Taco ‘Bout It: Southern Virtue
by Taco Olmstead
photo taken by Roger Gupta at Lotus in Richmond 12.30.14
It may sound funny, but I love the South. I don’t choose to live anywhere else. There’s land here, where a man can raise cattle, and I’m going to do it some day.
On January 21st, 2001 Byron De La Beckwith died in prison at the age of 80. He had been in prison for almost 17 years for the murder of Medgar Evers, after spending the previous 31 years prior to his prison sentence as a free man courtesy of a corrupt and prejudicial justice system.
Im not about to press the limits of redundancy by inundating you with what most of us already know, our nation, its people and our rule of law are both corrupt and prejudicial still and many of us will play both victim and predator before the final bell will have rung. Indeed, I too have been both, like most people in this world I have made my own judgements and created my own prejudices, predicating choices that I have made and I am not proud of but it is in recognition of these missteps that I can more easily wade through doubt rather than flounder in falsehoods.
I am an adopted son of the South though I am a native born Yankee. I was raised and educated from birth until the age of 16 in what was arguably one of the finest public school systems in the United States. I lived in Colchester, Vt and was raised there under the premise that bigotry was wrong and all men were created equal. My brother and I were two of only a handful of children who were non white to have ever graced the halls of the Colchester educational system. It was there that I learned that while we may all be equal, we are all most certainly different.
Somewhere along the way it seems that lesson I learned so many years ago has been forgotten by so many. We have somehow mistaken the word equal for “similar” or that the definition of equal is synonymous with alike. We place this expectation upon both culture and gender inadvertently sacrificing the identities of self, people and gender. It is not a wonder that our citizenry has lost its identity as citizens of a great society and allowed ourselves to be little more than the consumers of corporate culture that we have all too willingly become.
We all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses, each person, each culture each gender. It is our strengths and weaknesses, depending upon who is defining each, that defines our own separate identities. I am a sympathetic man, doused in ego and pride, intelligent and bold, jealous and aware, and it is these qualities and many others which make me who I am. My strengths may not be the same as my neighbor and I’m sure the strengths of my wife compliment the weaknesses of my own.
The one characteristic of any man, woman or child, any creed, color or religion that could ever throw the definition of equality askew is the person who makes the choice of virtue. Virtue is a characteristic that none of us seem to be born with and a choice we must make throughout our day. When a person makes the choice of virtue and make no mistake it is a conscious choice, the fragility and delicacy of our equality is exposed as the weakness of our human nature so many of us embody.
At heart, we are all equally pretty bad. Don’t get me wrong we all have some light to shine, but more often than not we must choose to let that light shine! It is in a world riddled with iniquity that virtue is celebrated and therein lies our differences. It is our differences when put proudly on display in the shining light of virtue that equality is truly established and similarity is simultaneously abolished. So I say to you, choose virtue, celebrate our differences, take a waltz through each other’s weaknesses and let your light shine!