I’m a southern boy, born and raised. No one can be prouder of his heritage, and I’ve bragged over and over about living in a small community outside the city limits of Knoxville. With that said, I’ve seen some things of late that disturb me about the south that I love so much.
For one thing, the land below the Mason-Dixon Line is being eaten by suburban sprawl. Once upon a time, the south had few “true” cities. Towns were scattered throughout the states. These days, towns have turned into cities, but folks don’t like living in them, so they flee to the countryside. Before long, the city reaches out to annex areas, which in turn, drives people farther away. This vicious cycle is responsible for the development of Farragut and points beyond. Currently, development reaches all the way to Dixie Lee Junction. I wonder how long it will be until “city” and sprawl, complete with strip malls and subdivisions gobble up the land all the way to Kingston to the west and Sevierville to the southeast.
With the growth of small towns in the south has come the flood of folks from the north. No, I don’t hate Yankees. In fact, I have some friends who were once residents of such places as Chicago, and Minnesota, and Michigan. What bothers me is that this influx of folks is slowly killing the southern accent used by natives to the area. In fact, those who speak in such a manner are dismissed as illiterate or ignorant humans for whom there is little hope. My fear is that one day our native East Tennessee tongue will perish. Already words such as “warsh” (warsh your hands for supper), “poke” (put those groceries in a paper poke), “rat” (“sit rat thar”), and “fixin” (I’m fixin to watch some television) are disappearing from everyday conversation.
I worry that my grandson might never learn to speak the language of the south. In school, he’ll be taught the “correct” way to speak. Never mind that losing the accent from a section of the country in many ways destroys its true identity. I don’t want Madden to speak the same as Midwesterners. They’re good people, but the lack of an accent makes identifying their origins impossible.
Food is another thing that’s disappeared from the south. When I was a boy, Crisco was a staple in every household. Meat was served as often as folks could afford it. Bologna on white bread was what we ate for lunch, and sometimes Mother fried it for supper as well. Now, the health industry tells us that everything we ate then is bad for us. In its place are nutritional foods. They taste like cardboard and are void of salt, another thing that will kill us.
I travel I-40 to and from Cookeville often. For some time now, I’ve noticed an unpleasant site just passed the last exit at Monterey. Some individual has unfurled a confederate flag atop a pole that can be seen by passersby. That flag is not one of the proudest things we in the south have. It doesn’t stand for pride in the area. It doesn’t serve as a unifying banner. Instead, it symbolizes the fracturing of our country that came to a head during the Civil War. For some, that war is still being fought. They still want separation from the rest of the United States. And of course, too many of them want to keep black Americans in second-class citizenship. They might want to look to Washington to see that most of the country no longer thinks that way. No, things are perfect, but huge strides have been taken over the years.
I love the south and always will. I hope that it can keep many of the good things that have come from it—scenic country settings, the drawls that give richness to the language, and the foods that make eating a delightful activity. At the same time, I hope that those destructive things from our south will be recognized as divisive and forever dropped.