30 Sep 2011

Better in the South

New Jersey native Lee Habeeb moved to Mississippi. He explains to the unfortunates he left behind in the liberal-misgoverned, decaying rust bucket Northeast why he made the right move.

“Have you lost your mind?” is the refrain I heard over and over from friends up north when I told them the news. It was as if I’d just told them I was moving to Madagascar.

I then explained the move. I started with some humor. I explained that we have electricity in Mississippi. And indoor plumbing. We even have dentists. I told them we have the internet in Mississippi. And cable TV. I told them I travel a lot, and Memphis airport has planes, too.

I then told them about the quality of life in Oxford, and how far a dollar stretches. And the ease of doing business. When I show them pictures of my house, and get around to my property taxes, things get positively somber. On a home valued at $400,000, my tax tab is $2,000. My parents in New Jersey pay $12,000. And for a whole lot less house. On no land. When I remind friends about the pension liabilities they’ll be inheriting from the state unions, things get downright gloomy.

I then explain that my work is mostly done by the phone or internet. So where I live has little bearing on how much I earn. But it has a whole lot to do with how much I keep.

Having disposed of the economic arguments, I knew that one big question lurked: “Okay, Lee, but what’s it like living with a bunch of slow-talking, gun-toting, Bible-thumping racists?”

My friends didn’t use those exact words, but I knew it’s what they were thinking. I knew because I thought the same thing about the South before I moved here. Most of what we Yankees know about the South comes from TV and movies. Think Hee-Haw meets Mississippi Burning meets The Help and you get the picture.

But my own prejudices bore little resemblance to the reality I encountered when I moved south. I fell in love with the place. With the pace of life, for openers. Things got done, and done well, but it always seemed as if people had time for one another.

Though I’d never owned a firearm, I learned that the locals took personal protection into their own hands, knowing that a call to a county sheriff wasn’t a solid defense strategy. I also learned how much fun it was to shoot stuff, from targets to tin cans to turkeys.

The Bible thumpers proved to be more caricature than anything. The people I met didn’t impose their religion on me. They tried to live by the standards of their faith. Sometimes they did; sometimes they didn’t. But the pervasive pursuit of those standards made the South a better place to live. …

[I]t is with a sense of puzzlement that this Jersey boy turned Mississippian watches the decision making of President Obama. Millions of Americans may have voted for him in 2008, but millions have been voting with their feet, and he doesn’t seem the least bit interested in understanding why.

Last December, gun manufacturer Winchester moved one of its plants — and 1,000 jobs — from East Alton, Ill., to my small town of Oxford. Joseph Rupp, who runs the company, explained: “While I am disappointed that employees represented by the International Association of Machinists chose to reject a proposal that would have allowed us to remain competitive in East Alton, we look forward to expanding our existing operations in Mississippi.”

For a town of Oxford’s size — about 12,000 people — this was cause for celebration. For East Alton, which has 7,000 residents, it was a catastrophe.

And I wondered as I read that story, “Does anyone on President Obama’s staff read the business section of the paper?” He should be studying the Winchester story, and why those jobs fled his home state of Illinois. He should be talking to Richard Fisher, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Fisher’s recent report revealed that since June 2009, Texas alone was responsible for 37 percent of all net new American jobs.

He should ask Americans like me who’ve moved South why we did it. And he should be especially interested in understanding why African Americans are fleeing his home city of Chicago for the South, too.

If he dared to ask, he’d learn that we are all fleeing liberalism and chasing economic freedom, just as our immigrant parents and grandparents did.

But he won’t bother asking. Our ideological academic-in-chief is content to expand the size and scope of the federal government and ignore the successes of our economic laboratories known as the states. He is pursuing 1960s-style policies that got us Detroit, while ignoring those that got us 21st-century Dallas.

In the downtown square of Oxford sits a bronze statue of our most famous storyteller, William Faulkner. “The past is never dead,” he once famously wrote. “In fact, it’s not even past.”

That line has great depth, but in an important sense it’s not quite right.

It turns out that white Yankee migrants like me, African American migrants from Chicago, and businessmen owners in Illinois and around the world, see something in the South that novelists, journalists, academics, and our current president cannot.

The future.

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One Feedback on "Better in the South"

Johnny Reb

Yawn.
The south lost the war.
Get over it.



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