PAT does a very fine job reminding us that gay marriage only became plausible at a certain point in the long process of the Lockeanization of marriage. If the institution is all about rights with no corresponding duties then we really can’t explain why all Americans — including, of course, the gays — don’t have right to those rights, so to speak. But Pat’s continued insistence that the exurb is some cesspool of narcissism because of the absence of any sense of “place” or “memory” is a big-time exaggeration that couldn’t be confirmed by anyone with “local knowledge” in the South.


In “my parts,” we see lots of people going to churches where the word of God is not merely a lifestyle option, where patriotism is quite serious, families remain pretty large, the love of Lee Greenwood’s classic song is genuine, and there’s lots of voluntary, charitable stuff going on (more, I think, than almost anywhere else in our country). I’m not saying everything is great or even good. But these people are neither oligarchs or simply the mindless dupes of oligarchs and often live at least as authentically as the life described in the Crunchy Con book.


There’s always been something unrealistically romantic about too much emphasis on place and memory in America. Not so far from where I live there was a town — Cassville, GA — that, by 1860, was extremely well settled, had several serious institutions of learning, and certain sorts of aristocratic traditions that are still remembered by those who care about that stuff. It wasn’t even there until 1840 — it was founded in the wake of the pretty anti-communitarian Cherokee removal that’s part of our wonderful southern heritage — and it was devastated by the Civil War. Community came and went with almost blinding speed, as it has done often in our country’s history. (Consider also, if you want, how quickly the Cherokees transformed themselves into good [slaveholding sometimes], agrarian Americans, with their really deep traditions both adapting and sometimes disappearing.)


Unlike some, I actually live in the sort of rural south — in a failed mill town where the average annual family income is barely above the poverty level. I’ve learned a lot about the sometimes quite beautiful memories and traditions that quickly grew up around the life of the millworker, which was admirably dignified and Christian, for the most part. It was definitely not agrarian, but it was often chosen because it provided greater family stability than did the grinding work and unceasing uncertainty of subsistence agriculture.


There’s a lot to be said good and bad about life in the rural South, and a fair evaluation would find both progress and decline in the exurbs. It’s better to have more for your family than they did on the farm or from the mill, and it’s better not to engage in cruel “gay bashing” and so forth. And there’s lots to praise and blame in the South’s honorable and violent past.


The true deep communitarians, it seems to me, are the “it takes a medieval village” people and various theorists who have been distorted by “polis envy.”

More on: Etcetera

Articles by Peter Lawler

Loading...

Show 0 comments