Sunday, January 27, 2013

Kinda like the way third-generation planters used to move to Boston, collect art, and dine with Henry James


Rule #2: Eliminate the Drama
Leave the drama to the soap operas and people who believe they are soap opera characters can be left behind as well. There is far too much drama in this world and it achieves absolutely nothing. It is important to surround yourself with people who want to be more. If you want to be more religious, you would surround yourself with good, religious people. If you aim to be more successful in your business or innovation, you have to surround yourself with people who live to change the world. This is why I spend quite a lot of time in San Francisco where the atmosphere is positive and focused on necessary change.

Gary Wills sums up what Wesley Donehue- and others like him- wants his home region to be like, through the candidates they take money to get elected and re-elected, and the positions they share. In other words, Donehue and his colleagues fight tooth and nail to keep their home region as backward-looking as they can contrive:
The South escaped one of the worst character traits of America, its sappy optimism, its weakness of positive thinking. The North puffed confidently into the future, Panglossian about progress, always bound to win. But the South had lost. It knew there was an America that could be defeated. That made it capable of facing tragedy, as many in America were not. This improved its literature, but impoverished other things. Yet poverty did not make the South helpless. In fact, straitened circumstances made it readier to grab what it could get. In its long bargain with the Democratic party, for instance, it not only fended off attacks on its Jim Crow remnant of the Old Confederacy, but gamed the big government system through canny old codgers in Washington—the chairmen of the major congressional committees, who sluiced needed assistance to the South during the Great Depression.

Under the tattered robes of Miss Havisham were hidden the preying hands of the Artful Dodger. Southerners were not really trapped in the past, since they were always scheming to get out of the trap. They were defeated but not dumb. With dreams of an agrarian society, they might denounce the industrial north, but they got the funds to bring electricity to large parts of the South from the government’s Tennessee Valley Authority. They wanted and got government-funded port facilities, oil subsidies in Louisiana, highways and airports and military bases.

But the current South is willing to cut off its own nose to show contempt for the government. Governor Rick Scott of Florida turned down more than $2 billion in federal funds for a high-speed rail system in Florida that would have created jobs and millions of dollars in revenues, just to show he was independent of the hated federal government. In this mood, his forebears would have turned down TVA. People across the South are going even farther than Scott, begging to secede again from the Union. Packer notes that the tea is cooling in parties across the rest of the nation, but seems to be fermenting to a more toxic brew in the South. No one needs better health care more than the South, but it fights it off so long as Obama is offering it, its governors turning down funds for Medicaid. This is a region that rejects sex education, though its rate of teenage pregnancies is double and in places triple that of New England. It fights federal help with education, preferring to inoculate its children against science by denying evolution.

No part of the country will suffer the effects of global warming earlier or with more devastation than the South, yet its politicians resist measures to curb carbon emissions and deny the very existence of climate change—sending it to the dungeon with evolution and biblical errancy. One doesn’t need much imagination to see the South with lowered or swollen waters in its rivers and ports, raging kudzu, swarming mosquitos, and record-breaking high temperatures, still telling itself that global-warming talk is just a liberal conspiracy. But it just digs deeper in denial. The South has decided to be defeated and dumb.

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