Being in the South (and granted it’s not even the deep South) has given me a chance to see a new side of America. This is the side of America that cares about and embraces its heritage, that finds meaning in what they’ve come from, and allow their history to help define them.
I tasted this a little bit in Italy. But I think it’s something that’s very absent in New England.
Here’s what I mean:
Today a group of us visited a rural North Carolina town named Tillery. Tillery is a community that is still being impacted by the segregation that divided America for centuries. They don’t approach this reality with bitterness, though. They want to be understood. They want their voices to be heard, and in order to do that, they go back to their history and examine why they are who they are. And they aren’t afraid to tell people about it, whether it’s their religious background, their sharecropping history, or whatever.
In New England, no one knows who they are. And if they do, they’re often too afraid to talk about it because they don’t want to offend anyone. There is such a hodge podge of people that no one has their own identity, much less a communal identity. That’s why it’s so refreshing to find a community that has a developed identity.
Similar, in some ways, to Italy. In many other ways different, but in some, very similar.
Here, the past matters.