Years ago, when I was a sophomore in high school, my Dad performed his last feat of legerdermain for me when our family was moved to California for a three year tour of duty at Camp Pen. I say it was for me because I know he wanted to give me a chance to finish my high school years all at one school. And I know it was for me because he hated California, not so much for what it was, but for what it wasn't. It wasn't the South. He had grown up on a farm in Arkansas and we had just spent a three consecutive tours in Memphis close enough to drive down and drop me off every summer to work my Uncle's farm.
So imagine my surprise when I turned on the radio and heard the KBIG announcer welcome his listeners and me to the Southland. Even though we had driven across country and back by both the southern route and the northern route numerous times, I guess you could call this my first real geography lesson. I thought at first that through some miracle I had picked my favorites blues station up from the Treadway on Beale St. But then as the light dawned I realized I would have to let it go - the South, southern fried accents, the Irma Brown blues, the 100% humidity, and all the rest. Southern California was my new Southland. Well, at least, I still had the music.
I started thinking about this last night as I was listening to country singer Toby Keith being interviewed on some "balanced news" talk show. The host kept referring to the time he'd recently spent on the streets in the Heartland and how the people there really supported Keith's point of view. Frankly, as I listened it began to piss me off. It seems to me by claiming this title for the middle of the country the host, and the political crowd that he's a part of, have laid claim to an analogy that represents exactly what is wrong with the way this country has been divided up. By claiming that they are the "heartland" the middle of the country seems to think it gets extra credit in the debates about what our country is doing and how it should go about it. After all, they are the heart, aren't they? And everyone knows that if it comes from the heart it's sincere, and honest , and done for all the right reasons, don't they?