A television is playing in a Pensacola bar. The talking head is shouting politics. Most folks in this joint are below thirty, and aren’t even watching TV. They’re transfixed to glowing smartphones.
The bartender looks thirteen. He stares at the screen and says something under his breath. Something awful.
“This country sucks, man.”
I know he probably doesn’t mean it, but it stings just the same, and I wish he wouldn’t say such things.
Even so, it’s not his fault. I don’t know what his story is, but perhaps this boy has missed a few blessings in his accumulated years of harrowed wisdom.
Maybe he’s never seen things like big azaleas—bright enough to give you trouble breathing.
Those don’t suck.
Neither do the Waffle Houses lining the Interstates. I’ve never had a bad meal at such an establishment, nor bad service. And no matter which time of year I visit one, it is always cold enough inside to hang meat.
The Everglades at sunrise, no sucking there. The Suwannee. The fat-bottomed cypress trees. Spanish moss. My bartender needs to see these things.
And he ought to eat supper with men who plant peanuts and cotton. Fellas who live in trailers parked on a thousand acres. Who raise red Angus, and Herefords. Who still use cattle dogs for herding. Real people. Real callouses.
If you ask me, the boy needs to ride a riverboat, watch shrimp trawlers, or hear stories from men who farm oyster beds.
And he needs hog ribs from Kendall’s Barbecue, in Georgiana. Food that comes out of that tin shack is worth crying over.
County fairs, livestock exhibitions, and kids with prize-winning show hogs.
String bands. Gospel music with Hammond organs. Or music from the the bayou played by men with white hair.
He deserves a trip to Defuniak Springs, Florala, Kinston, Brantley, or Luverne. And for just one afternoon, I’d like to show him a ball game in Paxton. That would cure anyone.
He needs to hold a Case knife in his hand. And he ought to own at least one Stetson, to keep the sun out of his eyes.
I wish I could take him to a chapel. Not the elaborate churches found in cities, but the kind that back up to hayfields.
And I’d like to carry him to a funeral. Like my grandfather’s. When twenty-one men in uniform fired rifles. When they draped the colors of our ancestry over a pinewood box, then saluted.
When a string of a hundred cars drove with headlights on. When a solo trumpet made my mama cry.
I don’t care what the suits on television say, kid. Don’t believe them. The sod cabins, the longleaf forests, the farmland of our granddaddies. The nurses, EMT’s, teachers, janitors. That’s us.
America doesn’t suck.
Your television does.
Mary Ann Stiles - March 10, 2017 2:59 pm
This speaks for “We the People..”. Thank you!
kay dew shostak - March 10, 2017 3:00 pm
Amen. Thank you.
Nan Claypool - March 10, 2017 3:05 pm
I agree! May I share this on FB?
Jan Coleman - March 10, 2017 3:07 pm
Love, Love, Love, everything you write.
Rodney Hyatt - March 10, 2017 3:10 pm
Preach on, Brother!
Brenda Laurence - March 10, 2017 3:10 pm
You said it, Sean. Very, very well. Thank you.
Cindy - March 10, 2017 3:50 pm
And once again…your heart brings tears to my eyes because you get it and wish more people did. Thank you for this genuinely beautiful post. Thank you.
Sam Hunneman - March 10, 2017 3:57 pm
So many memories, Sean, and yes, so much good.
We all need to be mindful though of what those suits are saying and especially doing – especially now – because the hate and fear they’re talking means that the good hangs in the balance.
judy clark - March 10, 2017 3:59 pm
Sean, your post is one of the highlights of my morning! I get my first cup of Joe and sit down at my computer and read your post. Each and everyone of them goes straight to my heart and I start the day better knowing there are folks like you writing about the wonder and joy of this life and this land of ours. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Melinda McClendon - March 10, 2017 4:03 pm
I love all your stories, but this one struck a nerve. thank you for reminding me how beautiful our world is.
Books of the Week: Sean of the South - The Aha! Connection - March 10, 2017 4:06 pm
[…] to my husband who loves them just as much as I do. Today’s entry from Sean is entitled “The Country”. Gosh…I love this guy. So I started looking into him a little more this morning and I […]
Michael Bishop - March 10, 2017 4:20 pm
And let me add that the worst thing in the world is a TV set tuned to a mostly political channel in a doctor’s, or a hospital’s, waiting room. If you weren’t sick or suffering from high-blood pressure when you came in, you will be long before you leave.
Donna D - March 10, 2017 6:28 pm
Jack Nelson - May 19, 2017 5:46 pm
Carol D. This is a great article that is neutral and anyone can enjoy and appreciate. No need to “take the bait” from the talking heads and bash anyone.
Carol DeLater - March 10, 2017 4:37 pm
Sorry Sean. I don’t blame the TV or the news. That misconception about American has come about by hearing all too many times that trademarked phrase “Make America Great Again”. All the crap that came out of that campaign and brainwashed those that wanted justification for their dysfunctional lives.
AMERICA HAS ALWAYS BEEN GREAT. It does not suck. I don’t know how to quell the “sucky” comments. I wish I did.
Susie Munz - March 10, 2017 5:33 pm
So colorful and well stated…an especially good story, Sean.
Ramona Cobb - March 10, 2017 6:26 pm
Donna D - March 10, 2017 6:27 pm
Once again, Sean has nailed the culture and fabric of the South…small town South, that is. I love the ending of today’s blog…”America doesn’t suck. Your television does.” Get that boy out of the bar and into the real world…thank you for sharing your gift of writing.
Mitford A. Fontaine - March 10, 2017 6:37 pm
Well said, my friend.
Sandra Marrar - March 10, 2017 6:37 pm
Oh, so true!
Maureen - March 10, 2017 7:57 pm
the media keep filling us with disastrous stories, and you are right, we need to rip our eyes away from the news and get out there in the reality of everyday things…
Darrell Dame - March 10, 2017 10:50 pm
You nailed it again.
Nancy Kane - March 10, 2017 10:54 pm
Look for the good (people)… They are everywhere. Be the good.
Nancy Kane - March 10, 2017 11:09 pm
Look for the good…it’s everywhere out there. Be the good.
Judy - March 11, 2017 2:30 am
Michael Hawke - March 11, 2017 3:27 am
Amen. And thank you.
Connie - March 11, 2017 6:57 pm
Lovely! To this I say, Amen. You are a straight shooting man. I enjoy reading your blog so much. Thank you for your posts.
*Teddi* T. - March 12, 2017 2:57 am
You went and did it AGAIN……made me cry……BUT – it was WELL worth it!!!! Your words are SO important & SO TRUE – I THANK YOU for them & for helping to keep people reminded of what’s important in this life! Bless You Sweetie!! ???
Teri F Butler - March 16, 2017 3:49 am
I love you and your words…that is all.
Patty Hamilton - May 12, 2017 12:17 pm
“I’d like to carry him to a funeral” I haven’t heard the word carry used in that way in a very long time. Thank you for the reminder.
Doug Crews - May 12, 2017 12:19 pm
Love it! All so true!
Deanna J - May 12, 2017 12:23 pm
Judy Harris - May 12, 2017 1:31 pm
Not only did remind each of us beautifully how great our country truly is… you demonstrate grace. If we all showed a little grace….if we shared a little more grace…we wouldn’t be offended so easily.
Gail Campbell - May 12, 2017 2:18 pm
Thank you, Sean for another excellent story. I drink a cup of coffee every morning, text and then talk with my children who live their own lives now. When I’m done with my family check-ins, I look for your post on Facebook. After the inspiration you share, it is breakfast for the hubby and a quiet time for prayer. You are part of my day now, young man and counted as one of my blessings.
Ann Reid - May 12, 2017 4:59 pm
I enjoy your writings more than you know. They are so uplifting and make me even more thankful to have been born and raised in South Alabama. No, America doesn’t suck. There is much good and good people in America still. TV news doesn’t focus on the good, only bad. America has it’s problems for sure, but is still the greatest country on Earth. Just listen to the news and count your many blessings you were blessed to be born in America and especially in South Alabama.
J. A. Roberson - May 13, 2017 5:16 am
Yes, the tv does suck. And now I’ve got to go to Georgiana and find this barbecue you speak of.
Sylvia Williams - July 2, 2017 8:19 pm
What can I say Sean? Everything you write is better than the one before! TV has taken on a new meaning and not for the best. Advice to all, would be less TV, more reading, talking to real people and appreciating the real world. Most 30 somethings live within the diameter of their cell phone and nothing more. Sad because they are missing out on the world around them or an opportunity to make it better. Have to laugh at this, because people walking and using their cell phones simultaneously do not know other people even exist in the world. Thank you for this one Sean!
Charaleen Wright - April 13, 2019 4:12 am