Old times there are not forgotten?

Today World Choice Investments LLC, a company that manages Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, announced they will be changing the name of the program to Dolly Parton’s Stampede. Before I begin, please don’t tune this out as another angry southerner prattling on against change like a South Park caricature. That’s not what this post is.

I do not fault Dolly at all for making this move. At her disposal is an array of consumer data and research, and she undoubtedly made the decision that will best serve her company in its international expansion. As a “soulless conservative”, I almost always respect the profit motive’s superior role in the marketplace.

That being said, it pains me to see another piece of southern culture being quietly euthanized. As flags and statues have come down, I’ve remained mostly ambivalent. I accepted their removal as a concession to those whose ancestors endured great hardships under that flag, and some of those men. But there is something about that name, Dixie, that is special, if not sacred to me. The notion that it is too toxic even to title a local dinner theater doesn’t sit well.

That name isn’t special to me because I love slavery, or the Confederacy, or because of some proclivity for Jefferson Davis. It’s special because for most of my life the name has been a descriptor of an idealized version of my home, the south. There’s a certain magic in the word, in Dixieland.

When I hear the name “Dixie”, I don’t think of the slavedrivers whip. I think of my dad and I driving to papaw’s house, while the Bama boys sing Dixieland Delight on the radio. I don’t think of forced migration, I think of the sun setting over Lake Loudon, and the smell of hamburgers on the grill the summer before I started college. I don’t think of Jim Crowe, I think of Hank Williams Jr. blaring at my favorite Hillbilly Karaoke joint.

My issue isn’t with what Dolly Parton calls her dinner theater, it is with the ignorance that is pervading our culture. In this social media age, everything is black or white, good or bad. Today something completely innocuous might tomorrow have a legion of tweeters sharpening their pitchforks. I wonder if those who are determined to demagogue Southern Pride realize that less than 4% of Confederate soldiers actually owned a slave. Or that 99% of all soldiers in the Civil War fought for their own state. The power brokers were battling over slavery, but the folks like us didn’t have a dog in that fight. They were fighting because someone from someplace they’d never been was coming to conquer their home. Pride in one’s state in that day was akin to pride in one’s country today. We can’t understand that because the North won, and those feelings died with the isolationist agrarian south.

So, can I still love the south, love Dixie, and not be a racist? Is it possible that Lee, Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson were good men, in spite of their indulgence in such a unwholesome and wicked practice? Is there perhaps some aspect of our common conduct today that future generations will find repugnant? I’m not in favor of flags or monuments. I’m not in favor of removing flags or monuments. I’m in favor of free and independent thought, the preservation of our history, and a rejection of a narrow minded absolutist way of thinking that demands everyone, and everything is wholly good or bad.

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