Friday, November 26, 2004

My Continuing South'ren Education...
I have begun to realize that one must be careful about one says to a Southerner. The typical, sarcastic banter that is the hallmark of the northerner is often misunderstood and misinterpreted here. It's not that folks are dumb, most are far from it. Rather, I would tend to believe that because most southerners are plain-spoken, earnest folks, they expect you are being plain-spoken and earnest with them when you speak. Very often, in the course of being a wiseass, I often give offense where none was intended. Naturally, once people get the joke, they're fine with it, but there have been a few occasions where I've riled someone up with sarcasm.

Now, who is it that gets their panties bunched by sarcasm? Why, southern men, for the most part.

A little background for you here: there is a palpable resentment in the air for that most vile of creatures, the Yankee. Most folks are content to live and let live, but there are some that just cannot get over the fact that a) the Confederacy lost the war, and b) that we now live in the 21st Century. Granted, not all of the changes that have occurred in a place like Charlotte are welcome. The rampant clearing of land for housing, for example, is giving many the impression of being fenced in, often by people they normally would rather not associate with. There's the competition for jobs. There's the changes in the social life of Charlotte that are changing what was once a quiet city into a bustling, cosmopolitian place. The main complaint you'll hear about all of this progress is about "traffic". The traffic doesn't measure up to Northeastern standards, as far as delays or how horrendous it is, but don't forget that this place was barely on the map, for all intents and purposes, 20 years ago. But I digress.

Anyways, the group most likely to have trouble with all the changes in life here are the men. There's several reasons for this. To begin with, they hate Yankees. They hate Yankees that come here and get high -paying jobs that they can't even more. They hate Yankees with high-paying jobs who are magnets for southern belles the most. Southern men ruled like medieval lords once upon a time, a time when women knew their place, and men got their way because they were "the man". Some have been stuck in this primordial state for far longer than is healthy. They still believe they live in the 19th Century, in the same way Muslims believe we can turn back the clock to the 7th Century.

The hostility I often encounter very much resembles a manifestation of an inferiority complex more than than it does pure aggression. Previous waves of Yankee migration left a bad taste in the Reb's mouths. That previous wave bought into every stereotype you could imagine, and from what I've been able to learn lorded their "sophistication" over the yokels every chance they got. Of course, not all southerners fit the stereotypes; they don't all ride around in pickup trucks, shooting out porchlights and brewing moonshine in the woods. There are some that do, for sure, but in general, the typical southerner that I have been associated with is every bit as sophisticated, as intelligent, and as witty as his northern counterpart. The difference is that they don't feel they have to show it all the time. Yankees do. It's a defect in the model, I must admit.

However, there is one particular sub-group of southerner that is incorrigible. Typically male, he's assured that while you may have a better job, get your pick of the wimmen-folk, and might be able to pronounce the names of French wines, well, dag-nabbit, he can change his own oil. He knows how to grill up some good roadkill, geld a horse, and perhaps, on a good day, walk a straight line after leaving the local watering hole. This kind of guy just can't stand your "Yankee smart-ass remarks" and typically beats his chest about how he could kick your ass, if he was fixin' to. This is also the same guy who, upon finding out you're Sicillian, will want to know if he can see your knife, and if you know Tony Soprano.

So, stereotypes and saucy backtalk peeve him when he's the target, and he can't take it when he gets it back, and because he's typically dull-witted (the stereotype does indeed fit in this case), once you've verbally challenged him by using words you can spell and pronounce properly, he resorts to hostility. This is where you have to be careful with what you say, because while you might be able to take the redneck in a fight, some of these boys are plain crazy. Especially after they've been drinking. It's not unusual to have to kick a guy's behind several times before he finally wises up and get's his shootin' iron. I haven't been in that position (yet), but I've heard about it.

Couple this rampant inferiority complex with raging male hormones, stupidity and the fact that no southerner I've met to this point EVER forgives a slight, no matter how minor, and it's amazing there aren't more murders here. I've seen people around here that hold grudges for 20 years in a dispute over a parking space. It's macho run rampant.

Stubborn and stupid is a very bad combination. There are a few of these dinosaurs running around town, and the best thing to do is to just ignore them. But if you can't, make sure the moron knows you can't be pushed around either, and dammit, if I want to be a wiseguy, I will. They may not be smart, but they do respond to a reciprocal round of chest beating themselves.

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