Sunday, September 2, 2007

The thing about my station is that I don't have one

One of the most common expressions down South is "my station." As in, "this is my station in the community," or "I married above my station". My station is shorthand for who is where on the pecking order. (I have never been in a more status-conscious area.) Station is everything- it is how much you earn, where you live, who you live with, what church you belong to( and it WILL be a church), what kind of car you drive, whom you voted for- and so on and on and on to infinity. This is tied in with a particularly Southern-fried notion that nobody (of a certain station of course) has any obligations unless they feel like taking on said obligations. This is the region which protested everything from integration to taxes all under the rubric of states rights- by which they mean the right to keep on doing as they have been for hundreds of years, doing nothing much at all. What all that amounts to is that things which ought to be settled everywhere else- paying your mortgage, hiring on the basis of merit, signaling when you turn left- are viewed as optional here. If you don't want to pay your mortgage, hire minorities or be courteous to others on the road, you don't have to be and darned if anyone can make ya.

Stations are not flexible. You can't just pool together the money to buy a nice house in a gated community and join the country club. So when, oh, lets say, a foreign-born Jewish guy moves in, the very first thing everyone wants to be sure of is that he knows his station- which, being that he is new, not beholden to their mindsets and not in any way their cup of tea AT ALL, will of course be below them.

Question tho- do I have to have a station? Can't I just get a fellowship, do my doctorate and get on with people in my charmingly anti-social way? Yes, yes I can. But it will cost me untold opportunities for, as the title says, quasi reintegration.

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