Better Off Without ’Em: A Northern manifesto for Southern Secession

Better Off Without 'Em
Dubbed “savagely funny” (The New York Times) and “wickedly entertaining” (San Francisco Chronicle), acclaimed travel writer Chuck Thompson embarks on a controversial road trip to prove that both sides might be better off if the South were to secede once and for all.

In Better Off Without ’Em, Thompson offers a heavily researched, serious inquiry into national divides that is unabashedly controversial, often uproarious, and always thought-provoking. By crunching numbers, interviewing experts, and traveling the not-so-former Confederacy, Thompson—an openly disgruntled liberal Northwesterner—actually makes a compelling case for southern secession.

Along the way, he interacts with possum-hunting conservatives, trailer park lifers, prayer warriors, and other regional trendsetters, showing that the South’s church-driven morality, politics, and personality never have and never will define the region as a fully committed part of the United States.

Better Off Without ’Em is a deliberately provocative book whose insight, humor, fearless politics, and sheer nerve will spark a long overdue debate.

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Photo Diary from the South

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The aptly named Pee Wee giving razor trims on a Friday night at Wallace Creations in Laurens, South Carolina. A typical African American barbershop in Anywhere, USA? Not exactly. Click next to see the business that operates just a few storefronts down the same street.

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That’s John Howard, owner of the Redneck Shop in Laurens, South Carolina, posing with a mannequin in a strangely elegant Klan getup. At the Redneck Shop you can walk in the door, plonk down $125 and walk out with an authentic Klan outfit, all ready for cross burnings and midnight horseback rides. I didn’t ask if the dream catcher was for sale

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Performing at one of the bars along University Boulevard in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, before the “Game of the Century” (LSU vs. Alabama, November 5, 2011), this band provided more sparks than the offense-deprived game.

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The One Man Frat mixed well with Bama fans inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Los Angeles Times headline after the game read: “No. 1 LSU wins ‘Game of the Century’—But Which Century Is It?” A fitting epigram for much of the South.

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Erected in 1926-27, Little Rock Central is one of the most impressive high schools ever built in this country. Notable alumni include Brooks Robinson and the Little Rock Nine, the courageous African American students who forced integration of the school in 1957. Today’s student body is 54 percent black, 43 percent white.

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Part of the crowd at an African American “trail ride” event in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. Black southern cowboys—easily the most fascinating subculture I stumbled upon in the South.

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Long removed from being the “Nation’s No. 1 economic problem,” as famously declared by Franklin Roosevelt in 1938, the South is now, along with the West, one half of America’s twin economic spear tip. This container ship in Savannah, Georgia, illustrates the point.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center stands in conspicuous contrast to the dilapidated anti-charisma of old Montgomery, Alabama. If “siege mentality” were a design style, this building would appear in every architecture textbook in the country.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center’s mission is “to ensure that the promises of the civil rights movement become a reality for all.” The organization’s efforts have been largely successful, if not always well received.

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Responding to decades of protest, accommodating lawmakers finally removed the Confederate flag from the top of the South Carolina State House in Columbia. They moved it to a much less conspicuous position.

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The P&H Cafe’s magnificent mosaic of bathroom graffiti is an apt symbol of the brooding, Third World weirdness of Memphis, a national treasure that kept me taking notes and pictures for far longer than anyone should inside a public head in Tennessee.

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Along with this regional classic, my favorite from the trailer park literati at the P&H is, “Your mother’s cervis is shaped like my cock.” With the obligatory rejoinder scrawled beneath, lambasting the original author’s inability to spell.

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One of many thought-provoking questions posed at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. Click next for the answer that completely demolishes centuries of scientific inquiry.

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Of course!