April 24th, 2013

The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Radical

Much thanks to bardcat

...H. Brandt Ayers has recently written a memoir, In Love with Defeat/The Making of a Southern Liberal, where he weaves fifty years of civil rights struggle in Alabama. He writes these terribly insightful, thunderous words which resonate so deeply with my journey ... ~

“What is it like to be liberal-minded in the Deep South? It is to pulled this way and that by complex, contradictory feelings about your own people --- about yourself. It is to feel inescapably, even willfully one with a people who disappoint and hurt you, who make you laugh and bite your lip in frustration, whose charm and generosity live side by side with meanness and bigotry, who cling to the paraphernalia of the Lost Cause as self-defining symbols even as it holds them down. They so cherish the emblems and ensigns of the Lost Cause that they are literally ---- in love with defeat. They can move you to tears with their openhearted kindness and drive you mad with their narrow- mindedness. They will fight like crazed people to keep the Confederate flag, but won’t vote an extra dollar in school taxes. Yet they will give that dollar, even if it is their last, to a friend or a stranger in trouble. Truth be known, their granddaddies were born into a third-world nation within a nation and worked for less than a dollar a day. They work so long and loyally; you’d think the Depression was just behind them, closing fast. They have been stifled by lousy schools, gulled by demagogic politicians, and scorned for their backward ways by elites, North and South. Life has dug a cultural canyon between them and those of us who escaped the once-and-future Confederacy through luck or education and travel. To be liberal in the Lower South is to know a deep double loneliness: An object of condescension to the ‘other’ America and yet never fully accepted by your own.”

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I have never lived in the South, but this "resonates so deeply" with me also.  I substitute my own background, region, and situation for such terms as "Deep South,"  "Confederate flag," "Lost Cause," and  "school taxes," and i could have written the above paragraph myself if i had Ayers' talent and insight.