VITAL SIGNSrnHISTORYrnPietas and thernSouthern Agrariansrnby Thomas LandessrnPietas—the ancient virtue of respectrnfor family, country, and God—is becomingrnincreasingly difficult to practicernin a nation driven half mad by guilt. Ourrnnation’s past, once uncritically revered, isrnnow uncritically condemned. Familiesrnare regarded as breeding pens of bigotry.rnAnd God is forever sticking His nose intornareas where He does not belong, showingrnup at public schools and football games.rnSoutherners face peculiar problems inrnthis regard, because the South is the ugly,rnill-behaved stepchild of America, alwaysrnin need of a rap in the mouth. New Englandersrncelebrate the Plymouth landingrnand are permitted to say that the Pilgrimsrncame here to escape religious persecutionrnin England, even though they reallyrncame to escape religious latitudinarianismrnin Holland. The Midwest is allowedrnto forget that it was once illegal for blacksrnto live in some parts of that region. Andrnno one reminds the far West of its legalrnpersecuhon of Chinese immigrants wellrninto the 20th century.rnBut when Southerners practice regionalrnpiety, they had better do it with therndoors locked and the shades drawn.rnThings have only become worse in recentrnyears:rnThe Confederate Air Force, an organizationrnof pilots who fly WorldrnWar II planes at air shows, hasrnbeen told that it will no longer berninvited to perform at some events ifrnthe membership does not vote tornchange its name.rnA dairy fired an employee becausernhe had a Confederate flag stickerrnpasted on his lunchbox.rnThe NCAA threatened to cancelrnall future tournaments in SouthrnCarolina if the Confederate flagrncontinued to fly over the capitol.rnA boy in Kansas was suspendedrnfrom school because he drew a picturernof a Confederate flag.rnThis latest outbreak of anti-Southernrnsentiment is puzzling because, accordingrnto the most recent Gallup poll on race relations,rnthe South was the only regionrnwhere a majority of blacks believed thatrnthey were treated equally. Yet the phenomenonrnis easier to understand whenrnyou remember that the South is the mostrnreactionary section of the country andrnthe least likely to embrace conformityrn(which is now called “diversity”). IfrnAmericans are to be prepared for globalism,rnthey must surrender accidental differencesrnand learn to live in the substantivernworld of trade. But Southerners stillrncherish their differences. That has tornchange.rnSouthern resistance to the forces ofrnchange may be less widespread than inrnthe past, but it is more intense. The firstrnattack came before the Civil War; secessionrnwas the counterattack. During Reconstructionrn—a period of repression thatrnhas been shamelessly prettified by recentrnhistorians — Southerners were unable tornlaunch a counterattack, any more thanrnLatvians, Lithuanians, and Estoniansrnwere able to launch a successful counterattackrnagainst their Soviet occupiers, althoughrnthey tried guerrilla warfare. Nextrncame the Era of Good Feeling, in whichrnBroadway plays featured Southern bellesrnwho fell in love with Union officers, givingrnbirth to a reunited nation.rnThen the old attacks began anew, andrnthe Agrarians provided the impetus forrnthe first serious postbellum counterattack.rnIn 1930, 12 Southerners contributedrnessays to a symposium called I’ll TakernMy Stand. Seven of them—John CrowernRansom, Donald Davidson, Allen Tate,rnRobert Penn Warren, John GouldrnFletcher, Andrew Lytic, and StarkrnYoung —were serious men of lettersrnwhose poetry, fiction, and criticismrnwould eventually achieve national recognition.rnThe rest were scholars of one sortrnor another: Frank L. Owsley was a brilliantrn(if controversial) historian; JohnrnDonald Wade, a biographer; H.C.rnNixon, a political scientist; Lyle Lanier, arnpsychologist; Henry Blue Kline, a newspaperman.rnThe assaults on the South had recommencedrnfollowing the Scopes trial, andrnthe contributors, most of whom had connectionsrnwith Vanderbilt University, feltrncompelled to defend their people againstrncharges of ignorance and bigotry. Theirsrnwas a reawakened piety toward a worldrnthey had previously taken for granted.rnLouis D. Rubin c|uotes Davidson as sayingrnof their shared vision: “Suddenly wernrealized to the full what we had longrnbeen dimly feeling, that the Lost Causernmight not be wholly lost after all. In itsrnvery backwardness the South had clungrnto some secret which embodied, itrnseemed, the elements out of which itsrnown reconstruction—and possibly evenrnthe reconstruction of America —mightrnbe achieved.”rnThe volume was published in 1930rnand has never been out of print. Its publicationrnwas a defining moment forrnSouthern self-consciousness, not sornmuch because of what the contributorsrnsaid, but because they had the wit andrncourage to say it. From that time forward,rnthe South has always had its remnantrnof academic defenders—intellectualsrnheirs of the Agrarians who may havernrejected some of the specific argumentsrnin I’ll Take My Stand, but who share thernsame pietas for their region.rnFrom the beginning, the volume wasrnridiculed, mostly out of either a misapprehensionrnor a misrepresentation ofrnwhat the contributors wrote. In order tornunderstand what they had to say aboutrnthe South, it is necessary to understandrnwhat they did not say. Here are a few ofrnthe dominant errors that critics make inrndiscussing 17/ Take My Stand.rn*The volume is a nostalgic hymn to thernpast, coupled with a wistful hope of restoringrnthe old plantation with its cavaliers, itsrnhoop-skirted ladies, and its happy-go-luckyrnslaves. In fact, the book is nothing of thernsort; no intelligent reader could possiblyrncome to such a conclusion. The essayistsrnfocused primarily on the South of 1930,rnand what was worth preserving in therncompromised world they knew. StarkrnYoung’s contribution is the only one thatrntakes a long look at the Old South, andrnhe begins by saying, “If anything is clear,rnit is that we can never go back, and nei-rnDECEMBER 2000/43rnrnrn