Icons of the South

Tennessee/Mississippi/Alabama

November 2013

Sound track…

I’m Gonna Walk Dem Golden Stairs

—Elvis Presley


Three state high points in six days.  A fair amount of driving — 995.8 miles — and an entertaining assortment of sights.  Based on observations during these travels through the heart of Dixie, there are two personalities, two celebrities who have been most popular in this former Confederacy, two characters who are, it seems, equally revered in these parts.  They are, of course, Elvis Presley and Jesus.  These two icons have perhaps influenced the population here more than any others.  And still do.

For one thing, no matter where you go, you are as likely to see signs proclaiming JESUS LIVES as you are to see ELVIS LIVES.  Both are claimed to have risen from the dead.  Both are referred to as “the King.”  Both are Capricorn and both are envied and worshiped with enormous fervor.  You could even say they are both the object of supreme religious intensity.  This is one way we know we are in the South.

I am not being sarcastic.  Some things in life take on this kind of importance.  Jesus and Christianity are high on the list.  So is Elvis.  Ask any Elvis fan.  The Pittsburgh Steelers do this to some people too.  Imagine!

If there is ever a smackdown, God forbid, you’ve got to give the edge to Jesus.  Elvis, although his museum doesn’t admit to it, got fat.  As someone close to me suggests, we never had a Fat Jesus.

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