In the north of the United States, more often than not, we deal with people without caring for their traditions and solve problems along with them. In the south, I’ve come to learn that the former is most often not the case, at least this is what I’ve seen. Both in Mississippi and Tennessee, I had to work with a local or/and influential person in the community in order to solve simple practical problems because I was not a local or shall I say, an American but not a Mississippian.” What I’m saying is that tradition reigns around here, ladies and gents. It’s just how the system operates.
Is it a bad thing? It’s not necessarily a bad thing, no. It’s cultural. It can, however, make some people’s lives… mine for example… much more complicated simply because I’m not a member of General Robert Lee’s family tree or another southern influencer from Alabama or good ole Georgia. I’m used to it now but the fact that my efforts alone sometimes aren’t enough to solve an urgent problem or get things done quickly irritates me a bit. Why, you may ask. This is why. Let me explain.
- When I need to call my “Southern mommy or daddy” to help me to solve some of my problems, I’m not as efficient or productive. I’m 45 not 15. In Mississippi, the former happened quite a lot. Thank Goodness that I had a supporting angel on my side to help me to navigate the southern system. Her name was Dr. Anthony, a kind and very nice lady in which I truly respect and appreciate. What she told me, I heard and did. I still remember the number of times that she helped me to fix my office phone, helped me with printing documents/computer problems, assisted me with political things, you name it. Of course I love Dr. Anthony… But Dr. Anthony is also a very busy person. I respected her time then and would respect her time now. Should I really have to stop one’s work in order to get my things done? I don’t think so.
- I believe in independent thinking. I mean… thinking for yourself and being able to share what you know and don’t know should be an accepted practice anywhere we go, regardless of the accepted cultural norms in the region, in my opinion. I know that in practice, the former isn’t realistic but as a romantic… I dream of a world where everyone can be the owners of their own destiny through Christ Jesus our Lord freely. I’ve seen that the former is easier to accomplish only if you are from the south around here.
- Even though I value hierarchy in my life, I’m not a big fan of controlling behavior or systems that operate under a controlled set of variables where the user is rarely involved in the design of their own systems of problem solving. As an expert in instructional systems, I look at ‘systems’ perhaps from a different perspective, more from a critical point of view than not. In New York, I was able to participate in events and influence a system for the better by literally getting involved in the community and building local trust. In the south, these same methods don’t apply as much as I thought they would be, regardless of attempt and tenure. I’ve waited almost three years to contribute to a number of systems who aren’t really interested in hearing from me, despite my sincere interest in them. I might need to change my last name to Sanders and perhaps become a colonel in order to not be controlled by others or be given a chance especially in small towns in central Tennessee.
I knew that the north and the south were different. What I didn’t predict was the amount of tradition that exists in the southern states. The former is then transferred to how business operate and how people communicate in their jobs, churches and at home. Holy cow! What a huge wake up call!
At least I know where I stand and how things operate around me now. Thank Goodness that my wife is a southerner. At least, they listen to her a little more than they listen to me. I’ve learn to leverage that overtime. Reality.