Southern Aristocracy: The Name Game

Vintage, Southern ribbon cutting

Since giving the blog a facelift earlier in the week, I’ve been contemplating why I christened it Southern Aristocracy. The answer came swiftly and clearly to me: it’s the first title that popped in my head almost 2.5 years ago. But then I realized–as I do most every time I write an entry–that the blog has verged so far from what I had in mind when I created it. So I wanted to do a grand re-opening–a ribbon-cutting, if you will–to refocus the blog on its original, intended purpose. (Granted, I’ll always included random stories and glorified book reports that are fresh on my mind, but I wanted to get back to the roots of why I created the blog in the first place.) Ironically, below is the first image that pops up in Google when one types in “Southern Aristocracy.” As one or two of you recognize, this is the first photo I used for my banner illustration when the blog began in late 2009. (I actually kept this photo as the banner for almost two years.)

Belle Meade Plantation, Nashville, TN

Still, my internal question about the title was not answered. I delved into my subconscious–past all the 1985 references which populate the forefront of my mind most of the time–and realized the deeper meaning of the insta-title which I’d selected 60+ blog entries ago: the aspirational Southern Aristocracy connotes not only regalness and Southern pride, but a fall from grace. After all, Southern aristocracy as we know it in 2012 died during the aftermath of the Civil War. I’d dare say most people–Southern or not–picture something like this when they hear those two words:

Yes, I went with the stereotypical, Gone With the Wind view of Southern aristocracy which has been perpetuated in books, movies, and television for years. I readily admit that GWTW is my favourite book, and I always follow that admission up with the fact that it’s the only work of fiction to make me cry. So perhaps that had some bearing on my selection of the blog title, but it goes further back to the fall from grace that I mentioned earlier. After all, there’s no true Southern aristocracy left, unless you count politicians, the country club set, the junior leagues, and any other made-up sets of “high cotton” people who think they’re better than the rest of the small towns they reign over. And seeing as how I didn’t grow up in the midst of any of those circumstances or sets, I choose to believe that my version of Southern aristocracy revolves around the fall from grace. Hence the previous banner photo at the top of the blog was of a derelict, falling down plantation house facade on a backlot of Hollywood, while the current banner photo is an original snapshot I took during a visit to the former Georgia State Sanitarium in Milledgeville a couple of years ago. Southern, stately demise is nothing new: William Faulkner, Tennesee Williams, Alice Walker, Carson McCullers, Eudora Welty, and Milledgeville’s own Flannery O’Connor all mastered the melancholy art of chronicling it long before I was conceived. Southern gothic is a force to be reckoned with, as its imagery is one that can stick with its readers forever.

So I’ll end here by recounting a few of my own falls from grace, as I think they are the main reason I picked this blog title. Dropping out of college four times before I finished, having my driver’s license revoked, walking out of numerous jobs, chronic battles with depression, dealing with alcoholism, etc. All these graceless falls derailed me, but they also shaped me into the gracious, independent gentleman I am today. And that man is someone I’m proud to be, for better or for worse. I’m also the only one to carry on the family name, which used to bother me profusely once I was old enough to recognize the emotional burden it entailed. But I realized a few years ago that I don’t want children of my own, and no one can change my mind about that but me, myself, and I. In the end, I’m creating my own Southern aristocracy, just as I created this blog. My legacy won’t be a plantation house left to weather and decay; rather, what I accomplished and who I was kind to while I was here on this earth will be what I’m remembered for. And that’s fine with me, just fine.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day,

brt

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