In response, the local paper printed a column by Al McCray, refuting Pitts' column and reasserting the states' rights argument. McCray is black/African American, so it goes against the conventional idea that his column flows from the mind of a white southerner defending the confederacy. Trust me, there are scores of those in the South. When I spent 5 years living in Tennessee that was one of my first culture shock moments, hearing people get worked up about a 140 year-old war as if it happened the previous week. It took some getting used to.
I suppose it makes sense for the South to hold onto the memories of War more tightly than the North; though both sides had enormous casualties, the war was fought in Southern lands with all the destruction and devastation that any war could bring. When it was all over, not only had the South lost the war, but they had lost entire cities and properties and infrastructure.
These two columns, juxtaposed against one another, made me reflect on how Americans view their identity.
In the South, particularly outside of its major cities, there is a strong attachment that people seem to have to their region or state. They think of themselves as Tennesseans, or Alabamans, or Georgians in a way that I never think of myself as a Floridian, or an Illini. I don't have a high degree of loyalty to any particular state. I think of myself as US citizen before I think of myself as a Floridian and that impacts how I survey the political landscape.
When the Right refers to Obama as a socialist, I think this phenomenon is coming into play. For people who have strong ties to a particular community or state, the idea of the federal government overriding that community or state seems like socialism/communism. The federal/national political urge becomes an enemy to the local/statewide political urge.
At this point, the conflict is probably unavoidable and inescapable.
Like it or not, our country's infrastructure and economy is incredibly complex, and requires so many resources, that believing that a single state can survive economically, largely on its own, becomes a near impossibility. We are entangled, one with another, in deeper ways than we were during the Civil War.
Political choices hang on these distinctions. For younger generations who have moved around more than previous generations have, loyalty to a particular region will be inevitably weaker. In areas where the population is more transient, or diverse, or there are large influxes of people from elsewhere, many people will have their first loyalty to the federal government rather than the state government. The particular region they settle in may only be a stopping off point for a few years. They may see the reliance on federal systems as more important if they are likely to relocate to another part of the country at some point.
I think this is why portraying the federal government as an enemy works well in several "red states". Most of the "red states" have a more stable demographic. They possess a strong sense of regional political identity and they recognize that the federal government does not share that specific identity.
How could it? It is supposed to represent all states, not simply the desires of one or two.
As a result, the hard conservatives from these regions will only ever see any national program as an imposition on their self-rule....thus the vitriolic comments about socialism/communism/the dictator in the White House....etc., etc.
I'm not sure who is still reading, considering I haven't posted in forever, but I am curious and want to do an informal poll.
Do you think of yourself as a US citizen first, or as a member of a particular state/region first?