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Walker Percy Says


Thinking about the outrage against Gods and Generals, and how the current thinking seems to require Southern whites to repudiate their ancestors and feel nothing but shame over their culture (N.B., slavery and Jim Crow were despicable, and shameful — but that’s not all there was to the South) reminded me of something Walker Percy wrote in 1957. He was addressing Northern liberals chastising the South over segregation. Percy agreed with them that segregation was evil, and had to end. But he said the absolutely wrong way to win followers among Southern moderates was to put them into the position of abjuring any affection, admiration or loyalty to their homeland and its culture. He wrote:

There is a Southern heritage, and it has nothing to do with the colonel in the whiskey ad. It has to do with the conservative tradition of a predominantly agrarian society, a tradition which at its best [Emphasis mine -- R.D.] enshrined the human aspects of living for rich and poor, black and white. It gave first place to a stable family life, sensitivity and good manners between men, chivalry toward women, an honor code, and individual integrity. If one wishes to sneer at such values, let him; but I can’t help wondering if the sneer does not conceal a contempt for all traditions.


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