The Apocalypse has passed. The South consolidates.
I feel about North Carolina much as George W. Bush feels about Texas or Sarah Palin about Alaska. I’m not from there but found attachment through love and marriage. We reared our babies on a little farm in Tobaccoville.
It is a different place. We New Yorkers live in abstraction; in ideas formed to steel and glass provided by so many. Hamilton built the “empire state” to be and to expand itself like that. The South is a place of earth, more like a garden. Jefferson intended it to be like that. The South shares in the abstraction and distraction provided by us New Yorkers, then something happens and they don’t. And now that has happened again.
In my summer trip this month to let my kids visit their Virginia ancestors I find the South to be conspicuously different than it has been in the last 30 years that I’ve been here. First off, from coast to the mountains in North Carolina there are no bumper stickers. Not one. There’s usually hundreds, telling you about Jesus, Elvis, guns and ammo, The Rapture, Obama and Sarah Palin. It is worse than Vermont with the bumper stickers. No more. No more reaching out, demanding to be heard on the outside or acting it out. All quiet on that front. Now the South is looking in. Consolidating.
Another thing is religion. In a local Starbucks, an old-line Virginia couple – doctors in their 70s that I’ve seen here for years – are praying with their hands out; the style of one of the new churches. You used to see that kind of thing in Wafflehouse where you could pray and smoke at the same time, but here, the local Brahmins had happily flowed with the newly imported commercial class from Seattle and left their praying at home. Not the same now. The tradition trumps.
And the TV preaching is different. Catholics have most definitely entered the local competition. The Baptist choirs are reaching a new majesty and perfection. But there is schism: The devil can be seen in some of those other preachers talking about the Apocalypse, some new preachers are saying now.
If you rode through the hills and hollows of southern Appalachia up by Clinch Mountain five years before the millennium all you would hear then from the Free Church mountain preachers was “Jesus coming.” War coming. The Great Satin, Saddam Hussein, has arrived. Armageddon is at hand. I lobbied Congress and even the House of Commons then saying this could mean trouble and not only about war in Iraq. War changes people as the Mexican War changed the South. No one was interested until 9/11.
But you don’t hear that now. For a long time my old Southern States in Tobaccoville had a photo shopped picture of Barney Fyfe driving the patrol car with Saddam Hussein, bearded and bagged, handcuffed in the back seat.
Now the Apocalypse has passed. The war is over. We won. The South is returning and finding an older self. The abstractions that we New Yorkers have provided them are burning off and those who shared in them are beginning to feel a chill.