I went for a walk tonight. I live on a gravel road in North Carolina, right on the South Carolina border. The stars a bright here, but they were brighter when I was a kid. Charlotte has grown like a weed into every small town from here to Hickory. Now, when I look north, the clouds are tinted white. When I look south, to a great expanse of undeveloped wilds dotted by houses with U.S. and confederate flags in the yard, the sky is black.
I've said before that all it takes to love somebody is understanding. I hated rednecks, yokels, hillbillies, and good ol' boys for a long time. They're intolerant, almost uniformly militant christian, and politically backwards. I hate guns, I hate trucks, and I fucking hate country music. Despite all of that, their company has grown on me. The southern backwoods are owned by skilled tradesmen, farmers, and, even today, the odd self-sustaining hermit. When they're not working they build community through church or drinking beer and shooting things in the back yard. If you asked them what they value most you'd hear a lot about God, country, guns, beer, pussy, and freedom. If you ask me, they love their countryside, it's culture, and the lifestyle it allows them above all.
When a city blots out stars on the horizon, I feel a tug in my gut. Then I think of the fear, intolerance, and proud ignorance of the people behind me, and it makes sense. It doesn't bother me anymore. From experience I know that they are good people, that most of them will lend a hand to any soul in need given the chance, and that the skills they use to survive are well beyond my knowledge and abilities. There often seems to be a gulf between who they are and how they express themselves. Fear, pride, and misunderstanding fuel it. I think the first step to peace is to acknowledge the love that got them there.
Here's to Dixie.