Southern Tragedy

Kenneth Cauthen

Copyright © Kenneth Cauthen  2005

Addendum: May 9, 2009
While I think there is truth in the original version that follows, I have concluded that  sometimes people vote their values, iand in recent decades many Southern Whites find the Replublican Party closer to their social and cultural  values and therefore vote that way.  This may occur esepcially when  their economic status is relatively satisfactory or they don't  believe government will do much about it anyway.  The original version follows:

Many years ago Lilliam Smith in Killers of the Dream (1949) outlined an imaginary bargain made between rich white Southerners and poor whites. It had painful truth in it. I offer an updated version for 2004.

Old Bargain, according to Lillian Smith: Rich whites say we will make the money and run things; you poor whites can feel superior to blacks. You will be poor but not as poor as blacks, and we will keep them out of schools, churches, and garden clubs, and we will go easy on the lynching thing. Deal?

New Bargain, according to Ken Cauthen: Republicans say we will make the money and run things. For you working people we will support prayer in schools, keep Ten Commandments in court houses, oppose sodomy, abortion, and gay rights, and maybe(if business interests do not compel us otherwise) keep the Confederate flag flying on state capitols. We won’t raise your wages, see that you have health care and child care when both parents have to work, but you can join the volunteer army  and get the rewards of being patriotic while the  children of the rich stay home and get MBA’s. But you will have to fight wars oversees to kill Muslims (check with Jerry Falwell and  Lt. Gen. William Boykin on that), protect our business interests, and destroy countries so we can give fat contracts to rebuild them to Halliburton and Bechtel who will give us lots of money so we can stay in office and fight for your old-fashioned values. Deal?

The tragedy is that poor and working-class whites fell for both deals. The explanation is complex but lies not primarily in the lack of rational capacity to discern self-interest.  However, rationality operates within a culturally relative perspective. So we have to find a clue, at least in part, in the demonic power of racism and other factors related to their long cultural past so powerful that they were tragically unable to act effectively to secure their own best interests or to discern and act on the deeper implications of their own religious faith.

I invite comments, criticisms, and suggestions.

This is one of many essays on theology and ethics on this site. The best place to begin is:
Essays in Theology and Ethics

Many of the essays that were originally on this site have been subsequently published. Since the copyright is now held by the publishers, I have deleted the whole article and replaced it with a brief summary. Information is provided in each instance regarding the published location of the complete article.

I invite comments, criticisms, refutations, suggestions, and corrections.

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If you want to take a break for some fun before you get to the serious stuff, the links below will take you to some short videos  of a humorous nature that I made. They poke good-natured fun at some funny aspects of religion, churches, theology, right-wing Protestant religion, and the mixture of right-wing religion and politics. They are designed purely for entertainment and laughter. I hope you enjoy them.  For a list of my movies that play on Windows Media Player, see:  Essays

Presently, the following essays on theological and ethical topics are available: The best place to start is my Home Page at:
Essays in Theology and Ethics
About the Author
A List of my Books
Interpreting the Bible Today
The Authority of the Bible
Using the Bible with Integrity
Theology as Religious Belief
What I Believe
Natural Law and Moral Relativism
What is Truth -- and Does it Matter?
A Doctrine of God (Short Version)
A Doctrine of God (Long Version)
Trinity: God, Christ, Spirit
God as Masculine and Feminine
Theodicy: the Problem of Evil
Theodicy: A Heterodox Alternative
The Many Faces of Evil
A Contemporary Christology
Christ and Christians
A Critique of Niebuhr's Christ and Culture
The Incompatibility of Christianity and Civilization
Christian Ethics
Process Christian Ethics
The Ethics of Belief
Relativism, Morality, Belief
Religion and Politics: Relating Jesus to Jefferson
Liberation Themes in Country Music
Liberation Themes in White Southerners
Southern Tragedy
Capital Punishment
Physician Assisted Suicide
Prescription Drugs and the Little Red Hen
Bioethical Decision-Making
Drug Policy
Theology and Ecology
Religion and Politics
Science and Theology
Church and State
A Short Biographical Sketch
For an updated version of Mother Goose for the modern age, visit
Mother Goose Goes Electronic

Having a Web site is becoming a family enterprise. First to have a Page was my son.
Paul Cauthen
The latest entry is that of my son-in-law and daughter.
Ric Brown and Nancy Cauthen
These sites are very different, but both are creative, imaginative productions. They would welcome a visit.
Please remove * in my e-mail address before sending. The * was added to thwart spammers. Thank you.
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