Thursday, May 10, 2012

Biting the Hand

Fuck the South: An Open Letter                                                    also see:

I read this today.  It was published in 2004, but seems to be still relevant.

It is an open letter to the Southern States of the United States.  From how the letter is written, I'm assuming that not only is the writer addressing the former Confederate States of America (Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee), but also states that are recently known as Red States, a term used lately to divide the country along political lines.

Although the language is harsh and juvenile (the writer uses the word asshole 7 times, fuck 42 times, and manages to sprinkle the letter with several dicks, asses, and goddamns) the rant is focused on some facts that conveniently some critics of the government have forgotten.

I find this sort of thing interesting, not just because I'm sick of hearing "right wing", "moral majority", "traditional family values", sound byte loving, revisionist history fanatics talk down to me, but because I hadn't really tied these current political issues to the civil war.

The letter begins by stating the nation ought to turn its back on the southern (red) states as they constantly point to the rest of the nation as unamerican, godless, and arrogant.  The writer points out that a majority of the founding fathers that the red states love to bring up in support of traditional family values, the right to bear arms, and proof that government doesn't need tax money, are from northern east coast blue states.  The writer doesn't name names.  But I will.

Benjamin Franklin, and Gouverneur Morris were from Pennsylvania, John Adams, his cousin Sam Adams, and John Hancock were all from Massachusetts.  Alexander Hamilton was from New York.   Ethan Allen was from New Hampshire and Vermont.  Also, of the 56 delegates that signed the Declaration of Independence, 39 were from northern states (if you count Delaware and Maryland...  if you don't, it's still 30, which is still a majority).  The president of the Congress was John Hancock (from Massachusetts).  The Constitution was signed by 40 guys, 27 from blue states (including MD and DE).  True, there are an awful lot of Virginians who helped shape the United States, and held presidential office, but to think blue states had little to do with founding the country is absurd.

Family Values has been coming up constantly for decades in political rhetoric.  Often this term is used to try and restrain and oppress the "gay liberal agenda" which doesn't really exist.  People want basic civil liberties which are being denied due to ignorance and hate and "traditional family values" is the club by which homosexuals are oppressed.  The letter points out that the very arguments of protecting marriage come back to bite red states.  If marriage is so sacred and gay marriage threatens to ruin traditional marriage, explain how Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage, has the lowest divorce rate?  I checked this out, no other state is even close.

If "thou shall not kill" counts as a family value, then murder rates should be examined, as the writer did in the letter.  I found this, which is way more up to date than the study the writer used for his letter.  The murder rate for the region labeled "the South" was 5.6 in 2010, which is 1.2 points above fellow red state region the Midwest, and 1.4 points above the Northeast and West (blue states).  Individually, Louisiana has the highest murder rate at 11.2, no one else comes anywhere close, the next state on the list is Maryland with 7.4 and Mississippi and Missouri both at 7.0.  In contrast, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont have rates of 3.2, 1.0, and 1.1 respectively.

Taken in Tennessee
Now...  the letter addresses church going god fearing southerners.  I looked up attendance rates for church by state just to make sure, because it would be hilarious if southern states had a smaller percentage of church goers than Vermont.  But the truth is, the top 10 church going states are red states, and the bottom ten are blue states.  Louisiana has 56% going to church, coming in at number 4.  I guess they take communion and sing hymns between murders.

The part of this letter that I think needs to be shared are the parts about federal money.  The writer vulgarly points out that, while small government types love to complain about hard earned money taken for taxes each year, red states providing the least tax money get back the most.  Basically, the leftist, socialist states (blue) provide for the less fortunate states (red) who, instead of being humble and thanking their blue state brethren, complain.  This trend is documented by Dean and Donald Lacy in their paper “Taxing, Spending, Red States, and Blue States: The Political Economy of Redistribution in the US Federal System” (Ohio State, 2006), and in “Why Do Red States Vote Republican While Blue States Pay the Bills? Federal Spending and Electoral Votes, 1984-2008″ (Dartmouth, 2008), and by Paul Rosenburg in "Red State Moochers: Federal Taxes Favor those Who Complain the Most about Federal Taxes" (Daily Kos, 2010).
I do not think this letter is written from the same viewpoint of the typical right wing American who doesn't want to pay taxes and believes that privatization is the answer to everything (which is essentially a plea of greed), but from a proud American who is fed up with being taken for granted, and therefore decides that it is time for half the country to start pulling their own weight and paying for things on their own.  This idea of Americans as self reliant is a myth, no one can go it alone.  Perhaps misinformation about where tax money comes from and where it goes is to blame for perpetuating that myth.  Is a wake up call in order?  "Pay for your own STOP signs" indeed.

I kind of hope the South does rise again, so the blue states can watch them secede, and then not ask them back.

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