As we were traveling through the Southland, I had the notion that I would just make a list, as we went, of things which I was seeing, and in many cases which I heard, which I don’t see or hear much of, north of the Line. Did I just mention a “Line?” Well … there must still be, because it was clearly marked with signage, and I’ve crossed it at least twice in the last few weeks.
Please note that this is not a “better than” or “worse than” type of recording. It had been years it seemed (even though we were in the Deep South just last Summer) since I had just taken it easy on a trip, taking the time to notice-and enjoy-my surroundings. The United States and its people are beautiful. I have written “Northern Songs” and “Southern Songs” with the same degree of love and devotion. I have written State songs and regional songs, each reflecting the individual characteristics of a particular region. Each state and region has such a remarkable part to play in the vast beauty of our Country. I love the entire United States, its people, and its countryside. I’ve had the opportunity to laud its people and places on many public occasions, including the publication of the new Anthem for American, “The Eagle Still Flies.” I don’t take sides … because I love both sides …
Yes, I’ve gotten it from “both sides” regarding the fact that I lived on one “side” or other. I’ve been made fun of, or ridiculed, from both sides. Mostly good-natured ribbing, but … sometimes I have my doubts …
Well … here goes … I have had well-meaning (I hope) people look me right in the eye … almost in a defensive stance of some kind … and, in speaking of the Civil War … they would, point-blank, ask me, “Which side you on?” Don’t laugh-I’ve had it happen more than once.
Here’s my answer … the only answer which I can give, because it’s the truth:
“Neither … I wasn’t in it.”
My only additional response is usually one of two thoughts, both from the heart:
“There were great men on both sides.”
Or, I will quote Robert E. Lee, who said, “We are all equal at the foot of the cross.”
… Something tells me I’m not going to get to that list …
One of the first things I noticed when I first moved to New England, from the Deep South, is that you just didn’t hear much about the Civil War. I say this honestly, and sincerely. Keep in mind that I was born and raised in the Deep South, where it was just part of your every day surroundings. You are literally surrounded by Civil War history, and its battlefields. In fact, the first real home I remember, and we lived there for several years, was very close to Chickamauga Battlefield, and we were surrounded, every day, by the War’s history. My love for history began with learning about the Civil War. It had to, as I lived where it happened. Growing up, we were just as likely to find a mini-ball as a prized arrowhead.
There is nothing civil about war.
When you are in New England, the war that you are surrounded by, mostly, is the Revolutionary War, and therefore, much of what you see and learn about is about that war. Again, you are surrounded by that history, much like you would be surrounded by the history of whatever area you lived in.
Yes, I’m proud of my Southern heritage, for many reasons, including because of my family, and the way we were raised. It is “just different” being in the South, just like it is different being in the North, or the West, or the West Coast, or the Pacific Northwest, or … well, you get the idea.
And, yes, I got yelled at … in Virginia … in the Shenandoah Valley, at a concert, when the lead singer answered my cry for a particular song … He yelled, “No! No Free Bird!!!” But, the band did break into another Lynyrd Skynyrd classic …
Please allow me to say this: Every place that I have ever lived, every place that I have ever visited, regardless of how close or far, everywhere I’ve been, it was a “different world” there.
Think about this: Everywhere I’ve ever worked, regardless of what state or city or region, that place was its own, different world. I’ve worked at fast food places and large retail chains. Plus, it seems that everyone that I’ve ever talked with about their job, they all say pretty much the same thing:
“It’s its own world.”
Something else: Every place, every town, every city, every “where ever” that I’ve ever lived in, I have heard the same, exact thing: “If you’re not born and raised here …”
I hate to break the news, but, individually, we really don’t have any control over where we are born. And, if I’m not mistaken, individually, we also don’t have any control over who our parents are …
Yet, I still see it all the time, and so have most of you. There was a lady who ran for a public office for a city which we had moved to. Now, I love this lady, and she was really the first person we met when we visited that particular town, when we were just “looking around.” We all hit it off immediately, and I report this only for the example, as I still highly respect her: In the ads she ran to get people to vote for her, this was her platform, and the only statement she made to inform the voting populace of her qualifications for high office, and I quote it as closely to exact as I can. Here was her advertised qualifications:
“Born and raised in ________.”
That was it. In her mind, she felt she had to say what would get her the most votes. That’s what a political ad is for, right? I don’t know if it says more about her, or the mind of the voters. Anyway, I use that as an example.
I was even watching the movie “Jaws” recently. And, the sheriff’s wife was having a discussion on the beach, with one of the business ladies from town. Remember that Amityville was an island. The discussion was directed to Ellen Brody to explain that, if you weren’t born and raised on the Island … “Ellen … you’re just not an Islander.”
I am even tempted, to mumble this on occasion, when accosted “up here” by the fact that I wasn’t born or raised here. I fire back something about the Pilgrims … that it was amazing … they weren’t born here either … yet they chose to come here … to this country … for freedom …to live how … and, where … they wished … without persecution …
For some reason, I have always felt that it was more of an honor bestowed upon a town, if a person and family decided to move there. That it would place more emphasis on the fact that they were there by choice … rather than being “bound there” for the rest of their lives ….
Guess I’m not going to get to that list … for now …