The debate over the Confederate flag has been raging for the past two weeks, but all the attention has been focused on what southerners think and feel about this situation. There are precious few people talking about what northerners really think about this whole situation. I tried my first go at this sort of piece in college, but without the wisdom of perspective and with plenty of youthful arrogance. Today, my approach is far more tempered.
Having been born in New Jersey and raising a good chunk of my childhood in Pennsylvania, here are some things southerners may be surprised to hear about northerners.
We aren’t THAT much different from you. Northerners like sports, hate lying politicians, and many of us do go to church. We are just more used to cold weather, narrow roads, and congested cities. We have to deal with traffic problems, home repairs, and city hall the same way you do and, yes, we have to often talk our way out of a traffic ticket and have our share of crooked police and government employees. Aside from the accents and some food preferences, we really are the same in many ways.
We do sometimes get irritated when southerners call us all “Yankees.” The Yankees are a baseball team and most northerners really hate the Yankees if they follow baseball. Many of us really don’t even know where the hell that word comes from (this blogger does, but I ain’t saying!) Hell, it even chafes us when Brits and Australians refer to us as “Yanks” because we know it’s usually an insult. We know you don’t like it when southerners are called “hillbillies” and “hicks,” so please return the favor, that’s all we really ask.
We know Florida is a prank on the South. We tried giving Tallahassee and the panhandle to Alabama years ago, but they said they had their own problems. So, we’re kinda stuck with each other there! Besides, you got Jacksonville and the Florida-Georgia game.
We aren’t all as insufferable as the Griffins. Seth MacFarland’s Family Guy has really painted northerners with a broad stroke of the brush, and that stereotype has caused its own share of problems. Granted, he’s spot on with the rivalry and attitudes New Yorkers and New Englanders have with one another, but how his writers consistently attack southerners is, at least to this blogger’s viewpoint, unfair and distorted. Unfortunately, the south has, like the north, its share of token buffoons who love to say “if you don’t like it, move!” Northerners just want to be able to enjoy a trip or, if we are transferred someplace with our jobs or like a state because of the schools, live there peacefully, make some friends, have some fun and get along with everyone. Unfortunately, Ted isn’t all that far off when it comes to describing how New Englanders can be.
We aren’t any better during the winter, we’re just used to it. Ice and snow are different things. We know you can get traction in the snow if you hit the right spots, or get behind a salt truck or a plow with deep enough treads. However, we also know you can’t get ZILCH for traction on ice and, for that reason, we’ve learned – mostly through trial and error – how to either drive on the little bit of usable ice, or just to stay the hell off the road. For that reason, we are able to use “snow days” far more efficiently than say, Atlanta (sorry to my adopted home, but that’s just truth speaking). We ground our jets like you do, and tell our trucks to stay off the road like you do – we just know how to do it earlier and read the winter weather a little better, just like Midwesterners know when tornadoes are going to be bad.
Many of us don’t get “Southern Pride” because our families arrived AFTER the Civil War. We don’t expect southerners to understand what we mean when we say the “Old Country,” so please give us the same latitude when we don’t understand this whole “heritage” thing. Many of our families came over after the Civil War, so we didn’t witness the whole slavery and states’ rights debates. Our families just wanted to make a better life for themselves. Granted, many could have been more tolerant of others, but those countries they came from weren’t exactly diverse cultures. We’ve really spent the last century and a half playing catch up. If some of us seem “liberal,” it’s mainly because we are trying to be objective.
Even northerners get annoyed by our stuck-up brethren. If there is one thing northerners can’t stand, it’s people who act like they are superior to everyone else on the planet. True, many northerners act this way towards non-northerners (sorry, a bit of a superiority complex flaw we have), which is why we sometimes ignore it, but when they act that way towards one of their own, all hell often breaks loose. Most northern folks are hard-working people who punch the clock and go home, and just want to have a relaxing time with their families and friends; the last thing we need is a snobby northerner acting like they’re God’s gift to earth, and they usually get it with both barrels when that happens (voice of experience talking here.)
Unions appeal to more northerners because the industrial revolution laid the wood to us. Southerners had Reconstruction, northerners had the industrial revolution. We had our one percent, they were the robber barons, and without unions going up against them, minimum wage laws, workplace protections and vacation/personal time wouldn’t exist. After Reconstruction, a lot of the old practices started right back up in the South, just under different names by different means. Yes, a lot of Southerners hate modern-day unions for a variety of legitimate reasons, but a good chunk of northerners have a union affinity because they provided a voice for those who came over to this country and were exploited by old-money interests. When someone speaks up for you and gets results, you tend to stick with what works and, during the industrial revolution, they did what nobody else could or would, they gave northern laborers a chance at a better life.
Northerners REALLY aren’t trying to change your way of life. Honestly, most of us really love southerners. Seriously. We love the laid back lifestyle, the country feel, the tax laws, the way everyone tries to be polite and tries to show kindness and respect. When we move to the South, we try to take some of our lifestyle with us to help ease the transition. If we come across as “know it alls” or “carpetbaggers” or whatever other name gets thought of, it’s usually because we are just trying to fit in and find our place. Our younger folks are arrogant and stupid and act like they own the place but, hey, we either set ’em straight, or kick ’em out.
So, southerners, give us northerners a chance. You might be surprised how fast we even start saying “y’all” and “fixin’ to.” After all, we do love the food, so that’s gotta’ be a good start, right?