eously about those barbaric rednecks. It was not easy to be anwhite Southerner in those days; the role of a scapegoat isna painful one.nHe L ow long ago all that seems now. In a mere decade ornso the turmoil has subsided, the worst elements of an oldernSouth have been rejected or substantially mitigated, the bestnaspects preserved. And, most important, Southerners are asnnever before fully American. Drawing upon the strengthsnthat have given them what the Virginia novelist Ellen Glasgowncalled a “vein of iron,” Southerners can be of criticalnimportance in the struggle to sustain and revitalize those aspectsnof American society that stand between us and nationalnruin. It would be deeply satisfying to many Southerners ifnthe nation’s former scapegoat could claim to be a uniquelynvirtuous segment of the population which now deigns to aidnits benighted brethren outside the South. Ironically, though.nSouthern strengths are by and large American ones; but whilenthe South has nurtured these qualities, much of the rest ofnthe country has either jettisoned the old ways or at leastnstood by as the nihilists (disguised as liberators and enlighteners)nhave wreaked their damage. In part, then, the Southnoffers America an image of America’s former self, a self thatncan still be restored, though the barbarians are within thengates.nSoutherners probably retain the greatest devotion to religionnof any people within the United States. One need notnagree to the proposition that Southerners will be disproportionatelynrepresented in heaven to see this; quite simply,nthough. Southerners remain more attached to church-going,nBible-reading and hymn-singing than other Americans. Theynknow what sin is, and they are so old-fashioned as to use thatnvery word. Sermons extolling Third World butchers rarelyncome from Southern pulpits; the region’s preachers stillnbelieve that the greatest imperative is to snatch sinners fromnthe flames of hellfire. And if Southerners are not—to usenFlannery O’Connor’s words—uniformly “Christ-centered,”nthey are, at the very least, “Christ-haunted,” and that countsnfor something in an age “haunted” only by neuroses, complexesnand maladjustments.nThe need to preserve and strengthen the family has bencome a critical concern in some circles in America. Well,nif one wishes to see a strong sense of family, then he shouldnlook to Dixie. Anyone who has read even a bad Southernnnovel—much less one by, say, Faulkner or Eudora Welty—nknows that the sorrows and joys of kinship rufi like a leitmotifnthrough Southern fiction. Art imitates life in thisncase, for where else in America do second cousins court?nWhere else do three or more generations live together, oftennin the same house? Where else but in the South do the quotidiannrealities of existence focus so clearly on that intricatenquilt work of blood kinship? To clinch the case: Has anyonen•THE SOUTHERN ETHOS AND THE REST OF US»never heard of a full-blooded family drama being played outnin New Jersey?nFor a people whose ancestors fought a fratricidal war tonwithdraw from the Union, Southerners have ranked, oddlynenough, among the most unabashedly patriotic of Americansnthroughout the 20th century. Since the Spanish War of 1898nthey have readily backed up their patriotism with a willingnessnto fight America’s wars. Winston Churchill once callednLee’s Army of Northern Virginia the finest body of troopsnthe English-speaking peoples have ever produced. The dash,nthe fortitude, the courage that make this statement true havencontributed immensely to America’s military successes. Andisproportionate number of Southerners have served as- officersnin the Marine Corps and the U.S. Army, and the grizzlednold top sergeant from the South has become a cliche.nWhen Congress has completed the destruction of militarynmorale through affirmative action and vocational-educationnprograms, perhaps someone will have the sense to turn tonthe Southern military tradition to restore the soldier’s selfrespect.nIn the meantime, though, men whose forbears rodenwith Lee and Jackson and Forrest will show scant enthusiasmnfor an army in which one’s foxhole-mate convulsively clutchesna hair dryer.no. ‘ne could continue at length to tot up those qualitiesnof the Southern people and of their society that can contributento the greater good of the country at large. ThenSouth, for example, has progressed further than the rest ofnthe country along that tortuous path that leads toward amitynand mutual respect between whites and blacks. The Southerner’sndevotion to place, to that little patch of ground hencalls home, serves as an antidote to the rootlessness fromnwhich so many Americans suffer. And who could arguenagainst the contention that Southern manners, which helpnto alleviate friction in an impersonal society and to planenoff the rough edges of urban incivility, might best be emulatednby others?nBut Southerners do not want everyone to be like them,nany more than they wish to be like everyone else; the Southnhas no desire to Southernize America, but its devotion tonreligion, family and country can certainly inspire othernAmericans. Southerners will eagerly unite with their fellownAmericans who venerate these same values, and perhapsnSoutherners, whose ancestors helped to create this nation,ncan now supply leadership in the equally crucial movement tonsave it. A people crushed by defeat one hundred years agonmay yet claim victory for the values they cherish. But thatnvictory—should it come—will not be theirs alone: it willnbelong to all Americans.n—James J. Thompson, Jr.nMr. Thompson is associate editor 0/Chronicles of Culture.nnnanMardi/AprilldSSn