“I’m for letting the South form its own Nation . . . I think they ought to have their own Confederacy.” Who said that? Robert E. Lee? Jefferson Davis? George Wallace? Actually, none of the above. The words are those of longtime Democratic gadfly Bob Beckel,1 commenting on the “red state” conservative (so-called) electoral victory in 2004.
Well butter my biscuit, it seems like our dear friends in the North (and other blue state areas) aren’t so cuddly with us Southerners anymore. Not that they ever were, but Mr. Lincoln and the old Republican party sure did cotton to those tariffs.
Ah, but now it seems the tables have turned. Yes, according to Lawrence O’Donnell, who is a former aide to the late New York Democratic Senator Patrick Moynihan, red states “collect more from the federal government than they send in.” While I’ve not taken the time to check the accuracy of Mr. O’Donnell’s statement, let’s assume, for the sake of this article, that he’s right. So what? Many Southerners would simply take the position that it’s payback time.
Actually, we could really do without the Northeast elite’s money; that is if we could also cleanse ourselves of everything that came with it — a strong centralized government, higher taxes, an overreaching judiciary, a breakdown of our Judeo-Christian heritage, just to name a few. Yes, please Mr. Beckel, keep your socialist dollars and go in peace, which is all the South wanted to do in 1861: go in peace, that is.
Naturally, Mr. Beckel could not discuss secession without mentioning slavery: “I think now that slavery is taken care of, I’m for letting the South form its own nation.” I’ve yet to meet a Southerner who wishes to reinstitute slavery, but thank you, Mr. Beckel, for that brilliant observation. I’ll make a note that you’re against slavery.
The blue state folks got right nasty after the last presidential election. Someone even came up with the notion that the thirty-one red states should be separate and called “Jesusland.” While that designation is a little too “blow-dried, evangelist” sounding for me, I could accept it if the remaining states would agree to be known as “Paganland.” What am I talking about? They already are.
But seriously, what is it about Americans and their constant restlessness with our differences and regionalism? Is it healthy? What’s the word for the new order? In case you’ve been lost in a cave for the last ten years, it’s diversity. Unless, of course, you diverge from what the socialist elites approve of, which is pretty much anything non-Christian.
This is what was truly driving the blue state folks crazy after George Bush won reelection in 2004. The perceived born-again, swaggering Texan — a.k.a. Southerner — who speaks openly about his faith and whom the liberals fear will bring in the millennium, thereby thwarting their plans to make little committed socialists out of every child in America.
All of a sudden we had big government, anti-family liberals saying things like: “We hold our noses as we fly over you,” and “We don’t want to be lumped in with you anymore.”2 Alas, we knuckle-draggers who prefer Andy Griffith reruns to South Park can only hope.
The truth is the blue states will never secede. First of all, they would not have the numerical military advantage this time. Recent statistics show that a disproportionate amount of military recruits continue to come from Southern states and, according to a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, “the rising generation of military leaders is increasingly coming from the American South.”3 And then there’s the little problem of the South’s stockpile of 3,150 nuclear warheads. That would likely be a non-negotiable.
But there’s another reason the blue states won’t secede. Who would the elites scold if they didn’t have Bible Belt Southerners? It is their reason for existing. As one libertarian blogger so accurately noted, “Liberals don’t want to leave their enemies alone. Instead, as their track record shows, they want to take over the government in order to force their enemies to endure perpetual sensitivity training for being such racist, sexist, homophobic, ‘closed-minded’ boors, i.e., for disagreeing with them.”4
This incessant need for American liberals to pontificate from their pedestal of self-righteousness and to meddle in the affairs of those whom they deem beneath them has been ongoing and observed by many. Counter-culture seventies rock icon Neil Young was one such example, offering his opinions in his song, “Southern Man”:
better keep your head
what your good book said
gonna come at last
Now your crosses are burning fast
Naturally, the “good book” and “burning crosses” go together down South like moonshine and magnolias. The song goes on to castigate Southern culture for its role in slavery (conveniently leaving out the North’s role) and was seen as a hard-hitting social commentary against the “racist” South. The South’s collective answer can be summed up in Lynyrd Skynrd’s classic rock song, “Alabama”:
Big wheels keep on turning
Carry me home to see my kin
Singing songs about the Southland
I miss Alabamy once again
And I think its a sin, yes
Well I heard mister Young
sing about her
Well, I heard ole Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A Southern man don’t need him
Bottom line: “We really don’t care what you think. Leave us alone.” The Northern elitist busybody was, and is, concerned with correcting “all us poor, dumb, illiterate, inbred, redneck Southern folk” and elevating us to their pedestal. Well, not quite, we’ll always be at least a rung or two down the ladder. Remember, they need a reason to exist. It is most offensive. Most Southerners, conservatives/libertarians, and Christians just want to be left alone to, as Paul admonished, “… study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.”5
We just want to run our businesses, love our families and our neighbors, and worship our God. “Leave us alone” is inherently American — or so it once was. Robert E. Lee understood this. One day during the War Between the States, one of Lee’s lieutenants grew angry as he observed a vastly superior Union force arrayed against the Southerners. Frustrated, he seethed in Lee’s presence: “I wish those people were all dead.” The Reverend J. William Jones noted Lee’s Christian response: “General Lee, with that inimitable grace of manner peculiar to him, promptly rejoined, ‘How can you say so, General? Now I wish that they were all at home attending to their own business and leaving us to do the same.’”6
This philosophy of “leave us alone” is what led the Southern states to secede. The respective States, as the Constitution clearly denotes, were seen as the repository of the rights of the people. And the Southern people had decided they wanted to be left alone. Most Southerners, the cotton state fire-breathers notwithstanding, had long concluded that slavery was, and should be, on its way out. The problem was how.
It is this same philosophy that led the original thirteen colonies to establish the American republic. More of a secession movement than a “revolution,” the colonists simply wanted Britain, who had come to be seen as a distant, meddling behemoth, to leave them alone to run their own affairs. And while Southerners often frame this discussion as a “North vs. South” issue, we realize those distinctions are becoming blurred as many of our Northern friends, particularly those in the Body of Christ, embrace the same “leave us alone” philosophy.
Yet this philosophy was most prominently manifested in our Nation’s bloodiest struggle: The War Between the States, a.k.a., “The Civil War.” The South saw the North as an arrogant, self-righteous bunch of busy-bodies who had taken economic advantage of their region for decades and who now wanted to further subjugate their culture under the false pretense of ending slavery. Looking at that struggle, readers should also consider the very strong tie Southerners had — and still do in many parts of the South — to their homes and land. Their states were the beneficiary of their first loyalties. It is a concept that many outside of our region fail to appreciate. It can be summed up in the words of John Randolph, the eccentric and aristocratic Virginia congressman and senator: “When I speak of my Nation, I mean the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
When Robert E. Lee tendered his resignation in the Federal Army, he was seen by many as a traitor. But Lee, too, was a Virginian first. And it must be understood that, at the time of Virginia’s secession, the United States had only been a reality for about eighty years. Virginia, however, had been a political entity for more than two hundred years and Lee could trace his roots in Virginia back to the year 1640. Lee loved his family and his heritage more than he loved the government — admirable traits in this writer’s opinion.
As the culture war heats up, America will, unfortunately, continue to see fissures along regional and cultural lines. Many prominent social commentators, both left and right, are suggesting that these divides are becoming as serious as those which led to the Civil War. I would argue that the divide is primarily due to the social engineers’ desire to rid the South — and the rest of America — of every last vestige of Christianity. Most of the divisiveness would cease if the elites would just leave the rest of us alone.
1. The Washington Times, “Blue States Buzz Over Secession” by Joseph Curl, November 9, 2004.
3. The Christian Science Monitor, “Where Recruiting Runs Strongest” by Mark Sappenfield, July 19, 2005.
5. I Thes. 4:11
6. J. William Jones, Live and Letters of General Robert Edward Lee, The Neale Publishing Company, 1906. Reprinted by Sprinkle Publications, Harrisonburg, Virginia, 1986, page 401.
- Rick Williams
Rick Williams is a businessman, writer, and publisher (VirginiaGentleman.com). He is the author of The Maxims of Robert E. Lee for Young Gentlemen, published by Pelican Publishing (ISBN 9781589803107) and co-authored Christian Business Legends published by the Business Reform Foundation (BusinessReform.com). He does not advocate secession but he would like to be left alone.