I'm Southern. I mean, I'm Southern! I don't have blood. My veins are filled with grits and butter. With the exception of a Norway-born great-grandfather, all branches of my family tree have lived in the Southern United States since at least the 18th century. Most since the 17th.
Am I proud of this? Sure, I guess. I didn't have anything to do with where they decided to put down roots, but I suppose my decision to stay in the South is continuing a legacy that goes back just about as far as any American immigrant's legacy can go.
Maybe y'all have heard about this here flag controversy? You know the one where we talk about a piece of fabric instead of focusing on the real issue? IT'S HATE!! NO, IT'S HERITAGE!! No, it's a battle flag you're talking about, most of the time, so unless you're fixin' to storm my rancher and take my Maw Maw's silver and my six-pack of ramen noodles, I think that flag does not mean what you think it means.
I've been thinking about ways Southerners — of all shapes, colors, funny accents, and opinions on pimento cheese recipes — can celebrate our Southern heritage without use of a flag. For example, I think we can all agree that football was invented by God to make us happy. I think we can all agree that even if we don't all believe in God, we understand the point I'm trying to get across and will not argue theology when we could use that energy arguing about who's going to win the Egg Bowl.
A great thing about American Southerners is that we can find something in common with any other Southerner from any country. That's something to be proud of. It generally involves food. We all tend to like spicy foods. I once worked with several women from different countries, but we were all "Southerners." We decided to do a potluck where we would bring foods that we grew up on. I was at a slight disadvantage as two of the ladies did not eat pork. Do you know how hard it is to make ANYTHING a Mississippian ate growing up that doesn't have at least some part of a pig in it? I made banana pudding. Southerners always have backup plans. That's heritage right there, buddy ro. I have come up with a few other ways we can celebrate being Southern without being asshats about it.
Make sure all your dogs are under the front porch.
Drink more mint juleps.
Use the good silver and china at least once a week.
DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, TELL A YANKEE WHAT "BLESS YOUR HEART" REALLY MEANS. They may figure it out. It's not your fault. They are wily foes.
Develop strong opinions on the proper way to make deviled eggs, pimento cheese, and bean salad.
Have at least two church cookbooks. (Extra points if they were passed down to you.)
Call fireflies "lightning bugs" like a civilized person.
Wear a seersucker suit.
Make a Jell-O salad with marshmallows and then give it away, because that stuff is rank.
Distinguish different generations with the same name by referring to them as "Big" or "Little."
Keep at least three funeral casseroles or cakes in your freezer at all times.
Monogram anything that will sit still long enough.
Stop pressing buttons and start mashing them.
I think the best way to celebrate our heritage is to take advantage of our colorful way of speaking. Don't hide your accent. Parade it around on the front porch. After I told my husband I was hungry enough to eat the ass outta low-flying duck, I asked friends for some other phrases we could use to celebrate our way with words. Butts figured prominently, as in "that ass looks like two raccoons fighting in a burlap sack" and "her butt's lumpier than a bad batch of gravy."
Our ways of saying someone is not very pretty are also awesome. Ugly as a mud fence. So homely she'd scare a freight train down a dirt road.
We all know people crazier than a sprayed cockroach or crazier than a sack of bees. We've all eaten fried chicken good enough to make you slap yer mama or make a puppy pull a freight train.
We have some amazing things to celebrate about the South. We are authors, painters, potters, actors, statesmen, educators, musicians. We're storytellers. I think maybe that's what gets us in trouble. When it's our story, we tell it the way we want to. We're more than a flag. Let's start acting like it.