First There is a Mountain, Then There is no Mountain, Then There is and other Random Things

1. Autopsy IV over at Ninebullets has the kind of album review that, upon reading it, a girl can only think, “Oh, yes, that is what’s going on.” In this case, he postulates that Gretchen Wilson’s new album signals that “Nashville” is coming for

2. The Professor sent me an link to the awesome gnome census. It’s weird to think of Midwestern towns saving themselves by becoming theme parks, of sorts, but damn, you know, you have to do something. I mean, I feel like you have to do something. Maybe we let the Midwest become a vast prairie roamed by metallic bison-esque combines that make circles around the ghosts of towns we used to love, but I hope not.

3. Speaking of ghosts, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ post today about the Civil War and our necromancy at pulling our dead folks out of the grave and demanding they be acknowledged as something other than who they were is the kind of writing that just shakes me, it’s so good. I don’t know. It puts me in two minds. 1. It’s got me thinking of the kids in East Tennessee who go to high schools with sports teams called “Rebels.” Talk about having your past stripped from you, twisted, and given back to you as a lie. But 2. Doesn’t that make sense of what happened yesterday with the State Legislature? That they would pass something demanding Congress not pass a law that’s already passed? This idea that the past is so malleable that sheer force of will can make it into something that it’s not.

Don’t get me wrong. I deeply understand the impulse to want to come from non-fucked-up people. But no one gets that. You’d think such a deeply Christian culture, as is the South, would be at peace with that, but, when it comes to the Confederacy, they are not.

4. I was driving in to work today listening to Karaoke Blackout on WRVU when this song came on. This song. What can I say about it other than the fact that it exists proves that the idea that pot is more potent now than it was in the 60s is a huge lie. But I am so tickled by this song that I think just listening to it has given me a contact high. So, though it’s a perfectly ordinary song, don’t listen to it if you may have to take a drug test today.

9 thoughts on “First There is a Mountain, Then There is no Mountain, Then There is and other Random Things

  1. Is it possible, do you think, that people in the former Confederate states had more than one agenda during the Civil War? There can be no reasonable doubt that for many in Southern leadership roles, the perpetuation of slavery was the prime reason for secession. But what of the Rebel foot soldiers, primarily from the non-slave-owning underclasses?

    In his magnum opus on the Civil War, Shelby Foote quotes this exchange between two privates on opposite sides: Yank: “Why are you fighting us?” Reb: “‘Cause y’all are down here.” I know enough about Southerners to know that they often react badly to any outsider coming into their area and telling them how to be…even if that outsider is right by every objective measure. And if Southerners as a whole are suspicious of outsiders, people from Appalachia (where I grew up) are positively zenophobic.

    I can’t help but feel about common soldiers of the Confederacy the way I did about grunts in Vietnam. I respect the way many of them acquitted themselves as individuals, even as I deplore the cause they fought for, and the leaders who sacrificed their lives in service of that terrible cause.

    Does all this add up to support for Confederate History Month? No, I can’t say I’m comfortable with that, especially Virginia-style commemorations that gloss over slavery. But real history – if it is an accurate look back at what really happened, warts and all – is hardly ever a waste of time. A solid grounding in history doesn’t guarantee that America won’t repeat its mistakes, but it at least gives us a fighting chance to avoid making the same errors over and over.

  2. Yes, Mark, but that’s the point–this isn’t an accurate look back at what really happened. Downplaying slavery or ignoring it all together could not be more intellectually dishonest if it tried.

    And yes, of course people in the former Confederate states had more than one agenda. People in the north had more than one agenda. Some of my ancestors seemed to be fighting to keep the country together. Some were explicitly fighting to end slavery.

    But we can’t overlook that, even among non-slave owners, the seductive promise of white supremacy was a strong motivating factor. You didn’t have to own slaves to benefit strongly from a world-view in which you knew, if you had money, you could own slaves.

    Hell, even ex-slaves and free black men fell under the sway of that seduction (though, obviously, not in large numbers).

    I honestly think this is a hard thing to wrap our heads around, because the paradigm has shifted. But think about what Coates is saying, just in terms of property value of slaves. The possibility of being able to own property you could cause to increase (though rape, let it not go without saying) through reproductive means meant the possibility of real security and inheritable wealth, which could be grown, for a white Southern man.

    People now, who don’t own houses, often won’t vote to raise property taxes because they imagine they might some day buy a house.

    But there are others, in the case of the South, in Appalachia, in some spots in south Alabama and Mississippi that I’ve heard of, where small farmers refused to fight (or, in the case of the Appalachians, fought on the side of the Union) specifically because they understood the Southern cause as being a rich man’s cause and not one they would ever benefit from.

    And they were right, probably.

    But you can understand how other folks who hoped to acquire property and move up in social class hoped they weren’t.

    That’s some of what I suspect we still carry with us as a region–poor white people ostensibly being left to carry on and preserve a Southern culture they are also never quite a part of, while the rich white folks point to Washington (or to minorities or to Yankees or whatever) as the source of their not-quite-belonging, even as it’s the powerful folks here who keep our schools in the shitter, who can’t bring themselves to be that concerned about jobs, etc.

    I imagine someday it will get bad enough that poor whites will figure out that they’re being played by powerful (often rich) whites who are also Southerners and who are right here. The enemy isn’t some “them” over there.

    And that’s not going to be fun for a lot of folks, because so many have been invested for so long in keeping up the illusion.

    But that’s just a theory I have.

  3. 1. Since what so many of the alt-country folks like about Wilson is her ballad-singing, I’m not sure the Ninebullets analysis holds up that well. Given that neither she herself nor “Nashville” sees her as anything but a rocker.

    2. I got nothing.

    3. That’s a great post by TNC. I keep thinking, in all this discussion, about a dear friend of mine who grew up in the mountains of North Carolina. She has an ancestor who fought in the Confederate Army, and another who hid out in the hills to avoid the draft, with the explicit declaration that he wasn’t going to fight so other men could own slaves. You could say, wrt Mark’s comment, that we can respect the service of those who fought in a wrong cause, and I guess that’s so, but I think it’s better that we honor those who refused to be hoodwinked.

    4. I saw Donovan live, back in the day. It was interesting.

  4. Read the music review about Gretchen, alt-country, etc. Guy may have a point about the direction music is going, though he comes off as rather obnoxious about it. I haven’t heard her new album, but if she’s trying new things, then good for her.

    Really, sorry dude that your little “cool party” got crashed. God, most of her fans probably drink Bud Light — and like it!

    I have no problem with music snobs, as long as they aren’t actually snobs.

    This guy sounds like somebody who goes to a bar and orders Pabst Blue Ribbon, you know, to keep it real.

  5. B., I don’t think it’s possible to defend slavery on any basis. I wouldn’t argue against the proposition that any man who fought for a Southern state in that war bears some responsibility for prolonging slavery – at least for four more years.

    The parallel you draw about people voting against their own interests nowadays is interesting – my homies from East Tennessee have traditionally been among the world’s finest cannon fodder in wars where they had nothing to gain and everything to lose, and they still to this day defend the indefensible with their ballots and their wallets. I think you’re right – the two actions spring from similar motivations I just can’t understand.

    I’d like to be able to hate them for this, but I just can’t. I won’t go so far as to say that people are ennobled by fighting hard for a lost cause – especially when that cause is morally repugnant. But good cause – personal honor are not inextricably woven together, either. Not every German soldier in WWII was a Nazi. Not every Marine fighting in the Pacific was free from vile anti-Japanese racism. Not every Muslim who wants Americans out of Iraq is a terrorist.

    I agree with you that altering history to suit your own political arguments couldn’t be more intellectually dishonest. That’s what I meant when I said you had to look at it, warts and all.

    A smarter man than I asked the questions: When is it moral for a group to do that which is immoral for the individual to do alone? And when is it moral for the individual to do that which is immoral when done by a group? I’ve never been able to answer these questions satisfactorily. Got any ideas?

  6. Lee, you should not dismiss Autopsy IV based on one post. His stuff is awesome, all the time, and he’s always got a line on great bands I’ve never heard of. But, if you do want to dog on him, he has a blog! Go over there and dog on him to his face. It’s not fair to sit in the comments here and do it.

    Mark, I don’t have any satisfactory answers either, I can assure you. I try to err on the side of the individual, who is often crushed under the weight of forces far beyond her control and who often has secret strategies for making life bearable under even the most crushing circumstances.

    With the awareness that sometimes those strategies mean crushing others (or trying to).

    None but small children leave life innocent, you know? We all are complicit in some nasty, nasty shit and we are stuck in systems that make it very, very difficult to not be complicit.

    I mean, take me, for instance. I’m all for immigration reform. I perceive myself to be on the side of illegal immigrants. But fuck it if I’m going to learn Spanish or stop eating vegetables that rely on their near-slave labor to get to my plate. And if I did stop eating vegetables, then they wouldn’t even have those paltry wages.

    And I hope that people look back in 100 years at the likes of me and say “that wasn’t right and we don’t do that shit any more.”

    As for Tennesseans, I could be wrong, but I think it’s a case of a defense mechanism outlasting it’s usefulness. I recognize it in myself; I think that’s why I end up always loving y’all no matter how exasperated I get.

    I, too, have been treated as bad as someone could think to treat me and still feel good about himself as a human being, and I, too, have survived by saying, “Fuck you, I can take all that and more. Try me.”

    And I hope to someday lower my defenses, to stop saying, “Fuck you, I can take it.” Because I know it’s not good for me. And I know that kind of attitude can and will curdle you, eventually.

    But I also know where it comes from. How it’s a way to let you get through the day with a little swagger at a time when you can’t afford to defiantly refuse to be treated that way.

    Because, isn’t that a way to indict the boss? “Fuck you. I can take it” leaving unsaid, “and we both know you never could.”

    I don’t know. I’m wandering. But there’s something very fierce about Tennesseans that I love. It’s coupled with a lot of dumbass crap, too, but that ferocity is something that I find charming and, weirdly enough, it gives me hope.

    The energy’s there, we just need to stop channeling that energy into shooting ourselves in the foot, repeatedly.


  7. Lee…fwiw: I don’t drink Pabst. Preferrably, I drink whiskey or the beer I make.

    Also, I explicitly state in the post that the main reason for posting it was so I could type “people like getting fucked by horses” and suggest that the preisthood and NAMBLA are one in the same.

    As for Wilso. I think you missed the point.

  8. Pingback: Performance Communities « Tiny Cat Pants

Comments are closed.