Deep in the heart of the South, there's an ever-present force moving amongst the populace that influences nearly everything that happens. While it goes unnoticed by most, it plays a role in almost all that occurs and every decision that they make. This universal being is a little thing I like to call Southern Guilt.
While it goes by many a name, including "courtesy", "What Would Jesus Do?” and "karma", Southern Guilt is no laughing matter. Those Catholics and white people just think they know guilt, but they've got nothing on us guilty bastards. But what exactly is Southern Guilt, and how does it show its ugly face? Let’s take a look:
Southern Guilt draws its roots from the conservative values instilled in every good Southerner from birth. Certainly it appears not only in the South, but the moral atmosphere below the Mason-Dixon is conducive to its presence. It involves making one’s own life worse to make someone else’s day better. For instance, I recently received a Facebook friend request from someone I did not like, and I accepted it because I “felt like I had to”. In retelling this story later to a group of intellectual friends, it was pointed out to me that the encounter was a spot-on display of Southern Guilt. I friended the fiend simply because I had to, because Jesus would have, because my mother would be pleased, but not because I truly wanted to hear about their shit on my wall. I let myself be walked on just to make sure no feelings got hurt. Shocked, it made me wonder how many things in my life are controlled by the Guilt, and rethink the way I handle situations.
But how big does the guilt get? What happens over time, when more and more people let others cut them in line without saying anything? Is this why Southern organizations and institutions have gotten behind the North? Do people limit their opportunities in life because of the Great Guilt? I look at the people in my community who are incredibly intelligent, but who never leave their hometown and work low-level jobs to make sure their aging parents are secure. They could be somewhere they enjoy, living their lives to the fullest, yet they allow themselves to suffer, with drawbacks that far outweigh the benefits in the long run.
Don’t succumb to Southern Guilt, readers, and don’t stand idly by while others do so. If you want to advance yourself in life, don’t let feelings stand in your way. Take care of yourself first. And that’s the way we get down…
In A Hick Town.