Thursday, November 6, 2008

Defining the South

In college, I once took a series of classes (if two classes can be called a series) on the history of the South. In the second course, History of the New South (2nd Industrial Revolution forward, post reconstruction) our first assignment was to draw a map of what we consider to be The South.

As you would expect, the maps varied wildly. If you were to give that assignment to, say, a random Georgian, a political theorist, a historian, a member of the Toronto Sports Media, and a member of the Mainstream Media (MSM), the maps would be barely recongnizable from one another.

For the random Georgian, I will use a compilation of the folks from that undergrad class. It was, after all, at Georgia Tech. My map drew an adjusted Mason-Dixon Line from the coast at about Virginia Beach, just barely north of Richmond, and out west to include most of West Virginia, all of Kentucky, and ended somewhere in Missouri. Parts of Florida were included, but nothing south of Polk County. Northern Louisiana is the South, but New Orleans certainly is not. Texas is a country of its own, but is allied with the South. My favorite map from that class relied on the cartographer's own experiences. He had a "core" area of the South where he had been able to reliably get sweet tea at any restaurant. There was a "border" area outside of that where he had been able to get sweet tea in a southern themed restaurant (read barbecue, Cracker Barrel, or Chik-Fil-A). Everything else was not the South. This works with my own map, as it keeps Texas and south Florida in the border category, as well as northern Virginia.

Political theorists will point to the unique political identity historically shared by Southern states. From antebellum times, most Southern states voted together in national elections. This was a product of the common geography and therefore common economics. Slavery was a part of those economics. Today, the South is generally more conservative than the West or the North. A political theorist may actually extend the South out west and up into the Midwest to the traditional red states, while shaving off Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, and Louisiana.

A historian will usually simply rattle off a list of the Confederate States of America and neutral states, including states from Florida to Maryland, over to Missouri, down to Texas. It would use the traditional Mason Dixon line that originates along the Pennsylvania/Maryland border. However, Maryland wasn't even the South at the time of the Civil War, and certainly isn't now, even if the NCAA seems to think that MD and BC belong in the same conference with teams from Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas, and the NHL thinks Washington is in the Southeast. In their defense, Washington DC was put where it is precisely so that it would be in the South. It was part of a compromise to allow new territories to be brought into the United States without slavery.

The Toronto Sports Media would write off everything south of Philadelphia as being "the South" and unworthy of a professional hockey team. Then they would trump up a rumor that every player on every team in "the South" was being offered in trades with the Leafs.

The Mainstream Media considers the South to be anything east of New Mexico and south of Indiana. They don't give any consideration to the South other than how to minimalize its impact on the national stage.

All of this brings me to my point. Sports South apparently defines the South as Georgia and North Florida. Outside those borders, you don't get to see Thrasher games. As I am just over the border in North Carolina tonight, I can't see the Birds/Isles game. This pisses me off and makes me write pointless columns.

For the Chronicle, I'm Razor Catch Prey.

P.S. Agent Gibbs from NCIS needs to be the Thrashers' captain.


Tiffany said...

this post is pointless without a picture of your awesome map! SCAN AND POST IT!!!!!1!1! :)

dude, gibbs for sure for coach. and possibly GM!!!

Mortimer Peacock said...

Gibbs is tough but fair, everything you need in a coach. That Goth girl who lives in the scientific basement could do something as well, surely.

The Falconer said...

I thought "the south" ended in Florida at Ocala.

Tiffany said...

Right, and he knows when a guy just needs a good smack!

Just FYI, the goth girl in the basement is my personal and professional idol :D

Razor Catch Prey said...

Exactly right, Falconer. Ocala, I believe, is in or at least near Polk County.

Also, as we are discussing Abby (the goth girl in the basement), that chick is actually not acting at all. She really has a degree in forensic science, is really from New Orleans, and really looks and dresses like that. They no longer use a technical advisor for the morgue scenes because Ducky has studied pathology so much that he actually speaks at medical conferences now.

Tiffany said...

RCP: re: abby, i knoooow! i love her! i'm sort of what you could call an NCIS addict. or obsessor. whichev. and funny enough, i've quite a few good friends i know throught he finnish band i work with, who are all good friends with pauly perrette (abby). small world :D the only tats that are not really hers, just FYI are the cross on her back, and the spiderweb on her neck. the rest are all real ink :D

ps you should change your name to razor catch more prey so we can call you RCMP :D