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If your heart’s not in Dixie

Not often do I get on a high horse but, when I do, I ride it hard and long.

When I was trotting along on a high horse the other day, I thought about something my daddy once said to me.

The dinner table had provided me with a captive audience. Daddy was not about to leave the table with a fried pork chop left on the platter.

He listened to what I had to say. Then he put down his fork, leaned back in the chair, set his jaw, shook his puzzled head and said, “Why do you always care about things that nobody else cares about?”

I couldn’t answer that then and I can’t now.

But the reason I’m riding on a high horse right now is that I do care about something that probably not many people care about or maybe they just haven’t thought about it.

But for some time, it has bothered me greatly that we, the people of the great state of Alabama, have become whimps.

What I’m talking about is that we have evidently become ashamed of who we are as Alabamians. We are no longer proud to be from the “Heart of Dixie.” Even though ‘Heart of Dixie” is our state’s official nickname, we are shying away from it.

The nickname was once proudly displayed inside a heart on our car tags so that everywhere we went, people would know who we were and that we were proud to be from Alabama, the Heart of Dixie.

But every time, a new tag comes out the heart gets smaller and the wording so faint it’s hardly visible. Even if you were riding on a car’s back bumper, you’d still need a pair of bifocals to read it.

Since September was the time for me to get a new tag, I marched into the courthouse to get a Farming Feeds Alabama tag. If there is any group of people that deserve our undying support, it’s our farmers. Without them, the world wouldn’t go around yet they are some of the must unappreciated folks around. I thought we all ought to be riding around with a Farming Feeds Alabama tag on our vehicles.

Times are hard and adding $50 to the cost of my car tag pinched my pocketbook, but I just winched, did it anyhow because I have a heart for farmers.

On the way to the car, I was admiring my new tag with a red heart – and no words on it? An empty red heart? Where’s the Heart of Dixie?

I turned on my heels and went right back in the courthouse.

“I don’t want this tag,” I told the nice young woman. “It doesn’t have Heart of Dixie on it and I don’t want it.”

She looked a bit puzzled but was very accommodating. She showed me the Sweet Home Alabama tag with its pencil-line heart and the words Heart of Dixie the size of a pin head.

I really didn’t like that one either. What’s wrong with a red heart with big bold words?

Of course, there were universities and organizations that I support but they were empty-hearted, too. So, the best I could do was Sweet Home Alabama and it is.

I’ve always loved Alabama and I’ve always been proud to say, “I’m from Alabama. I’m from the Heart of Dixie.” And, I don’t owe anybody any apologies for that.

For some reason, the word Dixie has become offensive to those who chose for it to be so. Dixie is the South and Alabama is the heart of it.

If there is any region in the country that has reason to be proud, it’s Dixie. The people of the South have long been fiercely loyal to their communities, their state and their country. Southerners are God-loving people with strong family ties who care deeply about their friends and neighbors. Southerners are hard working and fun-loving folks with our own language, our own music, a slow and relaxed way of life and a brand of hospitality unmatched anywhere in the world. Southerners have pride in the heritage of people who were willing to fight and die for a cause they believed to be just. And, somewhere along the way, we’ve been persecuted for that and I guess that’s why our heart is shrinking and our pride is fading.

Dixie has nothing to do with race. It’s simply about a place where people care about each other in a way that others might not understand.

Alabama author Fannie Flagg said that, because of our blighted past, there are many kindnesses, both black to white and white to black, that will never be known or understood.

We can’t change the past, but there’s one thing that I know for sure. There’s no better place to live than in the Heart of Dixie. You won’t find more friendly, faithful, caring and loving people anywhere on earth than right here in the Heart of Dixie.

And those who don’t believe that can, to quote Flo at Mel’s Diner, “kiss my grits.”