One can be excited at the silliest thing in the world. Although there are some people —too many— who are moved and shed tears when they speak of a region that has become independent from the modern world, one is excited at the adjective used to describe you in some interview or review: southern. The southern writer Maldonado, etcetera. Excitement for two things —I am actually happy because of the part of the world I was born in, where my family has been for centuries, and because one of my greatest literary models was also a southern writer, William Faulkner. Faulkner’s South, for sure, was exactly the opposite of the European South, which is xenophobic, classist, with pseudo feudal medieval roots. A South that fills us with fright because of its racism, from where some despicables are still taking what they fancy for their metaphors. Take for example someone as despicable as Otegi, who uses the heroic Rosa Parks for his dreadful claims. A south, the American South, which also choose to separate itself from the other side of the country (1861-1865), going to war against a North ruled by the principles of the enlightened liberalism, the open economy and the incipient human rights. And a south that, on top of that, accused the North of stealing by raising the price of production and torpedoing through its rights-based laws the life of the illustrious southern landowners who lived peacefully with their slaves and wealth. Men, as Jefferson himself, who nevertheless forgot too soon that they had won the war against the British King with the flag of progress and modernity as insignia. They saw the powdered wig and reason as compatible with having chained negroes in the cotton fields.
At the end of the splendid series Turn: Washington’s Spies, the main character —a tory settler who in is early youth became a spy of the Patriots during the Revolutionary War— says to us from his senescence that it was not until late that he realized that the life is grey, that black and whites did not exist, that there were atrocious things in the purest souls but also kindness and nobility in the cause they fought against to, that life is too complex. How, in the Red Coat’s surrender treaties, Washington had ordered the negroes to return to the cotton fields —they had taken advantage of the troubled waters and ran off, just in case. That south —you only need to watch the news— has not yet shaken off the fact of having been in the rogue mean side of History, and it was because of that atrocious fault that Faulkner could build his entire work, the most powerful and demanding in the 20th century.
In Europe, the South (or rather the South’s South) is perhaps the opposite to that US South; a land which is also large and full of crops, and yet an open, tolerant, caring and distanced of any feeling of superiority, isolation and xenophobia. The best thing South has is that it learnt very soon that the nationalism is synonymous to war, evil, hatred and destruction, even more in a globalized world.
I was thinking about all that last night, irritated as I have been for quite some time at the sad events we are having to live in Spain, because it seems clear that the role of the American southerners belongs now in our country to the East northerners, a rich and thriving territory since the centralist liberalizations by the Bourbons in the 18th century, that in its madness demands today fueros and regimes more similar to the medieval ones, so costly defended by the American confederates. Theirs is an affluent territory where the corruption is the same as, or more than, the rest of Spain, and where recent generations have been instructed to hate southerners, to whom they disguise —lest we forget— as lazy, cheeky, crooks Andalusians and Extremadurans, as second or third class citizens, just as the negroes were considered by the masters in Alabama and Georgia. There is no need to disprove this, but maybe we do need an epic account of how much good has the South in that respect, in its open sympathetic society, in knowing how to live and let live others and anyone who might want join us in the hazy path to the life together, always complex and full of uncertainty.
There is a long way between that nineteenth world and this one, but still there are similitudes. A scene from Gone with the Wind might be useful to illustrate metaphorically what is going to happen in Spain after October 1st, the noise and the fury. And it is the one of those yankees who used their moral superiority from the victory over xenophobia and slavery to trample the southerners and their properties and lands, getting rich themselves and the defeated South. The scene is the one where a northern avid businessman would not move aside the tilbury he is in with his horse at a passing couple of astonished landowners, almost running over them. No one is going to run over anyone today or exploit any failure, but what there will be after this Catalonian challenge is victors and losers, people who prevailed with the weapons of reason, democracy and those who suffer the history (Camus), and people who were in the selfish mean side of history, the one that some day will be narrated, still with embarrassment, by a Faulkner born in Tarragona.