MacEwan Bottles

On Southern Sin – 400 words, more or less

The most illuminating thought I had while contemplating whether or not I should spend countless hours writing and editing a 4,000 word essay on the topic Southern Sin and follow that with spending $20 – $25 to enter it in the Writing Lottery sponsored by Creative Nonfiction? I’m a secular humanist. “Sin” in the context of this literary lotto is a religious reference and one thing I am not is religious. The topic doesn’t resonate with me.

Then I thought, perhaps the sin dwells in hearts of these Northern contest sponsors? The transgressions they commit stem from this notion that we are all god-fearing folks down here in the South. In believing we all attend, with fervent regularity, a religious ceremony… and our religious tenets and all our behaviors spring from, of course, the fact that us Jesus-Loving-Bible-Thumping-Fundamental God Said It So It’s True Open Door Saving Grace Zealots and there ain’t no Jews or Muslims or nothing here but us keep-marriage-holy-Christians here in the South. Damn it, statistically they may be right but we all know numbers lie.

Truth of the matter is — no matter how long I sit here and think about it — I come up empty on the topic of Southern Sin. I kept trying to visualize Western Sin, Eastern Sin and wondering why the South?

Southern Sin? Go judge yourself. Southern sin? Right here in eastern North Carolina on this, the last day of July 2012, I feel the effects of what you did to us just a little over 150 years ago. You burned this small back-roads swamp-sided Southern town to the ground as her citizens ran into the woods and hid in the pocosins. Then you marched through empty streets with stolen hams on your bayonets, congratulating your victorious vanquish of women, widows, children, and yard dogs. You left behind your injured and forced the houses that you spared to become their hospitals. To this day, the spared homes  retain your bloodstains deep in the grain on their heart of pine floors. You torched a house less than 100 feet from my home; it was owned by a free black who was a revered ship builder in our little tiny rural riverside swamp town.

As we crossed the Mason-Dixon Line just last week on my way to Pittsburgh, I knew there would be no essay on southern sin. I just didn’t want to admit it to my friends and family who were thinking I’d do them proud with some sweet-tea-sipping-front-porch-swing-gossip session about Miss Patty, or Erma Lee, or that odd “slow-witted” man who used to ride past the house on his bike pulling a lawn mower behind him, on his way to mow Velma’s yard.

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