Uncommon Decency and the Southern Man

When you create, you expect critics. And in the wide open world of the internet, with its promise of faceless anonymity, the critics are harsher than ever. We knew that full well before starting this site.

Somehow, for the first eight months of publishing this site, we managed to avoid the trolls and haters. Scoffers would claim it’s because our site doesn’t cover topics of enough significance to draw readers’ ire … or that it’s because we don’t have very many readers at all. As for the latter, we have the numbers to prove otherwise. We’re not setting the world on fire, but we do have a steady stream of readers. The former point doesn’t hold true, either. We’ve talked frankly about race, the uglier strains of Southern history and that most controversial of topics: football.

Maybe we were just blessed. I emphasize were.

Last week, when we posted a story about my family’s failed dog experiment over the holidays, we received a couple of comments on our Facebook page that were so offensive and so absurdly profane that is made up for the lack of negativity the first eight months.

I won’t repeat what was written, because, frankly, Real Southern Men don’t utter or type such things in a public forum. Suffice to say the first comment had something to with slaves and where we could put them. The second elaborated with additional suggestions. No explanation of what tweaked the commenters’ sensitive constitutions. No counterpoint to anything I had written. Not even an obligatory “You’re an idiot.” The only thing worse than a tasteless comment is one so absurdly unjustified that it reveals the commenter not only as incapable of rational thought but an angry racist as well. I suppose the two are one and the same.

I deleted their comments and banned them from the Facebook page. Our readers, the majority of whom are intelligent, decent people, deserve better than to have to read that.

I also chose not to act on their suggestions. Call me a prude.

To make matters more baffling, the commenters were brazen about their posts. These weren’t comments on the site itself where one can hide their identity. They were on Facebook, where you presumably post under your real identity, and all your friends can see your activity. Remember how we’ve all been saying for years that it was the anonymity of the internet that encouraged such hostility? (Heck I just said it a few paragraphs earlier.) Apparently, the trolls have taken that to heart and begun to spread their hatred unabashedly. They’ve exposed themselves.

Coincidentally, I was dealing with this at the same time news was breaking about another case of brazen self-exposure: the infamous “tea bagging” video shot on Bourbon Street following the national championship game. In it, a fan of my alma mater literally exposes himself, sexually assaulting an unconscious LSU fan in a Krystal. There are so many things wrong with that story that I don’t even know where to start.

How about this: what ever happened to common decency?

We started this site to celebrate those traits that make Southern men unique … and worth celebrating. We, the writers, and you, our readers, have universally agreed that being a gentleman is the #1 defining trait of a Real Southern Man. Let’s get this straight: there is nothing gentlemanly about rubbing your junk on an unconscious man’s face … or destroying public landmarks … or posting angry, racist screeds in a public forum.

Let me give you a simple rule to follow when faced with an opportunity to “act ugly:”

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Another variation goes like this: “Do nothing out of vain conceit, but in humility consider others more significant than yourself.”

Let’s apply that to some real-world scenarios, shall we?

  • You disagree with an offhand remark someone has made on a blog. You could:

A. Profanely suggest they do something that defies decency, logic and simple physics
B. Rationally and respectfully explain why you disagree

  • You are angry that college students from your alma mater failed to win a sporting contest. You could:

A. Taunt, harass and insult fans of the opposing team, all the while drinking yourself into oblivion, eventually passing out in the most inopportune of places (or poison a couple of landmark trees and then brag about it on the radio)
B. Have a couple of drinks and then go home to sulk in peace

  • You encounter a fan of the opposing team who has been taunting, harassing and insulting you all night. He is now passed out on a table in the most inopportune of places. You could:

A. Commit a foul act that makes others question not only your values, but also your intelligence and sexuality
B. Call the guy a cab

  • You encounter a fan of your team committing foul acts against a passed-out fan of the opposing team. You could:

A. Stand around laughing and shooting video of the offense, proving yourself to be as crude and compromised in your values as the offender
B. Do something to stop the act, because standing around and doing nothing sounds like something a callous Yankee* would do.

If you answered B to all of the above, congratulations. You’re on your way to being a Real Southerner. If you answered A to any of the above, you need to read this site more … and go to church.

*Not all Northerners are calloused, uncaring people. But most of the ones in the big cities are. Okay, maybe not most, but many. Wow, this considering others more significant than yourself thing is not as easy as it looks.

12 Responses to “Uncommon Decency and the Southern Man”

  1. Hello Wayne,

    I was drawn to this blog by the title, Real Southern Men. I’m a Northerner and met the nicest Real Southern man and I wanted to know more about men in the South.

    I have stayed and enjoy reading what each of you has written because you really ARE Southern GENTLEMEN. And I have to say, this article written by you today makes you a real man in my eyes. What has happened to common decency? Those two words, common decency, will resonate with me for a long while.

    Thank you for taking the high road. Your mama and daddy raised you right.

    • Thanks, PJ. It’s an ongoing quest, this attempt to be a Real Southern Man and a gentleman. Most of the time, I fall far short of the mark. But hey, at least it gives me more writing material! Thanks for sticking around!

  2. Hi Wayne,
    Well, love your writing as usual, but have to say that I’d disagree with the connection you make between “Southern Men” and “Gentlemen.” Having grown up in the Deep South, I’d say that the distinction between the two categories is incalculable. A true Southern Gentleman, has no equal. He is sensitive to the needs of others, and his own welfare is second to that of those around him. In the South, we unfortunately have that other category that of Redneck that often times overshadows the gentleman, because he is so garish and uncouth, the shear volume of his presence is impossible to ignore. It is a shame that we cannot just refer to Southern men, and assume that the term “gentleman” applies, however, as your column states there is that element out there that tarnish the whole picture.

    Keep up the good work, perhaps as you and your Co-Southern Gentlemen push on, we will begin to see more of the genteelness that hovers around the idea of the old south, and the Rhett Butler image that we all want to attribute to the Southern Man.

    • Jill, I agree with you. What we’ve tried to create here is an ideal archetype of Southern Man – our subjectively defined “Real” Southern Man. Rednecks, as we all know, are not limited to the South. And there are even some people who would define themselves as such that are nonetheless gentlemanly in their manner…although very rare. People who demean others and themselves in the manner wwe covered in this piece don’t deserve the RSM title. And it’s debatable whether they even deserve the “M,” because they act like angry, petulant boys.

      Thanks for reading, as always!

  3. Wayne,
    Nicely put. I’m proud to aspire to be a Real Southern Man daily. As a retired Marine I have had the pleasure of meeting many worthy of the title.

    Keep writing, I’ll keep reading.


  4. I just did my movie quote yesterday on good and evil and power. I wish I had read this before then, because this is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about. We all have the power to be good or bad, to be examples of virtue or depravity. Some people don’t use their power in the best way, or even in an acceptable way. It’s a shame. I’ll be adding your post to my links on yesterday’s movie quote.


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