In an effort to pump a little more life into this site, especially at a time when I am swamped by final exams, seminar papers, and theses and dissertations, I am departing from my familiar extended bloviations on discrete topics to offer an occasional “Cobblet,” briefer but none the less jaundiced and just plain messed up comments on contemporary events. Thus, the inaugural Cobblet:
It has been a busy media week for me. First, I heard from a colleague on a Fulbright in China and later from an old friend teaching in Australia and from a lot of others in between that I was quoted in a NYT piece on recent trends in southern history. Essentially, some very fine young historians are raising eyebrows by actually writing about white southerners in a way that doesn’t necessarily put racism front and center in explaining their behavior. The fact that this trend actually has to be explained and defended says that, while their behavior is not nearly so violent or vociferous, a good many Americans outside the South seem almost as reluctant to change their attitudes about white southerners as white southerners once were to alter their attitudes about black people.
I also had a call this week from a writer for Women’s Wear Daily. I worried at first that my notorious tendency to wear white shoes after Labor Day had offended some fashion Nazi, but it turns out the reporter was just interested in talking about the economic impact of Katrina refugees on places like Atlanta. “Too soon to tell,” I bravely ventured, “numbers ain’t been crunched yet.” The writer also wanted to know about the effects of hurricanes and the threat thereof on outmigration patterns from Florida. “Life among the pink flamingoes in the old trailer park ain’t what it used to be,” I conceded, but not before pointing out that decades of unchecked growth and resource devastation have also turned a lot of the Old Sunshine State in a nasty, thirsty, ugly, and unhealthy mess.
No sooner had I hung up with the Women’s Wear person than I heard from a fellow at the Wall Street Journal wanting to talk about the history of subsidies for industry in the South. Sensing the lad was a bit distracted by the spectre of Rupert Murdoch leering over his shoulder, I tried to calm him down by telling him that his stuffy old paper could probably use a touch of tabloid. This didn’t seem to comfort him much, so thinking I might at least give him a leg up in case old Rupert’s takeover bid succeeded, I handed him a potential career-maker of a story tip by revealing my strong suspicion that my neighbors may have Hitler chained in their basement. Nothing tugs on my heartstrings like a journalist in distress. Until next time . . . .