The moderate-conservative writer and commentator makes a passionate defense for the South he grew up in.
"Ours is a history punctuated with nightmares. The soaring promise of the American Revolution hovers like a distant mirage, ever present yet offering no relief. People lived here, black and white, cheek by jowl, long before air conditioning in a place where a walk in the night air feels like bathing in stew. There was nowhere to hide, no private space of any consequence or security. In small communities entwined in knots, real privacy could only be found inside your own skull. Nothing was more prized than the sovereignty of the individual and nothing was more persistently elusive.
Friendliness there seems almost compulsive, emerging from a frustrated desire to achieve some real peace amid the relentless, simmering tension of oppression. That tenuous peace could be and regularly was interrupted by horror.
At any moment, an ill-tempered or drunken outburst by a white man or an open expression of futile resistance from a black man could cascade into sickening violence that most everyone felt powerless to suppress. Living under that pressure created an aversion to candor, a willingness to compromise justice for calm, and an almost manic attachment to outward expressions of emotional warmth that still defines us now.
Amid these forces emerged a culture of awesome beauty, a social force so powerful it has come to define almost everything we think of as “American.” Blocked for so long from access to the commercial and industrial engines of capitalism, the South reveled in music, food, art, literature, sex, religion and sports. Almost every emotionally compelling and enduring expression of popular art in American life has its roots in the South.
Music we consider emblematic of places like Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland were born in the Delta. The South gave our food its spice, our movies their sass, our literature its humor and its darkness. Twain, Faulkner and Ann Rice rendered Southern culture into American legend. That heritage is as powerful and vital as ever."