Friday, April 15, 2011

Of Heritage & Concrete

One thing I never got about the "Heritage Not Hate" line of thought regarding the Civil War South is how so many of the staunchest supporters of "heritage" done sold the family farm off to some hot shot real estate developer who bulldozed the trees, graded away the creeks, and laid concrete over the red clay with singular disregard for the bones of warriors long forgotten.

That's why so much of the South ain't got no sense of place no more, it is just one long strip mall connecting ranch-style houses with the local movie theater.

Pictures are worth a 1,000 words, but these pictures are worth far more than that.

I don't got to say much. All I got to do is remind folks that it didn't take Sherman "burning" Atlanta or torching Columbia, or Grant chewing up the approaches to Nashville and Richmond. We'd have paved over a fair bit of the good stuff ourselves, left to our own devices. That's one thing the last 150 years have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt.



Dante said...

What were they supposed to do? That family farm is going to get split each generation. And since it's very likely not being used for actual farming, it's going to get harder and harder to hold it together. Or you could just pocket a wad of cash and be done with it.

The South very much does have a sense of place: It's suburbia on steroids. You just don't like that place. And no, that's not heritage. But there's more to heritage than going broke holding onto a ton of acreage that no longer serves a purpose.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Cultural heritage is transmitted in the foods you eat, the music you listen to, the houses you live in, and your quality of life - among other things.

Suburbia on steroids ain't the South, even though plenty of the 'roid real estate can be found here. When you live in the suburbs, the primary cultural heritage you transmit is that of the suburbs, not the South. Ours just include Chick-fil-a-s, Hardee'ses, Krogers, and Publixes.

And there are a million different things you can do with the land, as opposed to bulldozing it to make way for the next exurban iteration of Whispering Pines Estates or Running Creek Ridge (And how much are those worth today, anyway? How many of those houses are occupied?).

But you'd think that a region so hard up to celebrate "Heritage" might actually care a little bit about their history, and might figure out more effective ways of preservation, as opposed to just covering everything in concrete and waving a flag.

Dante said...

Suburbia is just a variation on a theme. A Southern suburb and a Chicago suburb are distinct entities and for more than their food options. Their culture lives on even if it's through a more universal framework of a living arrangement. The distinction isn't as profound as it is between two urban areas but it still very much exists in everything but place. And the reason I specifically labeled the South as "suburbia on steroids" is that most metro areas in the south have a much larger percentage of the population living in suburbs that their northern or western brethren.

The south has found a more effective way of preservation. They only kept the things that mattered to them. Place just wasn't one of them. Sure everybody loves the idea of preserving historical places but when push comes to shove, they'd rather it not get in the way of their access to stuff. Historical site or Kroger next to your house? Most people will say historical site but a few weeks later they'll be asking for help moving into that house right next to the Kroger.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

You make some fair points, but I'm not sold on that.

I think a lot of Southerners have been effective at convincing themselves they are preserving only the important things, even as the majority of the culture they claim to celebrate gets ripped apart.