In his new book, "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the South (and Why It Will Rise Again)," Florida native Clint Johnson exposes the Left’s aggressive attempts to destroy the culture and heritage that make up the southern states. What liberals don’t realize is that the South is the essence of what makes America unique and original — everything from rock and roll to barbeque to NASCAR — can trace its origins back to the South.
In an interview with HUMAN EVENTS News Producer Ivy Sellers last week Johnson explained the South’s impact on Americans everywhere and the reason why he believes it must — and will — rise again.
First off, how did you become an expert on the South and why are you so passionate about preserving its culture?
I don’t hold myself out to be an “expert”. I’m just a southerner who was motivated to love history. I can remember when my 4th grade teacher told an exciting story about a battle where a militia of old men and young boys repelled a Yankee invasion. I identified with those young boys who were defending their homes. My family has lived in the same area for more than 300 years, and I still feel compelled to defend a cultural history that predates the nation itself.
In what ways is the South under attack? And why do you think that is?
The South is under attack because it is the last region of the nation to resist being homogenized into an amorphous mass of people who think alike, sound alike, vote alike, buy alike. Nothing angers politicians, marketers, pollsters, and the politically correct crowd more than a group of people who absolutely refuse to get into line.
While the South has always been rebellious, these days it’s become a cultural battlefield where the whole concept of southern history is under attack. Displaying the Confederate battle flag, preserving Confederate statues on public and private property, even singing the song Dixie are under fire as "divisive," "racist," "hate-filled," "bigoted," and every other PC description imaginable. The University of the South at Sewanee, founded by former Confederates, is even de-emphasizing the word "South" in the university’s name because marketing "experts" told the administration that the word "South" has racist connotations.
Can you give us a sample of the "politically correct myths" your book claims to dispel?
The number one myth that the book exposes is that the South is not steeped in racism. The South has many multi-cultural firsts, including the first two Jewish U.S. senators (who both served in the Confederacy.) Virginia elected a black governor 20 years before any northern state did. Today we have more black elected officials than any other region. Despite what Hollywood and the East Coast’s liberal elite want you to think, Southerners are the first to say that slavery was a moral evil.
Slavery is perceived to be exclusive of the South, but slavery was spread through all 13 colonies and beyond. Most slaves came to America on northern slave ships and even decades after importing slaves had been made illegal by Congress, one of the largest and most profitable industries in New York City was outfitting slave ships. Even the impending war between the North and the South did little to slow the slavers operating out of New York City.
What makes the southern culture a unique part of American culture today? Why should it be preserved?
Southerners have generally been here much longer than residents of any other region, so they have a deeper sense of place than most northerners whose families came through Ellis Island from 1890-1920 and fanned out across the country.
Southern culture is one where you know and help your neighbors and take care of your family without asking the government to do it for you. It’s still a place where people believe in friendliness and good manners. Southerners still believe in God and his role in their lives.
In your opinion, what is it that unites Southerners other than their accents?
Southerners have more in common with each other than we have with natives of other regions. What unites us is a common sense of place — an understanding that the soil under our feet was cultivated by our ancestors and kept strong by our heritage. Southerners will still do anything to help a friend. Southerners have no pretenses about themselves, we don’t "put on airs." And there is no more broad dividing line than grits, sweet tea and barbecue.
In your book you mention that the South provides more military recruits than any other region. Has it always been that way? And why do you think that is?
Even today, the South supplies more soldiers than any other region. Patriotism in the South coupled with family pride has always translated into a willingness to protect your home.
That truth still aggravates those who say The War for Southern Independence was all about slavery. Only a tiny fraction of Confederate soldiers owned slaves. They had no reason to fight for the large slave-holding land owners who did, but they had every reason to fight to keep the North from invading the South.
During the War of 1898, Southerners believed Spain was attacking American interests and put aside their differences with the North which they believed had sentenced them to Reconstruction. Southerners joined the army in huge numbers. They fought again in large numbers during World War I and World War II. In fact, the book shows how every major officer in both theaters of World War II was either a southerner or had deep ties to the South. The world could not have overcome World War II without the descendents of Confederates who made just about every major strategic and tactical decision during the entire conflict.
What is it that concerned Americans can do to ensure that the South “rise again”?
If you are “not from around here,” come on down South and see for yourself. The South is not the dark, dangerous, uneducated, backwards place that the Northern press and blockbuster movies make it out to be. Not only is the South the nation’s cultural center, but it is the friendliest place to live too. That’s one of the main reasons its population is growing and its economy is booming.
If you are from the South, fight the myths and fight the politically correct crowd who wants to destroy the memory of the Old South and make your region into something that it is not and never has been. Southern history and Confederate history is something that should be studied not erased. People in the South are fiercely proud of where they come from. Obliterating southern history means we lose the lessons we learned from its triumphs, and failures.