, which somehow looks–even in its third decade, in the twenty-first century–as if very advanced high school students had just stapled it together and put it on your doorstep (that’s a compliment…The Nation strives for that effect, too), is still doing a fine job on its old beat: investigating the strange mix of culture and corporatism that has made the South what it is today. By extension, every issue poses the same basic question: What exactly is America? In looking at the South in great detail over many decades, Southern Exposure has begun to propose, although not explicitly, some answers.
First, America is a place that advocates equality but thrives on inequality. In the 2002 Spring and Summer issue, which is subtitled “The South at War,” James Maycock has published a piece on the black American soldier’s experience in Vietnam–especially for people who did not live through the civil rights movement and that terrible Southeast Asian conflict, this piece will be riveting. “I’m not a draft evader,” declares one African-American draftee on reaching Canada. “I’m a runaway slave.”
America is also a place where the Marlboro Man has not abdicated, as Stan Goff shows in his gonzo essay on Vietnam and American masculinity (in fact, it has crossed my mind that all those ads may have been psy-ops prep for George W. Bush’s ascendancy). And last, America is a place that loves the Army. In its useful and unassailable roundup on the Southern states and the war industry, Southern Exposure comes up with important facts. The dollar amount of military contracts to Florida companies alone last year amounted to $15.2 billion. The military, of course, is a good place to have your money right now. For example, Florida’s education budget was slashed by 4.2 percent last year while the stock of Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, two of the largest companies with investments in Florida, were up 25 percent and 40 percent, respectively. Nutshell portraits of thirteen states provide a real sense of the give and take between politicians, the military and the job market, and population in places where the military chooses to spend.
Note also: Of the top twenty-one cities involved in military production in 2001, excepting Hartford, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Seattle, every city on the list is in the South or in California. According to Southern Exposure, 66 percent of the weapons sold to Israel under the Foreign Military Sales program were produced in the South. The South has helped situate America in the world today; that puts it in a unique moral position. But after reading this issue of Southern Exposure, one really wonders: Do most Southerners care?
Yoga’s Antiterror Position
After reading about B-29s and F-16s and macho men and Hellfire missiles made in Orlando–of all places–I was happy to read a few magazines that go to other extremes. Of the two big yoga magazines available on the newsstand,
is the yogis’
We can dispense with the latter except for the pretzel-position pictures, but
is a very good niche magazine–good niche publications take their subject and use it expansively, as a jumping-off point. The June issue has an excellent and anthropologically important piece by Marina Budhos on how yoga practice in the West, especially among Americans, is changing the age-old practice in India, the Americans behaving like cargo cultists in reverse.
Budhos found that many of the Indians in an Indian ashram (where, by the way, the hatha yoga teacher was “a really tough Israeli”) were attending because they “were interested in teaching yoga as a career.” Many of the foreigners were simply having yoga fun on vacation–although, as I have discovered while doing the tortoise position, the word “yoga” and the word “fun” should never be used in the same sentence. Daniel Ghosal, an Indian-American, says the Americans who come to India for yoga are seen by the Indians as “kind of ‘cracked.'” Indians don’t think of yoga as a social trend. “The lighting of candles and all that,” Ghosal says dismissively. “To Indians, it’s just yoga.”
“The Path of the Peaceful Warrior,” by Anne Cushman, is also an amusing piece. In it–after lighting a fire with newspapers in which she sees headlines about terror and anthrax burning away, and after “folding into the silence and surrender of a deep forward bend” (that’s classic yoga writing; you just have to push past it)–Cushman proposes a “Yogic Battle Plan for the War on Terror.” I suppose it’s better than beefing up your naval program at Newport News…
The first step: “Stop.” I like that. That should be the entirety of an Op-Ed piece on the Middle East crisis.
There is also “Contemplate death.” Under that weighty heading, Cushman includes this nice aperçu: “The American government’s instruction to ‘Be on high alert, yet go about your ordinary life’ may have struck many people as all but impossible, but that paradoxical injunction is actually…a core yogic practice.” (Don’t tell Rumsfeld!) Under “Look Deeply,” Cushman cites
editor James Shaheen’s remark that bin Laden was “inadvertently speaking the Buddhist truth of interdependence when he said, ‘Until there is peace in the Middle East, there will be no peace for Americans at home.'” “Practice nonviolence” is another step in the yogic battle; “take action,” the last. By the end, Yoga Journal is beginning to sound like the editors of Southern Exposure.
, the monthly environmental and social paper spiritedly edited for twelve years by the effervescent Pranay Gupte, is folding up shop after July for lack of funding. As Gupte said in a farewell note to colleagues: “Undercapitalization is always bad for business; zero capitalization is worse. Since my basement press is beyond repair, I can’t even print rupee notes any longer to sustain Earthtimes.” That’s Gupte and the tone of Earthtimes, too–in moments of pain and crisis, a quiet, self-deflating, sustaining humor.