First Hit #1: April 30, 1972
I’ll admit that I don’t quite understand the American south. This isn’t an insult to the region, which I have yet to visit and thus am not qualified to judge. Nor is it an insult to the people, as the southern folks I’ve met have always seemed like normal people to me. No, I’m talking about the weird combination of love and hatred for the region that is one of the defining aspects of North America, right down to the neighbor of mine who has a Confederate flag on his big pickup in spite of living in the land of ice and snow, or the author who just wrote a book about how much he hates it.
I bring it up because we have Glen Campbell’s Southern Nights, which is part of the love half of the relationship. As I listen to it, I hear a catchy and fun little song about the joy of growing up in the south, and the stories which should inspire people to give up fighting. Fantastic, but I’m also not hearing that much that is all that different from northern nights. It sounds like fun, it sounds like a defining part of someone’s youth, but it’s not particularly southern. But this is the common thread between this love/hate relationship with the south. Everyone says it’s different, but apart from the accent or possibly a love of hats, nobody can really articulate why it’s different, and why it’s so much better or worse than the rest of the continent. There’s a pride and a disdain that doesn’t seem to have any defined source, it just exists, as though the region is necessary in order to keep everyone feeling a bit superior. Its virtues and crimes aren’t unique, but they seem to be defined as existing only in that place, and it almost seems as though the south has become a popular myth – even to those who live there – in order to form some kind of distraction. I’m speaking in a roundabout way admittedly – mostly because I don’t want to drag down a catchy pop song with issues that are actually quite serious – but the south is so often defined as a mysterious other that I can’t quite get a handle on what – if anything – is actually unique about it.
Maybe I do need to go there.