Tag Archives: South

A dark tale with Southern roots

This will seem like a very strange followup to yesterday’s post about Christianity changing its response to abuse, but hold on till the end and I think you’ll see the connection.

South Carolina has a surprisingly robust music scene, especially in Columbia and Charleston. (The Upstate really needs to catch up. …. and develop more of a “music scene” to support a couple more good venues for good old-fashioned rock. But that’s an issue for another day.)

One of my favorite South Carolina bands is The Restoration, fronted by Daniel Machado and based in Columbia.

The hubby and I first met Daniel when he opened for some friends of ours at the local Irish pub, and then got a flat tire in the parking lot which not a one of us — even the big burly guys — could manage to break free from the rusted lug nuts. So Daniel packed himself off to our friends’ house for the night, which turned into about a 3-day saga. So I feel a bond with Daniel, one somehow linked to great music, a banjo, South Carolina, and the crappy vehicles that musicians always seem to drive because the Universe is unjust. (In MY universe, musicians would make enough to eat without worrying, and financial analysts would have to drive 17 year old Corollas with rusty fenders.)

We’ve followed Daniel ever since, making the switch with him from The Guitar Show (his first band) to The Restoration, his roots-music band that delves deep into the twisted history of the South.

An encounter with William Faulkner at a USC literature course set Daniel’s sights on Southern Gothic storytelling. He grew up steeped in the Southern civic Christianity that flavors everything down here — God is woven into South Carolina life, regardless of your personal belief.  Here, especially if you’re white, good people respect the Almighty and appreciate the Bible; bad people believe evolution, vote for Obama, and claim to be agnostic. I think the Republican to Democrat ratio here in SC is something like 8 to 1.  I’m not even sure why I bother to vote (because seriously, regardless of party affiliation, my vote does not matter).

The Restoration kicked things off with an incredible album called Constance. I’ve written about it before, when we attended the CD release show, and I highly recommend hitting the newspaper interviews that I’ve linked to in that post.

Constance tells the story of a biracial young man in the 1910s whose rage against the injustice of his life, both economic and racial, blazes into hatred against a particular man as the cause for that injustice.  Like any good Faulkner follower, Constance doesn’t end happy, just like the racial reality of many Southern towns. (The last lynching in South Carolina was in 1947.)

This depressing narrative captured Daniel’s soul, resulting in some pretty amazing art.

The Restoration followed with a sophomore album named Honor the Father. It’s a dark, twisted story of a cultish Bible believer in the 1950s who follows Old Testament law straight into the arms of domestic abuse, murder, and weirdness.  Cheery.

The album spawned a Kickstarter for an indie film – fitting for a story of the 1950s, not all Mayberry as they’re cracked up to be.  You really ought to listen to the album in whole, but definitely check out the film:

Honor the Father from Christopher Tevebaugh on Vimeo.

Diana Bright grasps for a means to escape her husband’s transformation from insecure youth to domineering husband in this musical short about the 1950’s South.

The Restoration released a quick EP back in December, I think, called New South Blues. It crackles with satire toward Christians who speak so often of Gospel but live so much like the broken world we inhabit.

To quote a verse from the title track:

Lo the Facebook lamentations 
About the “spoiling of the nation” 
And how the good ol’ days are gone. 
Oh? They never mention ol’ Jim Crow. 

“In the past, turned the page” 
Muslim witch hunt, Proposition 8 
This is the new South 

and later

In all fairness, the South has no monopoly 
On ignorance and bigotry 
You understand 
We just have the most trusted brand

Whenever I hear Constance or Honor the Father and especially New South Blues, it hurts my heart that so many people see Christians as racist, misogynist hypocrites.

I listen, so that I may remember. And be different.

 

Not just believing. Acting.

For a variety of personal reasons, I find myself musing these questions lately:

1. Can we make any real progress against poverty, sickness, hatred, abuse?
The sin is in us, in our hearts from the beginning. Yet I believe the Gospel is bigger than our collective and individual sin, and God’s redemption of our hearts will affect  human lives and systems.

2. Must all progress be made individually?
It seems like attempts to reform systems end in failure, mismanagement, or a return to a bad status quo. Is there no “economy of scale” to social work?

3. What is the biblical response to injustice?
If it were clear, wouldn’t everybody be responding?

*****

Ran across this controversial and somewhat jumbled essay (memoir? call to action? position paper?) by Bob Zellner, a man who emerged from his Southern roots to become a Civil Rights activist.  It’s not always easy to follow his point; many of his conclusions do not seem to follow from any stated premises or evidence. His support of unionized labor will anger some; his blunt criticism of Southern mores will offend many.

But I recommend the essay as a thought-provoking weekend read:

Thoughts on Port Huron (written in 2012)

From his introduction:

It’s important what a person believes, so tell me what you think, but more importantly, tell me what you do and have done. In Alabama I saw folks chanting affirmations of faith, knowing they did not mean it. My quest became why people’s actions and beliefs were so far apart. I was fascinated with why so few white Southerners risked life and limb or even ostracism and poverty in the struggle against segregation and racial oppression.

Searching for authenticity, commitment and risk, as well as harmony between belief and action, I sought people doing things challenging and exciting to me. The second of five boys with a schoolteacher mother and preacher father, it was unlikely I would meet Dr. Martin Luther King and Ms Rosa Parks as a college student in Montgomery and become part of America’s most exciting History — the Civil Rights Movement. Perhaps it was providential that my Methodist College, Huntingdon, was located in Montgomery, the cradle of the modern civil rights struggle.

My odyssey from KKK to MLK was a stretch. Dad, James Abraham Zellner, a Methodist minister was once a Klan organizer, a Kleagle. He and Mom, Ruby Hardy Zellner, graduated from Bob Jones College now located in Greenville, SC Even though it is now called a “university,” it is not widely known as a hot bed of Southern Liberalism. What’s worse, I was named for Dr. Bob Jones after he performed the marriage of Mom and Dad. In 2012-speak, that means I come from a line of Fundamentalist Terrorist. I must have been a disappointment to Godfather Dr. Bob. Have you ever noticed how fundamentalism and terrorism go together?

The nexus is ubiquitous throughout history. A fundamentalist, Muslim, Christian, or any other can be peace loving and protect those inside his circle. As a fundamentalist, however, his ability and willingness to harm those outside his circle, i.e. infidels, is altered. Not only is the fundamentalist allowed to harm others, his creed may even require him to do so. Presently a fundamentalist, then, depending on circumstances, voila, a terrorist is born. My father, grandfather and uncles in Birmingham were Klan activists. A more ruthless gaggle of terrorist is hard to imagine. Was their Klavern responsible for killing four little girls guilty of nothing more than going to Sunday school at the 16th Avenue Church one September morning in1963?

The last paragraph rings true:

Once, when trapped in a Montgomery church, Ms. [Rosa] Parks helped five students escape arrest, but not before saying to me, “Bob, when you see something wrong you have to do something about it. You must take action — you can’t study injustice forever.

 

You can read more about Bob and his continuing crusade to protect voting rights here:

Activist Issues New Awakening for Voting Rights

Confessions of a Southern-Yankee Convert

I have a confession to make.

I am a Yankee who honestly likes living in the South, and I’ll be sorry to leave whenever that time comes.

For years I’ve been trying to squash this rising conviction that the South isn’t half-bad. Now in the 15th year of my “sojourn” in this foreign land, I still enjoy mocking its quirky towns and hick accents and odd people with names like Delmar and Raybur and Calloway.

I still live in mortal fear that, should I raise children in “these here parts,” they’ll develop the undesirable ability to stretch simple words to 4 syllables. The linguist in me shudders to hear diphthongs so maligned.  Who knew a simple name like “Joyce” could roll off the tongue in 3 barely-connected segments?  I find myself wanting to finish other people’s sentences for them because it pains me to wait as they drawl out all those multi-syllabic words.

But underneath the jests I’ve developed a deep liking for this part of the planet. The winters are warm(er); the people friendly (though I still shudder when some cashier at Belks’ calls me “honey” …. I’m not her “honey” or anyone else’s unless they’re 87 years old and nice enough to be my grandma).  The Southern tradition of pulling up a chair to “visit a spell” over a glass of diabetes-inducing sweet tea is something to treasure.

sweet-tea

Don’t get me wrong:  Some days I long for the refreshing bluntness of Yankee-land, where a well-pointed hand gesture can communicate 1000 words. People talk faster up there…. Fast food is actually delivered to the counter before you can pay for your order… And you know where you stand with folks. None of this “smile to your face and stab you in the back” stuff (which is probably the South’s greatest fault).

But given the alternatives, the South is one of the best places to live.

When it comes to interesting characters and stories stranger than fiction, the South wins hands-down. Southern storytellers ought to be a marketable export. Forget the Comedy Channel… find yourself a Southerner, give them a glass of sweet tea and a heapin’ bowl of banana pudding, and ask them to relate a few stories about “family.”

Most recent installment of “hilarious stories you would only hear in Dixie”:  The Racoon that Smokes Pot.

Oh dear. lol