Thursday, April 28, 2011

A genesis

"We Southerns are a people fighting again for our country, defending the last remaining stand of real forest. Although we love to frolic, the time has come to fight. We must fight.

In new rebellion we stand together, black and white, urbanite and farmer, workers all, in keeping Dixie. We a patient people who for generations have not been ousted from the land, and we are willing to fight for the birthright of our children's children and their children's children, to be of a place, in all ways, for all time. What is left is not enough. When we say the South will rise again we can mean that we will allow the cutover forests to return to their former grandeur and pine plantations to grow wild." - Janisse Ray, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

I remember the first time I read this passage, in one of JFK's terminal waiting for a flight in the early morning. It's often a humbling experience to have someone else so succinctly put your thoughts into words, and this was no excuse. I sat dumbfounded, and had to suffer through a two day visit whilst trying to wrap my head around what I should be doing as an artist. Re-reading it still hurts my heart.

I think this is where I diverge from some of my contemporaries. For me, this is not a fight about what is "right" or "what we should do", it is a fight for the very essence of my existence. My family tree is Southern through and through; from shrimpers and fishermen around Charleston to hardscrabble Cohee farmers and ne'er-do-wells from Florida. Good and bad, it's all there, and I claim it all. To try to hide part of it would be a disservice to all those who came before me and to those who will come after me. This duality, alas, is a discussion for another day.

For me, this fight is not an academic fight. It's preservation of my land. When I say my land, it's not in some socialistic (or Socialistic) sense of "This land is our land, this land is your land". This is literally my family's land, which, some day, may be my land. There's countless folks in the same boat that I'm in. The work I do is also for them.

I fully intend to leave this earth fishing the same ponds and lakes, watching deer and turkey wander through the same woods, and watching horses, cows and goats graze the same lands as my great-granddaddy did some 100 years ago.

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