An American Southerner Addresses Brexit

Offense might break out like a pox on both sides of the Atlantic (and both sides of the channel) if this note opened with a certain stark truth. Let’s hold that statement a moment while we take a breath. Southerners in the United States took a breath, several of them, during the first half of the nineteenth century but they never held it long enough. Soon, they coughed and sputtered in defense of acknowledged iniquities that they euphemistically dubbed “individualism” and “rights.” And, pressing their point, shed their brains and entitlement of humanity. Which brings us to the stark truth.

Not to worry though: I’m not about to compare anything to slavery or anyone to a Confederate. But keep in mind that the Confederacy is known in American Southern history as the “lost cause.” Or was that slavery? Or both? Or the lies Southerners told themselves and still tell themselves and anyone who will listen? Even if it was all of those things, the hard truth remains — for Americans — that Southerners continued to see themselves apart from the rest of the nation even after the Civil War and even after “Reconstruction” and even after World War I and even after World War II and even after even after.

Here is the stark truth for Brits: Clearly the issue is one of separation but it is a larger separation than you may have imagined. To separate yourselves from Europe, you also separate yourselves from your own humanity. Seeing yourselves apart from Europe, however valid anyone’s or any nation’s individuality may be, separates you from the company of and communion with those with whom you belong, both in commerce and in life.

I’m sure you hear too much advice from Americans, but please heed this from a Yank (a term I use fitfully with reservation). I implore you not to make the mistake of Brexit. Why do I care? I am a Southerner. I see and I feel.

Note: My ancestors emigrated to America from Northamptonshire in the eighteenth century and settled in the South, there becoming yeoman farmers, thankfully, not slaveholders. But we’re all in this together.

in the public domain by Michael Driver

Follow on Twitter: @mdMichaelDriver