“The question is, what do we do with it? What are we supposed to make of it? Its bad parts and its really bad parts, are inextricable from its good parts. It’s a burden and a blessing; it’s hard to pull apart our love and our deep, stinking frustrations. There are repairs to be done, repairs desperately needed for the sake of the whole structure, but so much to be done that it’s hard to know where to even start. We didn’t ask for this. But we have choices: We can live in it and do our best to make it better, or we can live in it and do nothing, or we can vacate completely, make it someone else’s problem.”
so rachael wrote some very good words about chik-fil-a and the south and how to love a place that’s flawed. i am so, so sick of reading about chik-fil-a, but as rachael points out, the fallout from dan cathy saying what we always knew dan cathy believed has occasionally veered into “well, that’s just the south! they like their gays ex- and their chicken carcinogenic!”
i try to be a one-woman dirty south booster club, because i love the place that made me and so many people i love. like most anywhere, it’s imperfect and full of wonderful people and badass places and lots of ways to eat cheese. but when natives conflate standing in line for a fried chicken sandwich or driving a car with protest! that is harder to defend than the cheese thing! in that it’s indefensible, and frustrating, and makes me sad in my bones. but that doesn’t mean we should abandon this place, as several facebook friends proposed when TSPLOST failed. yeah, we have shitty traffic because no one wants to invest in trains! our immigration laws are outright antagonistic and shortsighted! this place exists!
d.c. is a really liberal town, which i rather like; i love to see bus stop ads for LGBTQ smoking cessation groups, because that level of specificity is just wow. in a lot of ways it mirrors the ideal world i work towards in my head — progressive politics, public transit, legal gay marriage, lectures and museums as far as your bike can take you. but the gulf between the haves and have nots here is wide and tends to fall along racial lines, and hate crimes against gays still happen. things need to change here too.
loving a place means fighting to make it better, not turning tail when its unsavory elements threaten to kick your soul’s ass. maybe i’ve chugged some pollyanna bullshit kool-aid, but i believe in the south because i believe in so many of the people in it. don’t you love this place enough to want to make it better? don’t you see that it is, though perhaps much slower than you’d like? i mean, abandon ship if you want, but imma be over here planting a garden and fighting for change with people i love and respect. it’s a challenge, but so is getting a fish off the hook, and do you know how good i am at getting a fish off the hook?
people like to throw “tradition” at things down here, and a lot of times that’s code for “systems and practices and policies that enforce hatefulness and foster regression,” as rachael writes. but let me tell you about some traditions i know about. my parents’ garden is a tradition. writing programs that make children of all ethnicities feel like they have voices to tell their own stories are a tradition. my friend ty’s sentient beard is a tradition. raucous, joyous porch parties across the street from piedmont park during the pride parade are a tradition.
so maybe this is naive, but i’m all in, american south. you are going to disappoint me and nurture me, but you’re home, and you’ve got promise, kid. i see gold in them thar hills, and a fight worth fighting. and cheese.
“like most anywhere, it’s imperfect and full of wonderful people and badass places and lots of ways to eat cheese.”