Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"A bunch of Yankees"

First: take a look at the new masthead photo. Since we're all about transition here, I thought it was time to get rid of that tentative image from the time we were merely hoping to be able to make the property into something, to an up-to-the-minute representation of what it looks like now. We finished clearing the land all the way to the house site today and now you can actually see where the house will sit the at the end of the curving, shaded driveway. Lovely, if I say so myself!

I'd always heard there are southerners for whom the Civil War never ended. We saw one such soul today. It was at the dump. The guy was at a distance and he must have heard us say hello to the attendant in our accents, which mark us as not from these parts. "A bunch of Yankees," he said to no one in particular, was filling up the yard waste bin with pieces that weren't cut down to four feet. Huh? After at least a dozen runs to that same bin at that same dump, the people working there have never said anything to us about a size limit. But leave it to us "Yankees" to fill up the waste bin too fast and make it harder for an honest Reb tryin' t'do the rat thing.

Steve and I have probably been called much worse, of course, but never to our faces. We had an epithet--Yankee--actually thrown at us! You think of all kinds of snappy comebacks later, of course. (My immediate reaction was what I wrote above: "huh?" because we didn't know about any four-foot rule, and as far as we're concerned, until an attendant at the dump tells us about it, we still don't.)

I could have said, "I'm no Yankee, I'm from Virginia, but I outgrew the accent." But it would have been too subtle for such a sledgehammer brain. You think about a possible conversation with somebody like that and you mentally ascribe all the worst prejudices to him because he called you a Yankee. Jews, queers and n-words are what's wrong with this country. Can't you just hear it?

I think the reason I'm so taken by this incident is that it was the first negative vibe we've received in the month-plus we've lived here, and in all the visits we made before moving here. Steve and I aren't the most obvious gay men swishing down the trottoir, but we figure it has to be clear to anyone with two eyes that we're more than just good friends, the way we finish each others' sentences and appear together everywhere. And yet we are welcomed everywhere we go--indeed have at times been overwhelmed by the kindnesses we have been shown.

Ignoramuses like that "Yankee" slinger have been around since long before I set foot on the planet and will no doubt continue to reproduce. God bless America because they can say and think what they want. As long as they remain under their rocks while I'm out cutting my 6- to 8-foot brush, I'll be fine.

10 comments:

nan said...

Ralph, great post. Let's hope that lone vibe you caught was isolated and that your experiences thus far will be the norm. In the last 15 years, so many "Yankees," have moved south that I have to think it is changing - much to the consternation of traditional types. I am a northerner through and through, I know that -- and I'll try not to let this story reinforce my own biases. Some of my best friends are Southerners.

Ralph said...

Nan, you remind me that there can be just as much of a negative knee-jerk reaction among northerners towards southerners as vice versa--another phenomenon that floored me when I first noticed it. The last thing I mean to do here is reinforce any stereotypes. I thought the story was worth sharing for its very oddity, sort of like witnessing a comet or some other often-described but rarely seen natural phenomenon.

I grew up in no-man's land, DC, where the traditional culture is decidedly southern but is influenced enough by the presence of the national government and so many permanent transplants from all over that we natives were able to assimilate the best of both and discard the worst. And I went to school in Kentucky, a place I grew to love. After I've been here long enough I'll pick up a little bit of a drawl, and I won't mind it at all.

Zoey and Me said...

That part of NC is still in the bible belt Ralph. Red neck city. And these phonies grow on trees out there. Wait till one of them gets "awl lickered up". You and Steve can dance then. Welcome to the real Southern Mayberry.

Ralph said...

Guess you're right, Z&M. Fer sure, we ain't a-gonna be providin' the licker!

Cuidado said...

I'm so sorry to hear sh** like that. It is rare in our country but not absent. Nothing riles me more than prejudice of any sort but something so long ago as the American Civil war. Time has passed and times have changed. Lets hope they do no more harm.

Kat said...

Ralph,
I'd wish I could let my tongue loose if I heard garbage like that, but it only causes more problems though it sure as heck is satisfying.

Ralph said...

Cuidado, like I said I'd always heard apocryphally about pockets throughout the South but this was my first proof. Of course, "Yankee" is exchangeable for any other word the utterer might think of to insult somebody--it's all just ignorance.

Ralph said...

Kat, you're right, of course, and my better angels seldom rise to the bait. It's best not to engage idiots. That doesn't stop you from thinking about comebacks, though.

Ravel said...

So, it seems old wars are hard to die. The guy is probably against "niggers" too, etc. Phew!
A good reminder of how much prejudice takes forever to disappear.
Maybe you saw a ghost?

Ralph said...

Wish it were a ghost, Ravel, but no--those people usually are against other non-white, non-Christian, non-whomevers that don't conform to what they think are the right "kind."