Jeff Foxworthy, forgive me for stealing your line, but nothing other than those words seems to fit me better than “Redneck." While I enjoy dressing in my best silk and satin for an evening at the ballet, the other 364 nights of the year I like to hear Toby Keith, Willie or Alan Jackson. This kind of entertainment fits my personality like my best pair of stretch jeans.
Comedians like Foxworthy fill the air with pleasant jokes about rednecks and we like to laugh along while all the time feeling that just maybe, we’re laughing at ourselves. I think that feeling has to do with identity and roots. It is a way of saying, “Yes, I am a Southerner. My Confederate ancestors fought for their country as soldiers do. They believed in their cause. My heritage is to remember those men and women with honor and devotion for the terrible sacrifices that they made. That is my heritage.
Like the Anglo-Celts that settled this region and inspired the birth of two nations, in 1776 and in 1861, many of their descendants remain fiercely independent and defiant of those who would deny them their inheritance, be it cultural, moral, political, or spiritual. We have to study the past to appreciate it and to learn from it. There are those who would like to study only the history that they agree with.
Hollywood and other media sources generally belittle rednecks and sometimes call them rebels, another term for a “loser” in today’s world. Personally I like the term, “rebel.” I consider it a compliment which further classifies me as a true Redneck. To me a rebel is anyone who thinks for himself and does not feel compelled to follow the crowd. Today there is a powerful movement to complete the “leveling” of
social, political and cultural America. The great movement by some to stir up Americans and pour them all out the same spout is called being “politically correct”. Rednecks represent a threat to this movement by their refusal to fall in line but instead to remain individuals with independent thought. To me what makes us Americans is that we are different, we are individuals and we are proud of who we are. Our individuality is something to wear with pride. We are strong because we are individual thinkers. Some of us deserve the term, “redneck”.
What about the term, redneck, anyhow? I used to think that it referred to farmers and others who labored outside where the sun burned their necks to a deep tan but that is far too simple an explanation. The term, “redneck” comes down to us from the time when Bonnie Dundee was commissioned by the English King to suppress the Scottish Covenanters who came to oppose what they viewed as the religious heresies of the Anglican Church. The Anglican Church was the official Church of England with the King as its head. You remember that King Henry V111, like the rest of the Christian world, was Catholic but he wanted to put aside his wife, Katherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. There was only one problem with that, the Pope told him that he couldn’t divorce his wife. So, being the King and all, he just formed a new church, the Church of England, and declared himself the head, after which he had a clear path to rid himself of wives…five in all.
After the invention of the printing press, the Scots were able to read the Bible for themselves and they came to recognize various heresies in the “official” church so they formed a National Covenant of Scotland. This was solemnly signed in Edinburgh in 1638. As a symbol of their covenant with God and each other the Scottish Covenanters began wearing red collars around their necks. Then the English began to refer to these “rebels” as “rednecks”.
Due to their religious and political oppression and eventual defeat, many of Scotland’s Rednecks left their homeland, crossed the ocean and settled in the American South. Some of those rednecks or rebels were my ancestors. So it is that the South became the historic home for the Rednecks who wanted to live according to the true teachings of the Bible. Today the South is known as the “Bible Belt”, home of Rednecks! Consciously or not, Rednecks today are resisting the levelers who would like to impose their will on the rest of us.
I am proud to be called a Redneck. It’s something to stand tall about because you are your own person, you belong to nobody. You are independent in thought and you never, ever have to “put on airs” to impress anybody.