When I was growing up, I always felt a connection with the south, primarily because I was born in Virginia. But being raised in the north, specifically the spacious part of New York State known as the western frontier, I always considered myself a New Yorker; obviously not in the sense that someone from NYC would be considered a New Yorker, but a Yankee nonetheless. (Which reminds me of a funny joke from “Reader’s Digest”, wherein we all find out that the only true Yankees are from Vermont.)
We would have carnivals up here and there would always be a plethora of rebel flags and pictures of Confederate soldiers distributed as prizes. I remember one poster I had that was black and fuzzy with an orange border. And remember the mirrors? They always had mirrors with Confederate flags. Why all these Confederate flags? I don’t know. In retrospect, it is probably because the Carney workers wintered in the south. Regardless, New York is not alone in idolizing the Confederate flag – I worked with someone who was from Michigan and he had a flag in the window of his car. Yeah, if anyone can really puzzle out this mystery of why so many Northerners have this thing for the rebel cause, please let me know. Anyway, as much as I grew up loving The Allman Brothers, The Outlaws, Lynyrd Skynyrd (who wasn’t upset about the plane crash, I ask you), .38 Special and all the other southern rockers, I was raised a Yankee. And we thought all rednecks lived in the south.
So I joined the Marine Corps and spent some time in the south for a few months. Hey, it was humid as all get out, but it wasn’t too bad (other than not having a car). I then moved to Hawaii. It was there I had an epiphany when I realized that my Uncle Norm was actually a redneck and that many of the people who lived in Hamlin were rednecks (I also found out that touching a caterpillar and then rubbing your eyes would not cause you to go blind). Considering the fact that my area is filled with farms, it isn’t surprising to find so many men with red necks, you know? Fast forward twenty plus years and I’m back where I grew up, but now I’m working in “the city.” The people with whom I work have lived here most of their lives and I feel like a foreigner now that I’m back, especially after nine years in Virginia. To make it worse, a lot of them have grown up and lived in suburbs of “the city” and I, of course, come from a small college town in an area that is primarily rural.
Life is funny, because I have to tell you, I spent over seven years in Japan and Europe (plus my time in Hawaii) and still, I’m the one from the country. And for the record, if my use of the term redneck offends you, please feel free to substitute country hick or any other phrase that would cause one to feel backwards and awkward. For many years I believed that rednecks lived in the south, and then I realized that the people from Hamlin, Kendall and Holley (small towns close to mine) were rednecks, and now, I have to tell you, after coming back and working with these “big city” folk – I feel like now I’m the redneck. It doesn’t help that this is reinforced on a daily basis.
The point of the story is that everyday now I have to wonder, have I always been a redneck?