The common practice of the mainstream news media today is the slanting or outright fabrication of facts, distortion of events, or the creation of a false narrative. You wonder what is really happening. You don’t recognize your country, perhaps even your neighbors. You certainly don’t recognize those ‘representatives’ whose antics you see in Congress. Even places such as universities, once sources of education, debate and tradition now have faculty and student bodies that look more like fans of some European soccer team than partakers in an open debate. When you hear the latest rant on the college campus, and you wonder how we have arrived at this pass, don’t give in to despair. REMEMBER!
Remember John Paul Jones-”I have not yet begun to fight,” George Washigton crossing the Delaware, William Moultrie at Fort Sullivan, and the Overmountain Men at King’s Mountain.
Time and again the Southern spirit has faced long odds with optimism born of that spirit which drove men to push the frontier further West, conquering mountains and rivers, facing sometimes hostile foreign powers and Native Americans. This spirit was demonstrated by South Carolina during the Nullification Crisis. When the republic was threatened by sectionalism and constitutional issues that could not be easily resolved, this spirit led several of the sovereign American states to secede, and form a new government to protect their rights and liberty.
Jackson faced long odds in the Valley, and with Lee at Richmond, Sharpsburg and Chancellorsville; Forrest at Ft. Donelson and Brice’s Crossroads, and Taylor In the Red River Campaign. These are not isolated cases, but what Confederates faced in most of their battles. The South faced those odds with rugged determination and optimism born of the spirit of King’s Mountain and Jackson at New Orleans. This spirit helped the South survive the harrowing years of occupation known as Reconstruction. I prefer Redestruction, because the destruction of war was compounded by onerous new hardships, destroying much of what was left of the Southern economy. Only a people with the spirit of such noble forefathers could have survived such an ordeal.
This spirit helped move America into the global arena, as innovation and inventions helped move the country into a position of prosperity relative to the rest of the world. America became a beacon for immigrants, who sought a better life, and with some of that same spirit fled old homes for new opportunities. This spirit was captured a few decades ago, around the time of the Bicentennial of 1976, by Richard M. “Pek” Gunn, then Poet Laureate of Tennessee:
This seemingly simple little piece not only makes you smile, but it gets to the heart of the South. My copy of this poem calls this attitude the “Real Spirit of ‘76!” The South, the true origin of the liberty the Founders’ brought onto the world stage, is the only region capable of restoring what we have lost, because it is the only region that keeps those memories alive. In places like Charleston and Mobile, Richmond and Savannah, Raleigh and Natchez, we can see them. We hear them in the music of New Orleans and Memphis, the Mississippi Delta and Nashville, Atlanta and Muscles Shoals. We can read them In Faulkner and Gordon, Wolfe and Warren, Davidson and Lytle, O’Connor and Hurston to name just a few.
I visited Mount Vernon, Gunston Hall, Stratford Hall, and Monticello as a young boy. I knew great men lived here, men who inhabit and whose actions moved the pages of history. I felt a sense of awe that I could walk where they walked, read their words, and catch a glimpse of their world. I could almost feel the spirit which led them to seek a better form of government. Today students are not taught the truth about our past, and most do not have any sense of wonder at how a handful of men made such an impact on the world stage. They have not had an experience to show them the spirit which moves men to make sacrifices and dream of a better life for future generations.
I know thinking about the 535 members sitting in Congress, most of whom know less about the Constitution than the readers of this website, may give reason to pause, and consider how far we have fallen from the Founders’ vision. It does indeed take an optimist to think we have a chance to rescue this land from a seemingly odious fate. But an optimist I must remain, perhaps not saving the empire of 50 states sprawled across the continent, but saving the South from entanglement in that empire. This will be possible only if we continue to be optimistic, to work even harder to educate our neighbors. We must think and act locally, as our voice is not even welcomed on the larger stage. But in a region which still bears the scars of the despot’s heel, hears the distant drone of empire, and knows the cost of promises unfulfilled, the dream of free men can still draw us from lethargy to action. We don’t know what inning it is, and the score is certainly more desperate than 42 to nutthin’, but the South will have the last bat.
Addendum, Spring, 2020
Today our country faces a pandemic of unknown proportions, and a stalled economy. We are seeing government actions that are alarming, partly because they sometimes do not seem to be based on reality. People are starting to realize that what is best for California might not be what is best for Alabama. Words like federalism and secession appear in places where, only a few months ago, they would not have been welcomed. People are restless after weeks of confinement. Unfortunately, the spirit of liberty and the quality of leadership does not seem to be evenly distributed. Perhaps change is in the wind. There remains, on stages small and large, glimpses of that spirit which has characterized the resilience of America for generations. People want to be positive, to move forward. Sometimes they only need a leader to show the way.