Tuesday, May 03, 2011

On a world west of the Chattahoochee

Okay, so I hate to dwell—what am I talking about? I love to dwell—but that Gawker post got my back up, and I found myself doing something I wouldn’t have thought I’d be doing five years ago: defending Alabama.

When my brother started doing some freelancing for a newspaper in Phenix City and eventually moved to Birmingham to work for UAB, he got the crap teased out of him, because Alabama was this kind of backward, redneck, cousin-kissing cultural black hole that thanked God for Mississippi for protecting them from the bottom of every list except obesity. Then I moved here in 2006. And it’s actually kind of awesome.

Now I get just as frustrated as Doug did when I get the hick jokes from people who have never actually been here. My personal policy is that whenever I hear someone making a generalization about a region, I think back to whether I’ve ever seen that same generalization in a movie. If I have, I take the sentiment with a grain of salt. (Example: Sweet Home Alabama is not a wholly accurate depiction of Alabama. Does it get some things right? Oh, hell yes. But it’s a comedy, not a travelogue. Also: not filmed in Alabama.) Another example: Defending your derision of people trying to help disaster victims with healthy food by insinuating that these hick rubes are too dumb to appreciate it or know what to do with it anyway.

So to the Gawkerites who believe what they see in Talladega Nights: Tuscaloosa is a college town with a top-50 public university. Birmingham is the financial center of the state with one of the top-ranked research and clinical health systems in the country. Huntsville is home to the space program. And all of those little flattened communities between? The ones you’d probably never heard of before but seem to know so much about now? Though rural, they really did have indoor plumbing, internal combustion engines, Super Wal-Mart, books, TV, and schools that go past sixth grade. So if you want an excuse to push off some Soviet-era dreck in an unmarked can on desperate people, you’re going to need something better than “let on their own, people in rural Alabama wouldn’t know what to do with a can of salmon.”

Alabama is not a stupid state. Conservative, frequently. Often stubborn. Sometimes prone to listening to dumb things and ignoring smart ones. But this dogmatic, intellectually incurious, ignorant hicksville that people—non-Southern people, non-Alabamians who need something to look down on—are creating for themselves is bullshit, and screw you for making me point that out.

NB: Feel like being part of the solution? Show Uncle Dad, Larry Wayne, and all the other slack-jawed yokels you care by donating food and other crucial material goods.

1 comment:

Sarah in Huntsville said...

YES. This. Exactly. YES.