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Southern Cultures 7.2 (2001) 1-2

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Letters to the Editors

"The First National Obnoxious People Survey"


From time to time our readers send us pleasant reminders that there's no reason for this publication to take itself at all seriously. For instance, we thought that the forum we've been offering in our "Letters to the Editors" might lend itself to thoughtful discussions of essays we've printed. And sometimes it does. But we also continue to receive a number of letters that seem to have lighter motives and include extra little tidbits of information. Like recipes. While we enjoy receiving recipes (and our cooking has improved), they really don't have much to do with anything Southern Cultures has published in the last, well, three years or so.

We've also received a wealth of other intriguing material. One anonymous reader sent us "The First National Obnoxious People Survey," which offers seventy-five nominations for media celebrities that this reader believes ought to be sequestered on that island they used for the first Survivor television show. We were torn about whom to nominate, and the final selection came down to a debate between Sam Donaldson and Elliot Gould. (In the end, we banished Gould, despite his admirable performance in MASH.)

We also do continue to receive letters from folks whose insights indicate a familiarity with a recent copy or two. We print two of these letters below. The first takes issue with Larry J. Griffin's essay "Why America Still Needs the South" [in the in Fall 2000 Southern Cultures], in particular Griffin's mention that African Americans are deserving of financial reparations for slavery. We close with Randolph Waller's take on Janis Joplin after reading Gavin James Campbell's "Up Beat Down South" in the same issue. Both of these readers have very strong opinions, but we're not suggesting that they warrant sending off to visit Elliot Gould. [End Page 1]

"In 'Why America Still Needs the South,' Larry Griffin touched on the fact that blacks in America are deserving of reparations from the taxpaying American public for wrongs done to their ancestors in the early history of this country. I have thought about this problem for quite a while. It is my duty to demand that the federal government do two things. One, they must issue an apology to all white southerners whose people and property were destroyed by ruthless, invading federal soldiers in the years 1861-1865. Two, reparations must be made to all descendants of non-slaveholding southern veterans of the War Between the States, who saw their homes burned, their farms and businesses ruined, their families destroyed, their states and region decimated--all because the northern mill owners could not bear that the southern cotton trade had shifted to English buyers. And once the federal government pays up, I have another demand: that the British government apologize to my ancestors, the people of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, who have borne the brunt of English brutality for centuries.

"I can't see that my demands are any less reasonable than the demands of the descendants of slaves. They want apologies and money because of what happened to their dead ancestors. Fine. So do I."

Alma M. Womack
Jonesville, Louisiana

"'A Janis Joplin Retrospective' is as much an artifact as Joplin or her music. People often don't want to get the overall message of her life and art, even thirty-plus years later in halls of academe and sublimely typeset periodicals. Joplin's life was a disaster for herself, her family, and the world. Anybody reading this essay a hundred years ago would see little recognizably human in her story. She despised her petit bourgeois origins, but her response, a virtual race change operation, left her more miserable and lost than anything. Her act was one hundred percent contrived, though it remains (with that of the equally synthetic Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, et al.) central to the still-prevalent rock lifestyle and mindset. Thousands are dead, deaf, or maimed by the unnatural causes endemic to rock life...


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