Tag Archives: love

The South’s Heritage Is So Much More Than a Flag

By Patterson HoodConfederate_Rebel_Flag_svg
First off, I love the Southland.

I was born and raised in Florence, Ala., a small town on the northern banks of the Tennessee River in a region known locally as the Shoals. It’s a Bible Belt community; my hometown was “dry” until I was nearly 20 years old. It was also the birthplace of some of the most beloved and important music of the 20th century.

W.C. Handy, sometimes known as the father of the blues and an important early jazz figure — the author of “Beale Street Blues” and “St. Louis Blues,” among other early standards — was born in Florence in 1873. The radical and ingenious producer Sam Phillips was born half a century later in McGee Town, a small farming community about eight miles to the northwest, two farms over from my family’s homestead. He nurtured the invention of rock ’n’ roll, discovering Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Howlin’ Wolf, Charlie Rich, Ike Turner, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, among many others.

On the south side of the river, the neighboring towns of Muscle Shoals and Sheffield hosted recording studios — FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, respectively — that along with Stax Records’ studio in Memphis became the epicenter of the soul and R&B explosion of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, the Staple Singers, Bobby Womack and many other African-American artists crossed racial barriers and recorded classic music with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, who happened to be white. Together, they recorded landmark hits that were the soundtrack of the Civil Rights Movement.

The four towns that make up the Shoals are deeply religious and politically conservative, but they also hosted a bubbling underground of progressive thought, home to a vibrant minority of freethinkers and idealists. In our own mythology, we weren’t caught up in the bloody violence that will forever haunt the reputations of Birmingham, Memphis and Selma — we were too busy making joyous music. The elementary school I attended had already been integrated (peacefully, as far as I know) by 1970, when I started first grade. I never saw a burning cross or a burning church. That said, I’m sure there has been plenty of frothing at the mouth there recently over last month’s Supreme Court decisions, President Obama’s eulogy for Clementa Pinckney at Charleston’s Emanuel A.M.E. Church, the rainbow lights at the White House — and of course, the Confederate flag.

When I was growing up, I never thought much about the flag. My father, David Hood, was and still is a session bass player with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. His views on the Civil Rights era were shaped by the time he spent playing with Aretha and the Staple Singers. He looked at George Wallace and Bull Connor with great disdain, and was mortified to think that people around the world believed all Southerners were like that.

My father worked long hours at the studio, and I spent a large part of my childhood with my grandparents and great-uncle. Raised during the Great Depression, they were progressive by the standards of their generation and told me stories about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who the old folks said had saved Florence and the surrounding towns; and Wilson Dam, a World War I-era structure that crossed the Tennessee River just east of Florence, made the river navigable and provided the impetus for Roosevelt’s Tennessee Valley Authority, which electrified the region and brought it — sometimes kicking and screaming — into the 20th century. They also told stories about my great-great-grandfather, who fought for the Confederacy at Shiloh during the Civil War. They were always quick to say that he had been poor and never owned slaves, and had simply fought against a conquering army invading his home.

Such is the storytelling that pervades the Southern character. The South loves myths and legends, and while they may have roots in the truth, they often overlook certain complexities. We raise our children steeped in “Gone With the Wind” folklore and pretend that all the things we saw in “12 Years a Slave” didn’t happen.

As a songwriter, I’ve spent the better part of my career trying to capture both the Southern storytelling tradition and the details the tall tales left out, putting this dialectical narrative into the context of rock songs. My band’s best-known work, an album we recorded a decade and a half ago called “Southern Rock Opera,” is an examination of life in the South after the Civil Rights era, in the form of a coming-of-age tale of a Southern boy about my age who grows up to become a famous musician before dying in a plane crash while on tour. The album wrestled with how to be proud of where we came from while acknowledging and condemning the worst parts of our region’s history.

When Drive-By Truckers were recording “Southern Rock Opera,” we were very concerned about how the record would be received. We wanted to back up everything we said with documented facts, lest we be construed as apologists — lest someone not notice that a sympathetic song about George Wallace was written from the Devil’s point of view. And we made a conscious decision not to discuss the so-called rebel flag. We didn’t want our narrative getting bogged down in a debate about an antiquated symbol, one we considered a moot point in any case. My own coming-of-age story revolved around much more important things like going to rock concerts and trying to get a date or hanging out with friends on weekends. The flag might have been a backdrop at Lynyrd Skynyrd concerts, but beyond that it wasn’t really anything any of us thought much about at the time.

It was only later, when we started playing songs from the album at shows, that we noticed that fans were bringing rebel flags and waving them during a song called “The Southern Thing.” The song was written to express the contradictions of Southern identity:

It was around that time that I began paying attention to the flag flying at courthouses and state capitals. I started hearing things like “heritage, not hate” from people who were perhaps well-meaning, but were nevertheless ignoring the fact that their beloved Southern Cross flew at Klan rallies — that it was a symbol for a war fought on the principle of one man owning another. Let’s pause to think about that one for a moment: one man owning another. When our kindly Grandpa says “states’ rights,” that’s the “right” he’s talking about. Unfair tariffs? Many of the soldiers in the Civil War probably couldn’t spell “tariff.” But they certainly knew that the South’s economy and very way of life was built upon the backs of men, women and children of color.

Last month, a terrorist with a gun killed nine unarmed men and women in a church in Charleston and woke the people in our country up from sweet dreams of a postracial America, driving home just how far we still have to go. As the city mourned and tried to make sense of its grief, the State House of South Carolina still flew the rebel flag at full staff. Now the tide is turning; the state’s legislature voted to take it down from the Capitol grounds early Thursday morning, and it’s not impossible to think that other Southern states might do the same before long.

It’s high time that a symbol so divisive be removed. The flags coming down symbolize the extent to which those who cry “heritage, not hate” have already lost their argument. Why would we want to fly a symbol that has been used by the K.K.K. and terrorists like Dylann Roof? Why would a people steeped in the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible want to rally around a flag that so many associate with hatred and violence? Why fly a flag that stands for the very things we as Southerners have worked so hard to move beyond?

If we want to truly honor our Southern forefathers, we should do it by moving on from the symbols and prejudices of their time and building on the diversity, the art and the literary traditions we’ve inherited from them. It’s time to study and learn about who we are and where we came from while finding a way forward without the baggage of our ancestors’ fears and superstitions. It’s time to quit rallying around a flag that divides. And it is time for the South to — dare I say it? — rise up and show our nation what a beautiful place our region is, and what more it could become.

To All The Heartbroken Men Who Act Tough On The Outside: Don’t Give Up Hope

ADZI’m just going to go ahead and call out all you men out there. Yes, even you there, stud muffin, with your sweat-drenched, muscle-pumping, 5 o’clock shadow self. You, much like women, are either currently heartbroken or have been heartbroken by some audacious woman whom you thought was “the one.”

You can act tough, but I know that deep down, you are as soft as a teddy bear. Chances are, you have gone through the coulda, shoulda, woulda list. Sadly, you’ve been left with unanswered and empty questions.

Meanwhile, you are wondering how in the eff you’re going to get over this not-so-clever broad and if you’ll ever be able to move on.

So, in an attempt to help, here is an open letter to all those tough-on-the-outside, but soft-souled men: You’re going to be alright.


Dear Handsome,

I realize that at this current moment in time, you are hurting. You are examining every inch of your life and asking yourself how this happened and why.

While I don’t have the answers for you, and I probably never will, I can tell you that someone out there is waiting to love you with all her heart. She is wondering what it would be like to love someone as special as you, and to know what it feels like to be with someone she truly connects with.

I know you don’t see it now, and it will take some time, but this is for the better. It’s a growing point in your life; some things aren’t meant to last forever and they fall apart so better things can fall together.

I can tell you that whoever broke your heart didn’t realize how good she had it. Truth be told, she didn’t deserve to have you in the first place.

This person has conditioned you to work on yourself, and to help you become an even better man than you already are. You will be someone else’s dream come true. There’s someone in this world who looks at you and her heart beams. She smiles without even knowing it.

You are always on her mind, and you’re the first thing she thinks of when she wakes up. She ask herself how she went this long without knowing someone as awesome as you. That’s something to look forward to during this process.

When you’ve been damaged, the last thing on your mind is someone new. You grasp onto old memories, and just keeping asking, why? What did you do so wrong? Were you not enough? Did you not give enough attention? Did you not love her hard enough? Is there something wrong with you?

I only ask two simple things of you: Stop asking why and please don’t blame yourself. Insecurities can truly ruin any relationship, and nine times out of 10, it has nothing to do with you.

It hurts as if your heart has been stabbed with a million burning knives. You’re probably thinking you can’t move on from this, but I am here to tell you that you can and you will. Whether it’s centerstage or behind the curtain, someone cares and will be there for whatever you need.

You probably barely know or might not even know the person who is smiling at the thought of you right now.

When the timing is right, and the stars align in the night sky, it will all work out. Healing is a process, and it takes however long your heart needs.

Wake up each day thinking, “I can and will get through this,” and I promise that you will. Keep your beautiful face held high, smile and know that your future is waiting for you.

Take each day in stride, and whatever you do, please don’t shut down. You will close yourself off to a love that is waiting for you. Whether you see it or not, you are an incredible individual with so much potential to make someone happier than she ever imagined possible.

We have all been broken before, and it’s up to us to rebuild and move forward. It’s not the end; just think of how much better your next relationship will be. Forgive her, forgive yourself, make new friends, build bonds with new people and remember to smile.

To the woman who destroyed your amazing heart, thank you. Thank you for letting this incredible man go, and giving someone else the opportunity to love and cherish him the way he deserves. Thank you for quitting and allowing someone new to heal and mend his heart.

True love doesn’t quit, and you closed the door. No judgment, just a huge thank you. You are helping someone else’s future of pure bliss and happiness come to fruition.

Keep your head up, handsome. She is out there and waiting patiently for when the time is right.

Sincerely, Your Friend 

Originally appeared at Elite Daily

 

15 Honest Questions the Person You Marry Should Be Able To Answer

loveMarriage really is a beautiful thing. I used to think it was a bit pointless, just a piece of paper that allows you an extra tax cut. However, the more I thought about it, the more I learned to appreciate what marriage could be.

Marriage gets a bad rap because most people are really bad at it. It’s not marriage’s fault. It’s the couples’ fault for being neither mature enough nor smart enough to manage.

I used to believe people couldn’t possibly promise to love someone else in 10, 20 years when neither their partners nor they will be the same people they are now. But that’s the point. We know that the future is filled with uncertainty.

Regardless, we still want that promise because it gives us courage to give ourselves to another without reservations.

You may not be able to keep that promise, but you can keep the promise to do your best to be an amazing life partner. That’s all anyone can really ask for. If you’re thinking about tying the knot then be sure that your future life partner to-be can honestly answer these questions to your liking:

1. Why do you love me?

People seem to feel this is a question that doesn’t especially need answering. Most will say we love others simply because we love them — a horrible answer. All people need to know exactly why it is that they love the people they love.

Loving someone is a very selfish act, and it’s okay. You love the person you love for what that person does for you and how he or she makes you feel.

We may all have slightly different answers as to why we love someone, but if we aren’t able to exactly define the parameters of our love, then we’re likely to struggle later on once the initial intensity dies down. If your partner can’t answer why he or she loves you now, then imagine the inevitable uncertainty down the road.


2. Why do you want to spend the rest of your life with me?

“Because I love you” is not a good answer. Life is a journey — one that is best not traveled entirely alone. However, not everyone has the same destination in mind. Wanting to take different pit stops along the route is one thing. Wanting different things out of life is another entirely.

Your partner should be able to tell you what life experiences he or she hopes to share with you. It’s these little goals you set for yourselves that make your life special.


3. Will you do your best to keep the romance alive?

Keeping the romance alive is not an easy task. Yes, it’s all mental, but keeping interest for such a long time is difficult. It takes a lot of work and creativity. It takes the other person regularly trying to please and impress you, which in itself becomes increasingly difficult with each new year.

Romantic love cannot survive on its own; both of you are going to have to maintain it constantly. Is your partner willing to keep the romance as one of his or her main priorities?


4. Will you grow with me, and not away from me?

We may not know exactly where our lives will take us and what we will learn — who we will become — along the way, but we can make a conscious effort to grow closer together and not apart.

Most people grow apart over the years because they feel like they’ve accomplished everything in their relationships that needs accomplishing.

This is one main reason marriages end up being so horrible — people think that there is no greater peak to climb than the one their relationship is already resting on. Marriage shouldn’t be the end, it should be the beginning.


5. Will you stick through the rough times?

The good times are a piece of cake. The difficult times, however, will destroy your relationship if you allow them to. There comes a point in every relationship when you have to make a decision. It’s a decision that, if made, is only made once.  You will reach a point where you will either decide you are going to be there for this person for the rest of his or her life, or not.

If you decide you’re going to stick with this person then you can’t allow any tragedy or outside force to shake that decision. This is one of the most important decisions we make in our lives — or, as it often turns out, fail to make decisively. Has your lover made the decision? Have you?


6. Are you willing to lose some battles in order to keep the peace?

The key to a successful marriage is taming your ego. No matter how competitive we are, sometimes you just need to pick your battles. Sometimes the arguments and the stress just aren’t worth it.

What you need to understand is that 99 percent of arguments aren’t arguments over fact, but rather over opinion. An opinion is neither right nor wrong. Sometimes you just have to let things be.


7. Can you promise to put us ahead of everything else?

Life has a lot to offer. And if you’re anything like me, you have a very large appetite. We want everything life has to offer, and then some. The problem is we don’t have enough time to have it all; our lives are too short. We can only pick a few things we consider important and do our best to flourish in those areas.

The beauty of marriage is that it can be used as a base to build the rest of your life on. Your partner should be just that: your partner. Your relationship is the most important thing in your life because it’s what makes the rest of your life possible.


8. Will you be a great parent?

Again, how could anyone know he or she will be a great parent? Easy. You just decide you’re going to be. That’s it. No tricks. No gimmicks. Just a decision and then action.

Some things don’t need too much thinking involved. You’re going to be great because you decided you will be. Will your lover do the same and be a great role model for your children?


9. Will you be sure to remind me how much you love me regularly?

People not only want, but need to hear it. We need to be reminded you love us because we know that love doesn’t always last forever. We want to hear the words and then have that reassurement reinforced with actions showing how much you love us.

It really is enough just to love us, but understand you need to love us the way we need to be loved — just like we need to love you the way you need to be loved in order for you to be happy.


10. Can you promise to do all you can to keep that spark alive?

Sparks don’t spark on their own. Think about how a lighter works. You have a spark that lights the fuel, which creates a flame. But how does that spark, spark? You have to create a force that will result in the energy creating a spark.

Just the same, you can’t expect sparks to keep flying if you’re not trying. If you want to have a happy and healthy marriage, then you need to find someone willing to devote the necessary energy.


11. Will you support me if I can’t support myself?

Not just financially, but mentally. Maybe even physically if necessary. No one knows what life holds. The unexpected happens, often leaving us weak, hurt or even permanently damaged. Will your partner carry you when you can’t walk?

Will your partner support you when you’re weak at the knees? Will your partner carry the family you’ve created until you regain your strength? Is your partner capable of mustering the strength to fight battles for the both of you?


12. Will you promise to continue to pursue your personal goals and dreams?

Marriage is not entirely the end of the person you were and the start of a new you. Sure, being in a serious relationship does require a person to change in many ways.

Yet, there’s a part of us we can never, under any circumstance, let go of. The dreams, wants and hopes we have — our personal goals — must stay alive.

When we lose them, we lose ourselves and inevitably lose the person we love. Marriage isn’t just an “us.” It’s also a you and him/her. You have to juggle being the person you have always been with being a part of a larger whole. It’s not easy. But it is necessary.


13. Will you not allow yourself to let go?

Will your partner take care of him or herself by eating healthy and exercising? Will your partner get regular checkups and take vitamins? This may sound silly, but I’ve seen what letting yourself go can do to a marriage.

Moreover, I’ve seen how not maintaining your health can make the lives of those closest to you incredibly difficult.

Yes, your family should take care of you when you need to be taken care of — but it’s your responsibility first and foremost to take care of yourself. No people should become a burden to those they love.


14. If I’m the first to go, will you be there with me until the end?

Will your partner hold your hand when you’re too weak to hold it back? Will your partner kiss your forehead and tell you he or she loves you, that you made life worth living? That, because of you, life made sense? Will your partner be there for your last breath, when you find yourself pressed betwixt fear and content?

No one should leave this world alone. It’s said that we leave it the way we come into it, but even when we come into it, there’s someone there to hold us. I understand most people don’t like to think about death, but seeing as it’s an inevitability, it’s better to plan ahead.


15. Can you promise me that if my time is cut short, you’ll continue to live on for the both of us?

You love this person. You want him or her to be happy regardless of whether he or she is with you or without you. If death collects you ahead of schedule, you’ll want to know during those last few seconds that the person you love will continue to live life to the fullest.

That your partner will continue to do great things, continue to be happy, and — if you have children — continue to love your children and guide them through life.

The death of a loved one can ruin you. It can break you in ways that make full-recovery impossible. Can your partner promise you to find the strength and courage to press forward?

I don’t know about you, but the last thing I’d want for the woman I love is for my departure to be her downfall. If my being in her life or leaving her life will in anyway destroy hers, then I clearly made a mistake by allowing myself into her life.

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This post originally appeared at Elite Daily. Reprinted with permission.

by Paul Hudson

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