i grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, where a rebel flag flying atop the state capital caused much debate but stayed flying until not long ago. i visited my father's family's rural bicentennial cotton, peanut and corn farm in Georgia twice a year: every summer and Christmas, my cousins and i would pile into the back of my grandfather's pickup truck loaded with dogs and we'd wind through those fields, on Sundays ending up at a one-room church. my father grew up along this dirt road surrounded by fields where sharecroppers lived in shacks.
somehow, despite where my roots were planted, this all seems very foreign to me. foreign, not in the sense that it is new and i've never seen it. but foreign in the sense that i never participated. i'm an outsider to the fundamentalist, conservative and proud South.
i do not think my situation is unique. likeminded friends have either moved away from the South or found themselves defending its simple charms and separating themselves from those who proudly claim 'heritage not hate'.
the idea of southern identity versus southern perception intrigues me.
the idea of being born into a culture and blindly embracing it or rejecting it, as I have done in many ways, is something i want to better understand and explore. i've always felt like a spectator and looked down my nose at southern traditions, at good ole boys, at my father's family's twangs. i was raised by my mother, a liberal military brat, and understood at a young age that the flag flying at the SC state capital was something of shame and not pride. i didn't even really notice the paintings of Civil War generals on my father's living room wall until recently. there is a dichotomy between my own history of being embarrassed and being proud of the geography of my life. only recently have I become cognizant of my hypocrisy/snobbery and more interested in coming to terms with my own sense of place and my own sense of heritage in a region that has pick-up trucks labeled with bumper stickers proclaiming a love for southern heritage.
all of that is to say that lately i've been trying to keep my eyes wider open to the culture of the South. while i know southern culture isn't all rebel flags, i've come across the scenes below all in the past month.