Should the South secede?

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Joshua Holland, Alternet

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that cultural friction between the North and South persists to this day. After all, we fought an incredibly brutal, ugly Civil War. The battlelines that were drawn then continued to divide us through the Reconstruction period and well into the middle of the 20th century, as federal troops were once again deployed to enforce the civil rights acts.


According to Chuck Thompson, a veteran travel writer who toured the American South, a degree of mutual enmity between Northerners and Southerners continues to be a source of cultural tension and political gridlock. We remain divided even as we have grown to become the world’s superpower. In his new book, Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession, Thompson argues that it may be time for a divorce – to shake hands and go our separate ways.

Thompson appeared on last week’s AlterNet Radio Hour to discuss his book. A lightly edited transcript of our discussion is below (you can listen to the whole show here).

Joshua Holland: Chuck, you seem to be channeling the frustration of a lot of Northern liberals. I may have even said myself that we should have let the Confederacy walk in 1860. But I haven’t heard a lot of people calling to break up the Union today. You’re known as a comedic travel writer. So my first question is to what degree are you being tongue-in-cheek here? To what degree are you being serious?

Chuck Thompson: I am being serious. I understand that the meta arguments here that call for secession can be received as somewhat absurd in some corners. I acknowledge that it is probably a remote possibility. Within the framework of that argument I think there is a lot of room to highlight a lot of these problems and a lot of these frustrations that you refer to. One of the goals of this book really was to more or less articulate — to put some facts, figures and research behind — a lot of this frustration of Northern and Southern liberals, of which there are many. I encountered many Southern liberals while conducting my research.

There’s this seething frustration people have. There’s this kneejerk reaction to blame the South. The sort of Northern media strafing of the South for a lot of the nation’s ills is a longstanding tradition. What I wanted to do was to get away from the traditional stereotypes of the dim-witted, mouth-breathing, Southern racist redneck and really look at what’s going on today. Find out why people are still having these issues with the South, and put some hard research and some facts and figures behind this general unease with the influence that the South has on the rest of the country.

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1 reply »

  1. It’s, um, interesting to watch ‘liberals’ turn xenophobic and violent when an allowable target is in sight, in this case, Southerners (of which, for full disclosure, I am one). It reminds me of the frightening vitriol expressed by some of my liberal acquaintances (and lots of online commentators) a couple weeks ago during the Chik-Fil-A brouhaha.

    On a rather primitive, emotional level I like the idea of our beloved Southland splitting from the Empire; on a more rational level, I doubt the ensuing government would be any sort of improvement. Though it would probably be poorer and hence perhaps less capable of massive punitive actions. And perhaps easier to gradually deconstruct.

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