July 05, 2013

Rod Dreher channels his inner racism apologia for #PaulaDeen

I'm pretty tired of Paula Deen myself, but, when a "crunchy con" like Rod Dreher (think a bit more southern-fried Ross Douthat if you're not familiar with Dreher) pulls the "Southern heritage" card to try to defend Deen, well, we have to fire back.

Every younger white Southerner who holds enlightened opinions on race knows that you have to allow for the cultural deformation of older white Southerners.
Really? Hey, Rod, Selma was nearly 50 years ago. The lunch-counter sit-ins started before she hit adulthood.

Beyond that, there's the assumption, unspoken here, but voiced more later, that this is something that's just at the edges of her personality. Just an occasional slip. Not something ingrained from someone young enough to be in high school herself when Little Rock was integrated.

Speaking of past as prologue, or better yet, history repeating itself, now as farce, trotting out a 56-year-old letter from Walker Percy qualifies:
In a 1957 letter, the Southern Catholic novelist Walker Percy, who openly opposed segregation when that wasn't easy for a white Southerner to do, conceded the wickedness of the peculiar institution, but warned that anti-racists could not win if they attacked "not only segregation, but (the Southerner), his people, and his past." 

"Perhaps the best imaginable society is not a countrywide Levittown in which everyone is a good liberal ashamed of his past, but a pluralistic society, rich in regional memories and usages," Percy wrote. "I sincerely believe that the worst fate that could overtake the struggle against segregation would be its capture by a political orthodoxy of the left." 
Uhh, Rod, Percy was expecting more enlightenment by 1980, I'm sure, and definitely by 2013.

Dreher then finishes with the "damn Yankees" defense.
These militant culture warriors are placing abstract ideals over flesh and blood reality. That too reflects an impoverished moral imagination. But then, Southerners have long considered that to be the graceless Yankee way. If this Deen episode reinforces odious Northern stereotypes of Southerners, then I assure you the feeling is mutual.  
The likes of Dreher provide fertile seeds for a new stereotype to start: "The conservative side of New South as Old South — don't get fooled again."

It's always been this way among Southerners of Dreher's ilk, whether 1923, 1963, or 2013 — that is, the claim of "just give us more time."

Rather, with using zoning, private schools and more, many a conservative Southerner's idea of "more time" is turning the clock further back.

But, given that Mr. Dreher's let the mask slip before on gay issues, this is no surprise to come from him.

(Update, July 9: A Facebook commenter said that, before the person finished reading through the first graf of Rod's anti-gay rant, they were convinced he was gay. And, per the link immediately above, it kind of makes sense. Only a self-repressing gay, I think, would worry so much about this issue without worrying so much about the kids being scarred and damaged.)

Another mask-slipping is for the formerly Catholic Dreher to claim that the Catholic church's pedophile priest plague is all driven by said priests being gay. His rant about a "lavender mafia" and more really sound like someone self-repressing.  

Anyway and basically, the shorter Dreher is saying: Gays need to show personal growth, racists don't.

Having lived in Dallas most the previous decade, and being a suburban newspaper editor, I actually happened to meet Dreher in person once, when he was promoting his first book at a civic event in my suburb. He was certainly affable enough. But, then again, I'm a white male, and don't look like a stereotypical gay person. And, he had no idea then of how liberal I am. (He does now, of course, since I Tweeted this to him; I have no idea if he remembers me, or exactly what is the incident he references.)

And, of course, in his own way, because of this, he IS a next-generation Paula Deen, of sorts. Now, even in narrower circles, unless he was absolutely sure of said circle, if he has any personal racism or racialism bones in his body, rather than just being a defender of others, he wouldn't say "nigger" (let's not euphemize it) with anyone else to hear, unlike "Crazy Aunt Paula."

But, would he say "faggot" in the right circle? Or "queer"? Given what's on the record, sure.

And, 20-30 years from now, he might hope that the intellectual scion of him and Crazy Aunt Paula wandered down the road, and said:

Every younger straight Southerner who holds enlightened opinions on gay issues knows that you have to allow for the cultural deformation of older straight Southerners.
Dreher won't change. That we know. No more than his praying for Chris Hitchens' conversion (what else would healing of an atheist's "soul" be?) was going to change Hitch.

We can, perhaps, hope that Paula Deen Drehers will indeed be few and far between when that 20 or 30 years comes, though.

And, as a sidebar, let's note the hypocrisy of Dreher accusing Rush Limbaugh of racism, even though the linked post at Beliefnet is no longer there. (The Hitch one, obviously, is, so I linked it instead of my blog post. I call shenanigans on Dreher, Beliefnet, or both.)

We also know the hypocrisy of "crunchy cons." If they're religiously driven ones, at all, the granola stays on the straight side of the table. And, black folks only get their hands on it by serving it to white folks.

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