Monday, April 29, 2013

We Dare Defend Our State of Residence

I live in Alabama.  I shouldn't have to defend this fact, but many people who don't live in Alabama (most who have never even been here) default to some joke about how awful it must be.

"Wow.  What for?"
"You live there voluntarily?"
"I'm sorry to hear that."

Do you think that's incredibly rude?  Me, too.   I wish I could tell you that most people don't respond this way, but more often that not, this is the direction the conversation takes.  I wasn't raised here, so I guess I have the option of playing along: "Yeah, it's awful.  I can't wait to live in civilization again!"  But I don't, because it is both unfair and untrue.


Now there are things I don't love about Alabama.  The top two are the summer heat and the college football culture (which is a post for another time), but these are not negative things; I just don't happen to prefer them.  It is not all bare feet and backwoods here, though even if it were, why does that deserve ridicule?

I did an unscientific poll of my Alabamian friends to find out what they loved about living here.  Football, of course, was high on the list (And, dear reader, if you think "Well, football is everywhere," you are right, but not like it is here.  Not like it is here...).  Many of them also love the long hot summers (again, not my cup of tea), and that many nearly-extinct pleasantries (think "Sir" and "Ma'am") are still alive and well.  Do you like going to the beach?  Alabamians do, too, which is convenient since the state has white beaches on its southern border and quick access to those on the Florida panhandle. 

While Alabama may not be known as a healthy state (especially when it comes to obesity rates), I can't throw a rock without hitting a CrossFit fanatic (not that I am throwing rocks at anybody, of course).  People make Alabama the butt of jokes about education, but the city of Huntsville has one of the highest rates of engineers per capita.  Between Redstone Arsenal and a little project called NASA, the joke "it doesn't take a rocket scientist" is much less pertinent when, you know, there are actual rocket scientists in the room.

Yes, Alabama has a dicey history (though what state doesn't?).  However, for every well-known "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door," there is a lesser-known but still important Wyatt vs. Stickney (considered one of the most celebrated cases in advocating for the rights of the mentally ill).

We also have roads here.  And grocery stores and parks and fire stations.  We have farmer's markets and a Shakespeare festival (Down [here] we've got Wednesday,/bread and alphabets). In short, it probably has a lot in common with where you live.  Yes, it has its idiosyncrasies, but every place has idiosyncrasies.  And more than politics or infrastructure or tourist attractions, what makes a place a good place to live is the people.  I'm not going to make an argument that people in any region are "better" than those in another, but that's the point:  The people make the place, and wonderful people are everywhere.  They exist where you live, and they are here in Alabama, too. 

And let's not forget Southern BBQ, a delicious bonding experience for Good Ol' Boys and Paleo enthusiasts alike.

(The title of this post is a play on Alabama's state motto:  "We dare defend our rights.")


  1. I love this! Since I live up north, I feel like there's an attitude like that toward the entire South. Unfortunately, it even exists here. People from "the Cities" will occasionally make comments about the "backwards" people living in the rural south or north of MN. (But they don't complain when they visit those towns during the summer because that's where their cabins are!) There's just a general attitude of "why would you want to live there?" and I think it's so sad and unfortunate some people can't see the good in regions that are different from where they live. Great post!

    1. Thank you so much, Ashley! I, too, saw this kind of thing in Illinois where I grew up. I have met people born and raised in rural Illinois who honestly have no idea why people want to live anywhere else.

      It seems to me that the stereotypes usually exist because there is some truth to them. But, stereotypes also falsely reduce something very complex to an easy-to-digest caricature that can be quickly accepted or dismissed. This area is not my dream place to live, but I can totally understand why other people love it here.

      Thanks for writing!