Nostalgia can be an interesting thing. In one respect, it enables you to look back fondly on your past and the lessons therein. In another, it can make you wonder if things were ever really the way you remember them. In a rapidly changing world, nostalgia can both be a source of inspiration and a trap that leads to infinite retrospection and inaction.
The sense of community that once permeated the air in your hometown is no longer there. The football and baseball fields that used to be bustling on weekend nights are now empty in comparison. The drive through convenience store that was once packed is now closed, replaced by the ethnic food flavor of the month. You think back to a time in the past when five pickups full of people would come out to help find their neighbor’s cows that got out overnight or when then entire town would turn out for festivals and you knew most of the people there.
This sense no longer exists where you live and you wonder if they ever truly did. True, the roads are all very busy, but it’s different somehow. The town festivals are more packed than they used to be, but now it costs $10 to park and another $20 to get in. You don’t recognize anyone there and English isn’t always being spoken.
The farmland and orange groves you remember driving through as a child are rapidly being replaced by housing developments and warehouses. Your small Southern town is now a city with a population of over 100,000 and fewer and fewer people that you talk to were born there. Sure, you lucked out and got the Midwesterners rather than the refugees from New York or Massachusetts fleeing their states’ impending collapse, but your formerly small Southern town is starting to lose its Southern character. Towns that used to celebrate their Confederate history are voting to remove their monuments. Even ones where the popular will is in favor of keeping them. Again, you think back to a time when this would have been unthinkable and wonder if you imagined all of it. Surely your town wasn’t always this divided and atomized. Why is everyone afraid to talk about this?
You used to take comfort in the fact that the outsiders tended to flock to the big cities and the rest of the state was still a part of the South. Over time, you start to realize that this is no longer the case. Not just in your formerly small Southern town, but also in the increasingly growing, formerly rural, areas all around the state. You realize that you have driven by the landmark you hold fond memories of visiting as a child five times and didn’t recognize it because the urban sprawl has swallowed it up. There are parts of your state where English isn’t spoken at all anymore. What’s worse, this is becoming normal. No one bats an eye. People don’t seem to notice that their culture is slipping away from them.
This is the danger of the “autopilot mode” that nostalgia can lead to. People go on thinking that things are the way they always were, even if it is an over-idealized version of the way things were that never really existed. They bury their heads and don’t notice that the culture that used to hold their community together no longer exists in their formerly small Southern town. It still exists in your state, but it is slowly disappearing in those areas as well. It leaves you with the question of what to do about it.
Do you continue to go with the flow and become more atomized over time or do you attempt to rediscover that culture that is within you that used to hold your community together?
It’s a question that every Southerner living in what is rapidly becoming a formerly Southern state must eventually ask themselves.
Oh, I'm a good old Rebel, now that's just what I am; For this "Fair Land of Freedom" I do not give a damn! I'm glad I fit against it, I only wish we'd won, And I don't want no pardon for anything I done.