Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Southern Discomfort

 Sunday was a great day.  The Nashville Symphony, which never disappoints, presented an original commissioned work in addition to Beethoven's 5th; Glorious is just one word that I can use to describe that afternoon of transcendent music that took me through a series of emotions over the course of two hours.

I had struggled with going literally renting a car and valet parking it to ensure I would go as the weather has been horrific with intense humidity and constant threat of downpours.  I don't need an excuse to not do anything in Nashville but the way I do is now by immediately getting a wine and finding a corner away from people and ignoring them the minute I sit down, not even bothering with civilities.  It does not make any social event something to look forward to when you go in with an offensive aspect to every encounter.

Why? This is a post I found on City-Data which is over a decade ago. It was a response to another poster who had relocated to the area and the vitriol that descended upon her was surreal.  The attacks, the nasty comments led the moderator to finally shut it down after she returned to say thanks and her appreciation for all the support.  That is how you have to handle these angry bees as they swarm when they think their hive is under assault.   But I found this comment towards the end of the stream and I think it succinctly describes what it is like living here.

Well, I don't think Tn sucks, but most of it is 'way behind the times, and people like Pah18 abound here. They are unable to take the slightest criticism or comparison without attacking. Maybe it's because here in Morristown I've noticed a lot of "helplessness" with life and "the way things are". This grew as basically a factory town, and that has been the big aspiration of a lot of people - a good job in a factory. Yes, things are changing and horizons are broadening, but people who are "from here" like to attack outsiders who criticize. They themselves can gripe all they want, but as soon as someone who "ain't from here" has an opinion or observation, they are very hateful - they don't want you to "larn them nothin'" as if you might think you are better than they are, or you know more than they do! God forbid that they are not the most informed, aware, educated, sophisticated townsfolk that ever lived! Perhaps they are tired of being reminded of how little they have lived with and accepted all their lives, yet they weren't curious or bold enough to actually venture out and find out how people live elsewhere. They are incredibly defensive.
 This little town has a lot of people who think the "big wigs" are anyone with money/power/their own thriving business, etc. I learned in the big city that some people with money are merely big jerks. To me, a person is worthy of respect or admiration only if they do well for their community and treat others well. Too much power over politics and policies here has been in the hands of a handful of self-serving individuals who abuse their power, thus the attitude of some of the town natives.

Tn is a "right to work" state, I believe, which is a misnomer that means they hate unions and you can be fired with no warning for any reason, justified or not. Here's an interesting item: it was the Hispanics working at the local chicken processing plant who succeeded in unionizing it about 2 years ago! The locals simply complained and either worked there or left; of course, the same locals gripe about the Hispanic influence and label them all as "illegals". Yes, Redneckia is alive and well.

Tn is also at the bottom of the barrel for education, basically. (And bible classes are still given on the hush-hush in some of the public schools.) People who grew up here commonly think that the ACLU is a bad word, bad people have conspired to "take God out of the schools", atheists could be devil-worshippers, and yes, evolution is misguided and a sinful, harmful teaching.

As for support for the arts, intellectual discourse, stuff like that? Ha, ha, ha, ha - even at the local college, if you say something like "intellectual discourse" you'll get a lot of classmates looking at you like they just realized you are from Mars, and if there's a brave one, he/she will say, "Ah dunno whutchew jus' say-ed". Ok, ok, I'm being unfair describing how some speak, but really, don't they even listen to the news or any half-decent television show to hear more than 2-syllable words? I'm not being overboard here - if you bring your young children to live here, you must be extremely careful at home to foster better language, because your children will learn to say "ain't" and not bother to conjugate verbs (I don't, you don't, he don't) and will use double negatives (it don't matter none).

Yes, there are interesting, higher-minded people, but the percentage is so low that it makes it a constant fight warding off the oppression/repression and low achievement/apathy/low mentality of most of the local population. Also, the restrictive, narrow-minded religious attitude is crippling to "intelligent discourse" in general. And yes, this is a dry county. If you like the occasional mixed drink or wine with your meal, basically you can forget it. Live in Knoxville (although in Knoxville a few months ago I was seated next to two women in a restaurant discussing life there after moving from California a couple of years ago, and they were horrified. One of them has a son in high school who said he was leaving Knoxville for university in California as soon as he finished high school.) A few places here are allowed to sell you beer or wine coolers, and there are liquor stores, but the powers-that-be seem to assume that only low-lifes want alcohol, and upstanding people wouldn't want to be seen imbibing with their meal, would they? Liquor is sinful, doncha know? Freedom - even in "big city" Knoxville (really more like a big town) - is not valued or practiced like it is in many other areas of North America. It is easy to offend by saying things that are considered normal comments and/or discussion elsewhere.

I married a local man, and love the beautiful countryside and some aspects of the slower pace, but after 10 years I am starving for a greater number of more higher-minded, artsy, motivated people. I know a few lovely people here who feel the same way. We can speak to each other about these things, and we do what we can, but I am planning on leaving the area for at least 1/2 the year at a time in order to be among people who enjoy theory, intellect, cultural diversity, etc.

That's my take, for what it's worth. And by the way, even the people in Jefferson City (6-7 miles west of here) look down on Morristown, and consider it "rough" and "backwoods", etc. Jefferson City has Carson Newman Baptist College, and has had many international students and visitors, and more educated people perhaps (Carson-Newman is a 4-year college).

Sorry if I seem "negative". I have attempted to be precise in identifying factors, attitudes and realities of life here if you are not used to such a lifestyle. I am very glad more people are moving into the area so they can raise standards and raise awareness. However, I am old enough that I cannot wait the 10-20 years for the benefits, the old guard dying off, etc., which is why I will be choosing time away for various parts of the year, at least.

The few comments that followed led the moderator to close the post.  The other ones I have read on Yelp and other public sites have had a similar tone.  The internet seems to bring out all kinds, those in need and those who attack.  It does not shock me that more kids are committing suicide and in turn those who frequently use social media are more depressed.  You cannot go into every encounter expecting the worse and end up finding it.  It is not healthy and in turn social alienation leads to serious problems for both the individual and the community.  Shootings anyone?

I live in a repressive angry community.  And repeatedly Tennessee makes it on the Top 10 lists of the bottom of some quality of life survey.   There is little motivation or even willingness to address and in turn change this.  The amount of historical statues and markers are everywhere and no one cares about them until they do.  This is the standard response in the South.  I have seen it with regards to Transit and Bike Lanes.  We have true problems here and yet the same people who would benefit from it do nothing and are not engaged until someone decides that they need them and in turn provide them with misinformation and use them to wave the race card in order to stop the process of change.  Change is not a word that is used here and if so it is at a register. They are defensive about their lives here to the point it is almost tragic if not also comedic.

And that brings me to John Oliver on Sunday.   To come home from beautiful music and hear his take down of the issues that surround the notion of history as it surrounds the Confederacy made me laugh as it was just the facts.  Funny how facts are funny when someone from the outside points them out. I get it. I really do.

As the woman commented in the post I come from a place of experience and knowledge.  My observations are just those, observations that have led me to question myself and my own system of beliefs.  I have heard the same comments she has only my favorite is, "I have never heard that before." "Yes well now you have,"  is my standard response and they never seem to know what to say beyond that response other than further negativity.  I recall when I read my 300 words of my essay, The Carpetbagger, and the reaction was a drop the mic moment where they clearly were offended.  I never went back.  Funny I saw the group leader/teacher at the Symphony and I walked immediately out of sight range when I did.  I don't like who I am becoming and I came already broken and need to heal and irony that in his place of deep Christianity I cannot possible find the healing I need.

True I am in the middle of dental reconstruction and that is affecting my perspective and lending to frustration and further depression but if I am to find myself I need to be wholly functioning and in turn I may find a place here or not.  But I doubt it.   This is not about the people who live here it is about a cultural obsession with history to the point of absurd.  I want nothing to do with history other than study and learn from it.   That is not happening here as I know first hand I am in the schools.  I think that says it all.  

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