperial Japan, as well as the mindset behind those symbols. By not doing so in the South, those symbols continue to exist, although I think most Southerners associate them with Southern pride, which is an abstract regional celebration, rather than slavery and racism.
Incidentally, Obama, who is a historical illiterate, might have looked at these two examples of post-war domination — the American South versus Germany and Japan — and chosen to stay in Iraq for a long time. Instead, turned a military victory into an inevitable cultural defeat which, in Iraq’s case, was swiftly followed by Islamic anarchy.
Virginia and Maryland are staggeringly beautiful. I’ll admit to some bias because, despite my upbringing in semi-arid Northern California and my happy sojourn in dusty Texas, I adore a verdant landscape — and if you like a verdant landscape, Virginia and Maryland are two of the places you want to go. Every road is lined by a wall of trees. The freeways so lined are attractive and, when you get to the more narrow roads, where the trees struggle to meet each other in the space over the road, it’s like driving through a green cathedral. I like the architecture too, whether it’s Colonial, Federal, Victorian, or even modern. Visually, what I saw in the northernmost part of the South really worked for me.
Southerners are super friendly. This is not to say that they’re better human beings than people in other parts of America. You can be friendly and still be a fundamentally unsound person. But for a traveler, whose contacts are necessarily superficial, nothing beats the graciousness we experienced wherever we went, whether at hotels, attractions, or restaurants. I really appreciated the friendliness.
It’s hot in the South, really, really, really hot. I know what I’m talking about when I talk about hot, because I lived three years in Texas without air conditioning in either my car or my apartments. That was unpleasant. But move further East and the unpleasantness ratchets up a bit because the humidity increases. (I guess I would have had a similar problem if I’d lived in Houston, rather than Texas Hill Country.) Fortunately, this time around the rental car was air-conditioned, as were our hotels. The heat is miserable, but it’s definitely more bearable with periodic breaks.
My final thought is that I needed this vacation. In past years, whenever I’ve traveled, I’ve hated being away from the news. This year, though, my new and quite refreshing experiences in Virginia and Maryland were a wonderful antidote to the incredibly depressing stuff on the news. Obama and his fellow travelers are creating non-stop disasters at home and abroad, all of which will have lasting consequences and many of which will result in innumerable deaths. I discovered that I don’t mind watching and commenting upon a train heading towards a washed-out bridge if I think the train can still be stopped. It turns out, though, that I have no stomach for watching an unstoppable train head to that same washed-out bridge.