“Civility is also waning at that most civil of events, the Southern wedding. How comfortable a bride made guests feel was once the mark of a successful event. Now, weddings are more selfish affairs, said Barbara S. Clark, the owner of An Elegant Affair in Raleigh, N.C., and a graduate of the Emily Post Institute.
‘It’s more about the bride and groom and what are we going to get out of it,’ she said.”
Selfish sluts! Imagine wanting to enjoy your wedding day. Lord, have mercy!
So, hey, I know you’re dying to see some of this new, uncivilized South for yourself. Fear not! We (ie. the whole country) are going to have front row seats to the freak show come Fall 2012.
“The country will have a chance to see Southern civility on display next September, when Charlotte, N.C., hosts the Democratic National Convention.
Life in Charlotte is not as pleasant as it once was. Like many other American cities, it has its share of road rage and rudeness. And although crime rates have dropped, in May the city called out its Civil Emergency Unit and arrested 70 people who rioted two hours after the end of a Nascar event.
But in the best of Southern tradition, the city will try to lead with its manners come September.
‘It’ll be all sweet tea and hush puppies,’ says Michaele Ballard, a writer and lifelong Southerner.”
I’ve given you a lot to take in here. A veritable buffet of Southernness and, as all Southerners know, that shit’s rich. As a good southern hostess, it’s customary to give your guests a moment or two between courses to digest, so let’s take a step back and spend a few moments here reflecting.
We are now in the 32nd paragraph of THE STUPIDEST ARTICLE EVER, which has been published in The New York Times. Thus far, it has peddled a version of the South wherein the region’s biggest problem is its loss of manners, an assertion so flat out ignorant that I can find no appropriate end for this sentence.
Yes, there’s a paltry two-sentence nod in the general direction of the admission that those manners attempted to conceal racism and inequality but— aside from the opening anecdote, which is presented as a novel, though grievous, loss of chivalry rather than a continuing social ill— there’s no notice paid to the continued existence of that racism and inequality.
We’re talking about a region of the country with high illiteracy, high poverty, epidemic obesity, imperiled educational systems and massive wealth disparity. Nine out of our nation’s ten poorest states are located here.
An article on any one of those topics could have drawn attention to issues that continue to plague the region. But- and this is why it fucking sucks to be a Southern writer, because you can see so clearly what needs to be said and you know The New York Times is never going to say it- when people look at the South, they’re either blind to these issues or they’re too polite to tackle them seriously. Instead they observe that our manners are slipping, as though that were our biggest problem.
We need righteous anger, not musings on civility.
Oh, sweet Jesus, bless our hearts.
But back to that paragraph, the one full of shockers… Life is not pleasant in Charlotte? Southerners experience road rage and rudeness? Fetch me my smelling salts!
There’s something deeply sinister happening here but I can’t quite tease it out. It’s somewhere in the fact that it took people “two hours after the end of Nascar” to organize a riot and the cool, calm assurance from the “lifelong Southerner” that the DNC convention will “be all sweet tea and hush puppies.”
But, really, there’s got to be more to this death of manners. Aside from “the demise of the home-cooked family meal,” who else can we blame for the erosion of southern gentility?
“Mrs. McLeod [who has spent decades teaching thousands of children ballroom dance] attributes the slide of civility on the stress of families with two working parents and children who have not been held accountable for their actions.”
Ah, yes, “families with two working parents.” And children. Let’s blame the kids just for kicks. And let us also draw reassurance from Mrs. McLeod, who is not discouraged by the selfish weddings nor the loss of the “courtesy and deference” and the “home-cooked meals” that were “central to a Southerner’s identity” and the backbone of our “harsh racial system.”
“[S]he is undaunted.
‘I will not give up,’ she said, firm in her belief that Southerners still want to raise children who are kind and well-mannered.”
I would like to end with this:
“Manners also helped create the South’s famous ‘bless your heart’ culture — a powerful way of seeming to be polite without being genuine.”
First of all, New York Times, points to you for the adjective “famous.” I would not have gone there. I give you props because you did. Second, further points for the civility of your definition: “A powerful way of seeming to be polite without being genuine.” Because, as every Southerner- lifelong or otherwise- knows, “bless your heart” is Southern-speak for “fuck you.”
This is a guest post.