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and “sorry.” The tacky part of the question referred to all uses of the word. The sorry portion was limited to its use as a description of an object’s character, as in, “He shore is a sorry sombitch.” Tom, a very articulate raconteur, pronounced himself uneasy in his mind. He felt, he said, vaguely inadequate for the task of explaining something that every Southerner understands, almost as a birthright. Tom compared his feelings about these terms as similar to the way a Supreme Court Justice thinks about obscenity, he or she can not deﬁne it but knows it when he or she encounters it. In the same way, Tom, indeed, every Southerner, knows tacky when it presents itself and sure as hell knows sorry on sight. That said, it simply isn’t good enough to tell a foreigner like Tom’s New Jersey clients to “live down here for a generation or two and you’ll get it.” That approach presupposes you want them to move down here and live amongst us, more or less permanently. While that may be the case, I urge you to ﬁrst consider the full implications of that. Moreover, it seems unfair to require a permanent resident to live here, always confronting untranslatable words. I imagine that could be frustrating. I have made it a policy to not frustrate visiting Yankees any more than absolutely necessary. Most of them are crazy to begin with and any added frustration could push them right over the edge. The only alternative to attempting to explain the deﬁnitions is to avoid the use of the two terms altogether. That, of course, is, at best, impractical since so much of what one encounters in day to day living involves one or the other or both. In reality, avoiding the use of the two terms is damn near an impossibility. They have such economy and utility. They mean exactly what they mean and no other synonyms of such precision exist to take their place. Where to begin? In the ﬁrst place, both terms can be used as descriptive modiﬁers to any animate or inanimate object. It is equally possible for a ﬂower pot to be either tacky or sorry or both as it is for a dog or a human to display these qualities. In the second place, when used to describe a human, there is a slight gender distinction. It is much easier for a woman to be tacky than a man. Likewise, it is far more likely for a man to be sorry than a woman. Now, it may be that this distinction, like the proclivity of Muslims to explode in public places, is more cultural than fundamental/biological. It is entirely possible for a man to be every bit as tacky as woman. It is also true that a given woman may be the equal in sorriness to any man. Perhaps, it is only that, for reasons lost in time, in our culture, men are more easily forgiven their tackiness and women their sorriness. And, of course, there are exceptions that prove the rule. While unquestionably tacky, the former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Pallin, is also sorry to a pronounced degree. Never the less, the generalized gender distinction exists and a foreign observer should be aware of it.
In the third place, tackiness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. On the other hand, sorriness is a universal aspect. If one is truly sorry to anyone, he or she is generally sorry to all. This second distinction between the terms makes it possible for tackiness, like grotesquery and horror and any number of other unpleasantries, to be raised to an art form while sorriness simply is. Possibly the greatest example of tackiness as art was embodied and personiﬁed in the life of the late, great Strom Thurmond. Senator Thurmond was, unquestionably, the tackiest human being, perhaps the all time tackiest anything, ever to occupy space on Earth. Generally speaking, while he lived, no one denied this status. Indeed, the Senator was widely celebrated for it. He had no peers, not in history, not among his contemporaries, nor has he been challenged since. His extreme and artistic tackiness was something even his worst enemies loved about him. While Mrs. Pallin is indeed a sorry specimen, she pales in comparison to South Carolina’s own Mark Sanford. Mark’s recent exposure as a complete fraud is an excellent example of the law, “sorry to one, sorry to all.” The good Governor, Sanford, not Pallin, built his public persona around being a man of simple tastes. As the public persona would have it, Sanford, though intelligent to great degree, virtually a Jeffersonian intellectual, remained humble and frugal, a devotee of hard, physical labor and ruled by principle, to the point of nausea, in all facets of his life. His public persona would have one believe that he grew up believing he was from a family of limited means. It would have you accept that he believed, even in his youth, the family’s well being depended upon his contributions of labor and his sacriﬁce. You might ask yourself, how Sanford could be both intelligent and believe, as a child of a celebrated surgeon with houses in Florida, a farm in SC and with every one in the family going to private school, his family was poor? The answer eludes me. Never the less, that is the story he sold to the voters of South Carolina and we believed him. As a by product of his recent foray into international affairs, it has been revealed that the Governor was not, and is not, frugal, preferring ﬁrst class air travel, when a private plane was not available, to coach. He enjoys luxurious accommodations when traveling on the state’s dime. He insists upon private air transport for himself and his wife and children whenever possible. All the while, he demands state employees double bunk when traveling on state business and that they always ﬂy coach. Previously, he, on principle, refused to release his schedule, claiming a right of privacy for his family and himself. Yet, when the shades preventing scrutiny were removed in the AM (After Maria), it seems another reason for his insistence upon privacy exists. It is the matter of his work ethic. It doesn’t exist. The Governor of South Carolina, apparently, rarely attends any work functions, regardless of whether physical or mental exertions are required. Yes, Mark Sanford is a fraud, not in the legal sense, as I claim no qualiﬁcations to make such a judgment, but in the political/personal sense. Indeed, he behaves fraudulently in every aspect of his life. He preaches “Christian” morality should govern human relations, particularly within the family. Yet, he blissfully ignores any and all restraints upon himself that such morality might impose. He preaches frugality in public and private life, and practices neither. He lives and travels well as Governor and, in his private life, he lives in one of the most expensive
neighborhoods in South Carolina. He demands “principled” approaches to politics on the part of others, all the while, and at every turn, whoring for ideological interests, against the interests of his constituents. He preaches the gospel of making South Carolina overwhelmingly attractive to business and other private sector capital, through tax cuts and so forth, as the means to reduce unemployment, currently the fourth highest in the nation. At the same time, according to publishes reports, he blithely blows off meetings with private sector companies interested in creating jobs by locating in the state. Make no mistake, it is not fraudulent, or any other inappropriate or illegal, behavior, or combination of such behaviors, alone that makes a person sorry. Nor is it the mere presence, in an object, of kitsch or the grotesque that fully deﬁnes tacky, though these may be an element of that term. To be truly sorry or to be truly tacky or both, the object these terms describe must be, at once, both deliberate in its intent and oblivious to its status. Mark Sanford rises above, or falls below, depending upon your appreciation of the trick, the status of a mere fraud and achieves pluperfect sorriness because he has no idea he is. Governor Sanford either does not believe that the normal rules of behavior apply to him or, and I think this more likely, is so delusional he does not recognize he is running afoul of those rules. An object, whether animate or inanimate, must present itself to the world in a state of unconsciousness regarding its tackiness and/or sorriness. Such an object must not only be unaware of its status, such status must not even occur to it as a possibility. Tackiness and sorriness is similar in this respect to noblesse oblige. To be true, the cloak and mantle of any of these properties must fall naturally and unaffected upon its recipient. This is the ephemeral element that is so hard to deﬁne for a non Southerner. After all, how is it possible for a ﬂower pot to unconsciously and deliberately present itself, in any way whatsoever, to the world, as it has no consciousness? How can an insentient entity be aware or unaware of its affectations, if any? That Southerners do not concern themselves with such questions is conﬁrmation of my suspicion that every Southerner has, embedded somewhere in his or her DNA, a smidgeon of animism. If so, this trace of the primeval way of understanding the world is present in our unconscious and, without really knowing it, allows us to assume there is a “spirit” of some sort that occupies all objects, animate and inanimate. Thus, it is both possible for a ﬂower pot and Mark Sanford, the personiﬁcation of a ﬂower pot, to each be unconsciously, but deliberately, tacky or sorry or both. As you see, it is a complicated question, this meaning of things tacky and sorry. While I have given the explanation of the matter my best effort, I am not entirely satisﬁed with the result. I fear this attempt to illuminate the matter falls short of the mark, certainly short of the Mark. So, I invite you to offer your thoughts, comments, prayers and questions on the subject.
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