Editor's note: Kit-Bacon Gressitt's commentary appears on her blog Excuse Me, I'm Writing and is republished by SDGLN, The Ocean Beach Rag and The Progressive Post. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize while working for the North County Times.Southern colloquialisms are so darn charming — with those well-honed nasty edges! Growing up, my family had particular fun with them, as we were wont to play with most words, great fodder that they were for what we considered erudite scoffery (a perfectly good word, if only the Oxford English Dictionary would admit it!).
We could take a nattily nasty little idiom — That fellow’s been hit with the ugly stick — and turn it into a folksy yet classist slur — Far worse, my dear, he’s been hit with the uncouth stick.
Of course, we failed to acknowledge that criticizing someone’s social station was as lacking in good manners, refinement and grace as the poor schmuck at the unhappy end of the stick.
However, after years of navel contemplative therapy, fond re-reading of Emily Post, and pragmatic acceptance of Miss Manners’ heartfelt but faulty contemporization of traditional social graces, I had rid myself of such unbecoming behavior. I deemed my time better spent on serious injustices than on sniping at folk who wouldn’t waste their time at the Maryland Hunt Cup [see the video below}, something I now avoid myself, given the inclination of the fans to wear jeans — jeans! — to the horse race on My Lady’s Manor. (My Lady would be horrified!)
Oh, dear. Having written that last bit, I realize that perhaps I’ve more work to do on my classist self.
Frankly, though, something much more disturbing has sent me sidling back to my Southern hierarchical roots, something that suggests that maybe some people are, well, some people are sort of— kind of— rather like— oh— better than others.
I know, I know, it’s an unseemly thought, but first let’s be clear on terms: I do not mean “better” in the biblical sense, as in the better folks will transcend life’s earthly bonds to soar into their heavenly and glorious reward, while those who are betterness impaired will descend into the stinking ignoble fires of hell’s perpetual torment.
Aw, jeez, stop right there. I mean, take a gander at what I just wrote. I don’t believe in all that Southern Baptistism, but it is acutely obvious that I’d like to propel some folks downward with a swift kick hindward. Ignoble fires, perpetual torment? Jumping Jehoshaphat!
So, what has given me the vapors? Is it the devolution of my social conscience? What’s got my dander up into a blizzard of judgment?
Welp, I devoted my spring break to a media content analysis — counting the incidence of indecent words and references to rape, racism, homophobia, violence and picking on sick kids — and, although the exercise appealed to my left cerebral hemisphere, it didn’t do much for my psyche. The experience elicited some rather powerful reactions just hankering to be heard.
In fact, if I were not a lady I’d use some very strong language, and, actually, I am not and, because I’m not, I’ll be clear and direct: People who spew hate in rancid tabloids, in deceitfully bigoted organizations, in unexpurgated online comments, in the prurient pages of glossy misogyny, in massively heinous hatemails — all you all suck.
And what I learned during spring break— dare I put the thought to words?
Hmmm, indeed I dare: When it comes right down to it, chillun, people who choose to hate, people who hate anonymously, people who lie about hating, people who humorize hate to render it invisible, these people who hate are just not as good as the rest of us.
There. I wrote it. I own it. And I gladly acknowledge that particular prejudice. Because there are folks out there who have been hit with the hate stick — their poor mamas must be spinning in their graves! — and, although our Constitution might protect their vile vomitus, they deserve to be pilloried for it.
Perhaps this conclusion is a remnant of my Southern Baptist heritage; I am ever recovering. But you know what? I’m OK with that. I’ll just set a spell and think on it while I calm my fevered brow with a cool mint julep.