CP: The South and fatalism

In his column this week, Will Moredock discusses the nature of Southern fatalism, and how it has affected him. Having lived in the South all of my life, first growing up in Alabama and then here in South Carolina, I've wondered about this a lot, as well. Why, for example, was my mother's response to certain things always along the lines of, "That's just how it is"? (Not to turn this into a mother issue ... Also something Faulkner would understand, right, Mr. Moredock?)

But back to the CP column. Moredock places Southern fatalism in the hands of an angry god, in a sense of inevitability, born out of Calvinist predestination and leaving people feeling helpless in a chaotic world. As Moredock puts it:

Eternally wounded and angry, eternally at a loss to understand why their plans fail and their hearts break, southerners look to heaven, where they see an angry god who must be supplicated with violence and self-flagellation. As historian Robert L. Johnson writes, southern fatalism is "resignation before the forces of fate and death, rather than a struggle with guilt and social responsibility ... A deep and continuing conflict abides in the soul of the South between Stoic resignation to fate and death and Christian reconciliation to sin and guilt."

Unlike traditional southerners, I have chosen to rage against the night of fear and prejudice, but I can no longer delude myself into thinking the night will someday end. I am not the idealist I was 30 years ago. Then I thought that southerners might come to terms with our past, heal ourselves, and learn how to practice democracy and the Golden Rule.

Now I know the truth — that the stain of fear and hatred are too deep ever to be expunged.

So, in the end, while distancing himself from what he sees as the mistake of Southern fatalism, often centered around ignorance and prejudice, he ends up sharing that same fatalistic perspective, even if from a different angle. It is this recognition in himself that he considers the greatest irony.

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