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The Dead and Living “South”

April 12, 2021

About thirty-three miles from where I’ve lived since 1996 is the town of Windsor, Virginia where major media has covered the pepper spraying of a driver of a new SUV. Though a temporary license was pasted in the rear window, a police officer stopped the vehicle and abused the driver, a black Lieutenant in the U.S. Military wearing Army fatigues.

The video of this encounter was featured on CNN’s “First Light” program this morning as “the lead” for the day and will be carried via the Internet and other media throughout the world.

The general “take” on this will confirm that America is “racist,” and the police are instructed to protect the white majority.

This episode which occurred last December and has come to light only now follows an episode the month before in Graham, North Carolina where African-American demonstrators were tear-gassed. Graham is 186 miles southwest of Windsor, and 50 miles east of Winston-Salem where tobacco (Camel cigarettes), textiles and university education (Wake Forest) dominated.

I had to look up that information because I am a Yankee and am appalled by a lingering disposition to honor “the South” in the form it took that killed 600,000 combatants in a savage Civil War.

Among some folk in Windsor and Graham, however, a love for that era transcends so much that is good in the southern United States, and the struggle to interpret life lived in the South by some of America’s most brilliant writers. I must assume that residents of Windsor or Graham are not readers of Faulkner nor the Fugitive Agrarians.

I  lived in Dallas, Texas, for three years from 1969-1972, where the traditions of the South and its distinctive literature were honored at the University of Dallas. My colleagues and friends, especially, Melvin E. Bradford, was a “Wallace Democrat,” and Tom Landess supported my work by publishing my history of political theory. My university colleagues in the Literature Department were heirs to the works of William Faulkner, Allen Tate, Caroline Gordon, Katherine Anne Porter, and Robert Penn Warren.

That is “the South” that has risen and lives.

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